Deferred programs attract highly ambitious college seniors and master’s students in their final year of study looking to secure a seat at a coveted business school’s MBA program 2-5 years before attending. The top-MBA programs that offer deferred enrollment are Stanford GSB, Harvard Business School (HBS), Wharton, Booth, Kellogg, MIT Sloan, Yale SOM, Columbia Business School (CBS), Berkeley Haas, Darden, and Tepper. Those successful applicants who secure a seat at these programs enjoy access to Career Services, industry events, and conferences, as well as mentorship, enabling the Pre-MBA experience to be focused and centered around exposure-enabling opportunities – like accepting an offer at a start-up with great potential but a highly risky career move.
Competition is high. Schools like MIT Sloan boast a deferred MBA class profile containing a median 750 GMAT and 3.88 GPA, while others want the deferred applicants’ metrics to reflect the class profile of traditional MBA candidates. To top it off, each school enrolls around 100 deferred applicants, with CBS having the highest number of deferred enrollments at 235.
Securing a seat in a coveted MBA program through deferred enrollment is no easy feat. Here are 4 elements you must integrate into your deferred MBA application to stand out and increase your probability of admission:
- Demonstrate a thirst for learning
To gauge future potential while having no prior full-time work experience, the admission committee relies heavily on academics, test scores, and an overall character who seeks learning. To demonstrate academic aptitude, consider your performance in university. Are your academics in line with the MBA class average? If not, reflect on your weaknesses and identify possible ways to improve. Illustrate a keenness to learn by enrolling in other courses (like HBS CORe or other graded programs) to demonstrate academic aptitude.
Aside from academics, the GMAT/GRE score is also an indication of academic strength. A score in line with the class profile should be targeted; however, should the GPA not reflect your academic aptitude, then target a stronger than a class average test score to mitigate.
Beyond the GPA and GMAT/GRE scores, you also want to illustrate, in written form, a willingness to learn. This can appear in your resume, essays, and/or interview and can be corroborated by recommenders who speak about the growth they have witnessed in the period they have known you.
- Illustrate a strong leadership aptitude
Showing leadership potential is table stakes when targeting a top-ranked business school. However, deferred MBA candidates often need help articulating their leadership when they do not have a full-time role. I enjoy coaching applicants through this reflection process, as leadership is not only defined through the lens of holding a leadership title. Instead, it is reflected in how you work with your peers in a team, take responsibility for a project or a segment of a project, and contribute to your extracurricular work.
To illustrate leadership, reflect on the projects you are most proud of as it relates to work you have had a direct hand in impacting and speak to those experiences in your resume and essays. Beyond that, reflect on how your recommenders can corroborate your leadership skills to strengthen your overall application.
- Have a strong commitment to the community
The ethos of a top-ranked business school is a community of engaged citizens. As such, the admission committee expects strong candidates to be interested in engaging with and strengthening the communities they are a part of. In your application, you must illustrate commitment to your community by serving in various leadership roles within university activities or outside university settings, like NGOs, grassroots initiatives, etc. Beyond that, your contributions are expected to have been meaningful, so always conclude your examples with the impact made. This, too, will be reflected in your resume, essays, and the application portal content, in addition to your letters of recommendation.
- Have a reason for wanting a deferred MBA
Beyond illustrating a desire to learn, strong leadership, and impact-focused engagements, a business school acceptance letter means that the committee believes in their ability to support the future you present, i.e., goals. As such, unlike your college admission, your MBA application must speak to the impact you want to make in your short- and long-term goals and your view on the MBA’s value in supporting that vision.
Presenting these 4 elements cohesively and effectively in various components of the deferred MBA application is integral to securing admission. With application portals opening up in November and December and most deadlines being at the beginning of April, there is no better time than now to start reflecting, brainstorming strategies, and crafting your deferred MBA application materials so you submit an application you are proud of.
Before founding Sia Admissions, Susan worked at an NYC-based Hedge Fund and a Belgian-based PE firm. Committed to success, she operates with the premise that each applicant has a unique story to tell. Her goal is to coach prospective students to present a story sympathetic to their ambitions while taking into account the target b-school’s mission and its admissions criteria to ensure the highest probability of acceptance. Susan offers one-on-one admission coaching to high-achieving MBA aspirants targeting M7 and top-20 MBA programs.
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