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The Latest on 2020 MBA Deferrals and What This Means for MBA Hopefuls



Harvard Business School made a big decision last week, offering all MBA candidates scheduled to start class this September the option to defer for one or two years. Students have until June 1 to make this decision. While each student can list a preference, deferrals will be spread across two years.


While it remains to be seen how other top programs will respond to this news (most programs have not yet made a decision on how they will handle deferrals for the coming year yet some have mentioned this will be offered only to students who cannot obtain a visa to come to campus), Personal MBA Coach expects an increased level of deferrals over previous years, even if only the international student population defers.

This presents both good and not so good news for those in the process of applying to business school.


The Good News:


As HBS students expected to enroll this fall defer, an increasing number of currently waitlisted students will be offered a seat, whether classes begin online or in person. This will likely create a trickle-down effect, opening up additional spots within the growing list of programs that have added or extended application rounds this spring/summer.


The number of open spaces will continue to grow if/when other programs follow HBS’s example. This means if you are in a position to start your studies this September, applying during Round 3 or Round 4 could be a great opportunity.


While we recognize that many MBA applicants are concerned about the possibility that classes could begin online, this may be a worthwhile trade-off compared to working another year in this uncertain economy and facing lower admission statistics this fall/winter.


The Not So Good News:


With an increasing number of deferrals, there are likely to be fewer seats in the class of 2023 (and perhaps even 2024) than in previous years. As we have stressed recently, this fact combined with the weakened economy will almost certainly lead to a more competitive round 1 and even round 2 this cycle.


What This Means for MBA Hopefuls:


1. If you are in a position to apply to school NOW and start classes in September, consider this option seriously!



2. Candidates should expand their school lists for the 2020-2021 application year. Generally, I advise my clients to apply to at least 5 programs of varying competitiveness. Applying to a wide range of schools will be even more crucial this season and I would not be surprised if hopefuls apply to 6-8 schools this season. Similarly, candidates should consider a wide range of programs. Given the increasing competitiveness of programs outside of the M7 or T10, there are many strong options to consider.

3. Looking for unique ways to differentiate yourself will be essential. While developing a strong and unique personal story is always a fundamental piece of the application process, it will be vital this year.

4. Use your “quarantine time” to your advantage. With fewer hours spent commuting, traveling and socializing, most applicants find themselves with lots of extra free time these days. Candidates should use this time wisely, looking for ways to beef up their profiles. Take an honest assessment of your weaknesses and look for unique opportunities to compensate. Pursuing meaningful (to you!) online volunteer work or taking extra classes are just a few ways to set yourself apart this fall.

5. Maximize your GMAT/GRE/EA score. While test scores are just one piece of the puzzle and the limits of online testing pose some challenges, look critically at your scores. Did you really study as much as possible? Did you hire a tutor? Could you take the test again? If you have not truly maximized your potential, beef up your study plans.


Need help? Personal MBA Coach is willing to be your guide. Founded by a Wharton and MIT graduate, we regularly help applicants navigate their applications each year. We also conduct mock interviews with former M7 interviewers on our team.

Personal MBA Coach has been guiding candidates through all aspects of the MBA application process for 13 years with a 96% success rate. Call us today at +1 617-645-2424 or email scott@personalmbacoach.com for a free consultation on your profile along with how we can help make your MBA dreams a reality!

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