Skip to content

HBS Gives All MBA Students Deferral Option

With the world changing in fast and unpredictable ways this year, top business schools have rolled out a range of adjustments to their typical admissions processes, from extended deadlines to GMAT waivers

The latest such adjustment comes from Harvard Business School, which has decided to give all admitted MBA students the option to defer enrollment for either one or two years. Incoming students have until June 1 to request deferral.

HBS’s unprecedented step is a response to the fact that many applicants have seen their careers, lives, or assumptions about the future take unexpected directions in the time since submitting their applications.

As HBS’s dean of admissions, Chad Losee, told Poets & Quants, “For people who applied in September and were admitted in December, none of us could’ve imagined where we would be at this point in time.”

He said the decision was a response to input from students, as the school “started to hear from students about the personal situations that they were going through in different parts of the world.”

At this point, HBS doesn’t yet know how many students will take up the option of deferral. The potential of a sizable portion of the accepted class deferring enrollment could have several ripple effects.

For one thing, the change might turn out to be good news for waitlisted students. HBS says that if enough students defer, the school would fill the enrollment gap with students from the waitlist

On the other hand, a glut of deferrals could make admissions tighter over the next couple years. According to HBS, the school would try to mitigate that situation by balancing deferrals over both years and exploring how much the school could reasonably increase its incoming class sizes.

While HBS has given students the option to defer, it is also encouraging them to continue with their plans to enroll as part of the Class of 2022 if possible, even if that means taking a “leap of faith.”

In a phone call with admitted students reported by Poets & Quants, HBS dean Nitin Nohria told students that “this is a moment in which people have to make a leap of faith of any kind. Because if you don’t choose to come to us, you’re making a different kind of a leap of faith.”

In his words: “Every person on this call will have to make some leap of faith about their own developmental journey of leaders.”

So where does that leave applicants? To some degree, MBA applicants are always taking a leap of faith and accepting an amount of uncertainty into their lives. 

Under current circumstances, that uncertainty may be greater, but applicants can still focus on the factors in their control that will maximize their chances of admission at competitive MBA programs like HBS. 

Those include factors like applying to schools that are a good fit and putting together an application that effectively communicates the unique strengths of your personal brand. And we’re happy to provide feedback in both of those areas – just ask us for a free MBA application assessment!