Get a top-rated Mini-MBA Certificate for $199 $49 (till 29th Feb)

Is the HBS Harvard 2+2 program right for Indian students?

Harvard HBS 2+2

It’s easier to understand the veil of mystery around new programs that have just been launched and there aren’t enough reviews about it. But not when the program has been around for more than a decade.

Harvard 2+2 (pronounced two-plus-two) is one such program that gets a lot of interest. But try searching on the internet for more information and you’ll get hardly anything to help you decide if the program is really worth your time and money. More so if you are an India / international student (Read IIM vs Foreign MBA).

We first provide an overview of the program – format, fees, application process, class profile – and then move on to review the pros and cons from the perspective of Indian students and applicants.

Should you apply to the Harvard 2+2 program?

The Harvard Business School 2+2 (HBS 2 + 2) program which was announced in 2007 takes in fresh graduates and post-graduates without any work experience. It is a deferred program which means that you spend the first two years working and the next two years is when you’d be part of the full-time MBA program.


Eligibility and Entry criteria for HBS 2+2

If you’re in your final year of graduation or post-graduation and you haven’t ever taken a full-time job, you’re eligible to apply. Note that your post-graduation should follow your graduation without any full-time work experience.

There is no minimum requirement for the duration of your bachelor’s degree i.e. irrespective of whether it’s a 12+3 or 12+4, you may apply as long as you’re in the final year.


HBS 2+2 class profile

Many Indian students (freshers) want to know – “What are my chances of getting into the HBS 2+2 program?

While no one can predict that, here’s some data that should give you an idea of how difficult it is to clear the admissions process.

As with the regular Harvard MBA program, the selectivity for HBS 2+2 is very low with the acceptance rate at around 11% which shows that the competition to get in is high.

The program was created to cater to the requirement of those without any business exposure mainly those from sciences, liberal arts and engineering backgrounds.

Hence, a majority of the total intake (more than half the class) is from the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. There are students from other educational backgrounds as well including economics/business and social sciences. The intake capacity is around 100-125.
Below is the HBS 2+2 class profile of the class of 2019:

No of applications received 1118
Intake 116
International applicants 24%
Female candidates 40%
Median GMAT 740
STEM background 62%
Economics / Business background 26%
Humanities/social sciences background 12%



How the HBS 2+2 admissions process works

There are three admission rounds. Both the GMAT and the GRE scores are accepted. The application form you need to submit would be the same as the written application for the regular MBA program.

The shortlisted candidates have to go through the interview process. Interviews are by invitation only.

The application fee for HBS 2+2 is $100.

The first two years at HBS 2+2 would be spent in a full-time professional role. The job location could be in your home country or anywhere else.

Once you complete the two years of work experience, you become a part of the regular two year MBA program.

Before you realise it, the two years of working would’ve have rolled by. If you wish to continue working for a year more before taking a sabbatical from work, the program allows that.

Deirdre C. Leopold, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid has very aptly said that the program could be called X+2 considering the flexibility the program offers in terms of extending the program’s deferral period by an additional year.

Deferrals for any extended period beyond this are granted on a case-by-case basis.

Considering that your peers in the MBA program who get in directly (i.e. not via the 2+2 route) have on an average around 4+ years of work experience, the additional year at your workplace will give you some advantage during your post-MBA recruitment period.


What’s in it for Harvard?

Why has Harvard started this program when it was already doing well and getting a good mix of diverse candidates with the regular application system for the full-time MBA program?

When the official sources don’t mention all that you want to know, all we can do is try to read between the lines and take an educated guess.

So what do we know? That Harvard is always on the lookout for the cream of the crop.

The 2+2 program allows it to expand its funnel. It gets a leg up in the race, vis-à-vis other business schools, who’ll open their gates for applicants several years later.

There’s another bonus.

Once you get your bachelor’s degree, you may seek a post-graduation degree and considering the fact that an MBA from a top business school requires a few years of work experience before you can apply, you may be hesitant to wait so long. Such students may opt for other post-graduation options.

Instead, now you have a chance to apply while you’re in your final year and though you have to work for two years, you at least have a confirmed place in a top B school.

Harvard MBA starts figuring on the list of programs even for freshers who were considering another Masters degree (like an MS in USA).

It’s a fantastic strategy to capture a bigger share of not only MBA applications but poach into the MS territory too.

After all has been said and done about strategy, market share etc, you can’t deny that the income HBS gets from the application fees and deposits is not peanuts either.

Without having to increase the operational resources of the main program, they’ve found a way to monetize their application process much better than their competitors. Nice little touch!


Pros and Cons of the Harvard 2+2 deferred program


The official pages mention all the pros, so we’ll keep this short.

– You get the early bird treatment from the best brand in the education industry.

– You get to enjoy the ever-elusive peace of mind. No matter what happens during those 2 deferred years, you have a guaranteed seat in a future class. [Fine-print: This is contingent on Harvard approving your job (more on this below)]

– You get an MBA degree quicker in your career than others who target international MBA programs after more experience.

– It’s a phenomenal ego boost to know that one of the top business schools in the world thinks you have the capability and potential (while still being a student) to be part of their community.


This is where we try to get a little more creative and dig out many more points for you to think about that others may have ignored.

– The responsibility of job-hunting would be entirely yours without any assistance from the college. Additionally, it would have to be an HBS approved position.

What does that mean? Pretty straight-forward. Just because you’ve secured a place in the program by clearing the admissions process, you can’t assume that HBS will take it forward from there while you relax.

This would also mean that any mediocre job position you take up could get you rejected, if it does not meet Harvard’s exacting standards.

– You cannot expect any work permit or visa sponsorship from HBS.

With your talent and potential, even if you manage to bag a fantastic international job for those two years, you may have to let go of those options and take up something in your home country (India) due to visa dependencies.

– In certain cases, you may wish to continue working in the dream job that you’ve already got and decide not to be part of the MBA program. If you have a change of mind in those 2 years, you’d lose your $1000 deposit.

– Admitted candidates may refrain from informing their employers about their Harvard admit.

This is because they may feel that their employers would perceive them differently and it would have a negative impact on their career (promotions, salary increments, international deputation) if they inform their company about their intention to leave after two years.

This problem exists for regular MBA applicants too, but only for a few months. As an HBS 2+2 admit, you’ll have to deal with this for 2 years.

– You will graduate with 2 yrs of experience and compete with other classmates who have probably had much varied and deeper experiences than you do. This can also have an influence on how much theory being taught in the class via case-studies you can connect with and absorb.

So what’s the final word on this. It’s a good option for folks who are clear about what they are getting into.

But if you ask us, we’d say don’t rush into it now. Focus on building a better profile. If HBS finds your candidature interesting with zero experience, there are bright chances that the bud will blossom into a more attractive flower (too poetic?) in 3-4 years and get the attention of other top bschools too.

You may be in a position like Ankur, to turn down Harvard and accept a better offer from another top business school.

For additional perspectives that we haven’t covered here, read this related article:
Early career MBA: Is it good for you?
How to get into Harvard Business School from India?
Deferred (Pre-Admit) MBA Programs in USA, India and Europe
Early Entry Option at ISB

Mini-MBA | Start here | Success stories | Reality check | Knowledgebase | Scholarships | Services

Serious about higher ed? Follow us:


About Swati
After working for over a decade in technical and managerial roles in the corporate world, Swati now works as a freelancer and writes on a variety of topics including education, career guidance and self-improvement.

18 thoughts on “Is the HBS Harvard 2+2 program right for Indian students?”

  1. Hi Sameer,
    I have 2.5 years of experience in the IT industry. I am a little confused whether to appear for CAT or GMAT this year. I have not attempted either of the above examinations. My educational details are as below:
    10th: 88%(2007)
    Diploma in E&TC :85%(2010)
    BE in E&TC from Pune University: 74% (2013)
    Could you please advice which of the above would be auitable for my profile?

    • First of all :
      1. You passed from a B-level college in India, I’m not disgracing you but I’ll say honestly because if you go GMAT and apply for univ like Standford, Harvard, and many top b-school you have fewer chances to get in and your score which is 75 per cent is way to more low.i have studied in IIT Bombay bachelors of engineering in the electrical department but then didn’t got in HBS for 2+2, I request you to not waste time in GMAT got for CAT and score well in it and get a good B-school in India itself. See even in India you have less chance to get in IIM’s I’m saying because I’m currently in IIM-A I know what admission council wants from you.

  2. Hi,
    I’m a 20 year old Engineering student majoring in biotechnology. I recently realized that research and development field in Biotechnology is not really my cup of tea. Thus, leading to this particular moment where i’m in a great state of confusion as to what i should do next since I have less than a year to complete my course. Few questions I’d like to ask are:
    1) Is it advisable to go into MBA after this? Should I consider Harvard 2+2? Any other such programs where I can apply without experience?
    2) I’m very keen on travelling, are there any options under MBA, where I get to travel along with a suitable job?
    3) I will be writing my GMAT and GRE this year. What do you suggest I do after this.
    4) For my work experience, is there any field that i should focus on for a better preference in B-Schools.

    I will love it if you could please answer these questions for me to allow me to get a better knowledge of ‘WHATS NEXT?’ since every other friend of mine wants to know, more over, I need to talk with my parents too.;-;

    • Hi
      I am 3rd year student of BBA from IP university, I am a little confused whether to appear for CAT, GMAT or GRE this year or probably next year after gaining 1 year of experience.
      My educational details are as below:
      10th: 60% (2016)
      12th: 72% (2018)
      BBA from IP University: 79% (2021 cumulative of 5 semesters)
      Could you please advice which of the above would be suitable for my profile?

  3. @Sanjay: Your profile is drifting closer to GMAT MBA programs, if you can wait for a year more. Here’s how to select the right business schools.

    @Shruti: Jobs in Consulting and Sales/Marketing can involve a lot of traveling. But I’d suggest not rushing into an MBA yet. Read why work experience is important for international MBA students.

    After graduation you can take up a job in marketing to see if there’s more to it than just satisfying your travel bug. If you really like the field, you can consider an MBA after few years.

    • I have been a guy who has neglected his studies for past 2 years and now I regret that ,I had no goals for my life but now after my 12th I want to really dedicate myself towards my academic goals and I really want to get in one of the top business schools in the world but my old self is holding me back which was lazy not a hard working guy .Please someone help me make the change in myself in really working towards my goal..

  4. I am presently in 12th next year i will be giving my board exams,I have commerce.I am planning to do bcom hons or eco hons. Harvard and Stanford are dream schools for me.It would be very kind of you if you could tell me do these schools offer full scholarship programs?

  5. Hi Sameer,

    I was in the middle of editing my resume for a couple of early admission MBA program – HBS 2+2/Yale/YTP. I wanted to know if including my academic projects and Extra curriculars would get me some negative points? If I were a experienced professional applying for a traditional MBA program i’d have not included them but being a college senior applying for a non traditional program has just left me confused. Would like to know your thoughts thanks.


  6. Rishabh, you sure can mention about those things in your resume, but make sure you don’t go overboard in including everything you’ve done in life. A short impactful 1-page resume works better than one running into 5 pages with really thin content.
    And make sure it works well with the other components of your application.

  7. I am in the second year of graduation in Accounting and Finance , I am confused about choosing the 2+2MBA programme or do MS .

  8. Hi Sameer,
    I have a doubt in the cons section of the post. Is it talking about the placement period between Undergrad and MBA or is it Post-MBA? I also wanted to know a bit more about the difference in terms of placement if a person goes through deferred process of HBS.

  9. @Amartya: It’s talking about the period between undergrad and MBA. Once you start the actual program and get into post MBA placements, there’s no difference in the process per se, but those coming in with very less experience (such as 2+2 candidates) might still be at a relative disadvantage compared to those who’ve applied through the regular process. Of course, this is based on gut feel and not on actual stats.

  10. Hi! I am a pre-final year student at am NIT with a CGPA of 8.5. I really want to pursue MBA after a couple years of experience. Should I apply for 2+2 or Yale SOM?

  11. Hi Sameer,
    I am a student of Econ hons from DU. I want to apply for deferred MBA in top US uni including Harvard, Stanford, Sloan, Booth, etc.
    These are my stats, please tell me if I will be a good fit?
    1. 10th- 93%
    2. 12th- 95%
    3. Graduation- Final year so till now 7.5 CGPA
    4. held multiple leadership positions in college societies.
    5. have research experience from top international uni and thinks tanks like Oxford, UCL, have 4 working papers
    6. have 4 volunteering experience at international and local organizations
    7. Attended multiple UN conferences as a delegate.
    8. going to give GRE- 168/170(Quant), 155/170(verbal), IELTS- 8
    Please tell me if I should apply, will I be fit to get into any of these ?


Leave a Comment