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All about admission deferrals in MBA applications

The most desirable outcome, of an MBA application, is an offer of admission. Well, actually it is an offer of admission with a full scholarship and stipend, but we will stick to minimalism in this context.

Your selection carries a massive behind-the-scenes saga of the Admissions Committee’s painstaking efforts to consider all the applications and filter through the thousands to find the chosen few who are made for their program.

And having faced such stiff competition, it is natural for most to jump at an opportunity of becoming a part of a good Business school. After all that is exactly what you laid out in your application content – your readiness for an MBA at that school and right at that moment.

So naturally, when you decide to postpone your offer of admission – defer your acceptance – your school may not share your sentiment. Didn’t you just tell them how much you wanted to become a part of their community?

All about admission deferrals in MBA

While your reasons, for a deferred enrollment, could be perfectly conducive to your needs – a promotion at work, lack of finances, indecisiveness and so on – the B-School may not consider them valid enough to reserve your seat for later. Many B-Schools, including the top ones, have adopted a no-deferral policy. A deferred-enrollment, for them, would be akin to denying a competitive student, from the following year, a chance at admission.

There are, however, some B-schools, that still accept a deferral request, but on a case by case basis. In this article, we will explore the deferral policies of the top B-schools in the world, what constitutes an acceptable reason for a deferral request, how to make that request and finally, what are the consequences of making such a request.

Do keep in mind that a request for deferral is different from institutionally prescribed Deferred MBA programs designed for inexperienced college graduates – Harvard 2+2, Stanford GSB Deferred Enrollment, Wharton’s Moelis Advanced Access Program (for University of Pennsylvania undergraduates – read Wharton Deferred MBA and Team Based Discussion Tips, Prompts), and Carlson’s MBA in Two (for domestic undergraduate seniors).

India’s ISB, and IIMA, also offer deferred admission for applicants with less than two, and three, years of work experience respectively. These programs let students keep their place while they get a couple of years of work experience.

When and how to request a deferral?

If, and when, a school entertains a deferral request, it usually does so for extreme circumstances. Military deployment, a grave illness, or a death in the family, are about the only reasons that are clearly not engineered by the admit, and certainly not foreseeable during the time of application.

The more common financial, or work, related reasons are usually considered not good enough to let the opportunity of a lifetime pass by. Universities, in those circumstances, usually encourage students to reapply. A subtle, but nonetheless, clear message of you should’ve looked before you leaped.

Your request should be authenticated by relevant documents and while not always possible, it is advisable to speak with the admissions officer directly. This ensures a personal touch and gives you the opportunity to explain why seeing to this other thing NOW will only make you a more suitable candidate for the next year. Here are some quick guidelines, if you will.

  • Don’t express a deferment possibility in your essay or at the interview. Chances are that while you may not be seriously considering it, the adcom may assume that your intentions aren’t serious. And hence a good reason for them to hold an admission in favor of the next candidate who simply can’t wait to join them.
  • If you have made up your mind about not joining that year, and are still waiting for your admission result, you should do the right thing and withdraw your application, lest it spoil the chances of another candidate. While not a deferment case, here’s the story of one MBA applicant who withdrew his Ross MBA application after he got into MIT.
  • If you have already been offered an admission and you are certain of your resolve to delay enrollment, you should contact the admission’s office for what their policies are. A few schools may require an enrollment deposit to ensure a consideration for the next. While some may simply want you to not get into money matters and further complicate the situation.
  • There is a distinct possibility of losing your scholarship. Each year’s scholarship is decided based on the merits of the applicants, for that year. However, there are exceptions. For instance, we’re aware of a strong applicant who was encouraged (with a full scholarship) this year by a top bschool to consider a deferment.
  • Follow up on your request with an email within a reasonable period of time. Check with the policies of individual universities on when to send in the request.
  • Don’t forget to thank the generous Adcom Gods and promptly offer all the necessary libations of deposits et al to secure your position for the next year.


Full Time MBA Deferral Policies of Top MBA Schools

Let’s find out which of the top b-schools will accept, decline or maybe your request for a deferred enrollment for a Full Time MBA program. If you don’t see your school in the list, it is only because we didn’t find any ready information. Please contact admissions for your queries.

Business School Deferral Policy
Harvard Business School No deferrals. Extreme reasons are considered on a case by case basis. (Source)
Stanford University No deferrals. Requesting students are encouraged to reapply. Only extreme cases like compulsory military deployment are considered. (Source)
University of Virginia – Darden Deferrals reviewed on a case by case basis. Darden grants deferrals for military reasons and health issues. Also to college seniors accepted into Teach for America (2 year deferrals) and selected college seniors/recent graduates (1 year deferral). (Source)
University of Pennsylvania – Wharton No deferrals. Extreme cases decided separately. Write to Director of MBA Admissions ( with “Deferral Request” in the subject line. (Source)
London Business School Student blogs suggest that deferrals are accepted, perhaps on a case by case basis. For more information, contact admissions.
MIT Sloan School of Management No deferrals. Except for college seniors desiring work experience. (Source)
University of California Berkeley – Haas No deferrals. Exceptional cases can be granted 1 year deferrals, upon request, with supporting documents.(Source)
Vanderbilt University – Owen Maybe. Case by case review upon submission for deferral approval. (Source)
Columbia Business School No deferrals. (Source)
University of Texas at Austin – McCombs Possible. Email requests to Director of Admissions. You will need to pay deposits that year and the next. (GMAT Club)
Northwestern Univ – Kellogg Rarely granted and decided on a case by case basis. (Source)
INSEAD France/Singapore No deferrals. Only exceptional extreme cases considered. (Source)
Cornell Univ – Johnson Rarely granted. Only family or personal medical emergencies. Requests to be made to Application Coordinator. Needs final approval from Executive Director of Admissions. (Source)
Rotterdam School of Management, Netherlands Deferrals are often granted. Please contact to discuss your situation. (Source)
New York Univ – Stern No deferrals. (Source)
Duke Univ – Fuqua Possible for significant and unavoidable cases. Request to Associate Dean of Admissions, with details. Only one deferral for 1 year/student. Requires a non-refundable fee of $3,000, upon approval. “Requests for deferral will only be considered after May 1 for students who have already submitted their tuition deposit” (Source)
SDA Bocconi Deferral for next year assessed on case by case basis. (Source)
IESE Business School No deferrals. Only extreme cases. (Source)
Wisconsin School of Business No automatic decision. Contact MBA Admissions Team. (Source)
Univ of Chicago – Booth Rarely granted. Decided on a case by case basis by the Associate Dean of Admissions. (Source)
Univ of Dartmouth – Tuck Limited number, based on severity of reason, granted only if candidate is already enrolled. (Source)
UCLA – Anderson No deferrals. Candidates should reapply. (Source)
Penn State Univ – Smeal Yes, up to 1 year, upon payment of enrollment deposit. (Source)
Carlson School of Management Can be requested for 1 year with no admission guarantee. A deferred application is put back in selection pool for next year. All fees are applicable again. (Source)
Univ of North Carolina – Kenan Flagler No unless medical or other crucial emergencies. (Source)
Univ of Toronto – Rotman Only for unanticipated extenuating circumstances. (Source)

This is what going strictly by the book would entail. However, from our experience, we’ve seen that admits (including a few who’ve worked with us) to some of these programs have got a deferral, contrary to the bschool’s official stand. So don’t assume anything is cast in stone. If you have a solid reason for a deferral, give it a shot.

Most Indian B-Schools like IIMs, Great Lakes, etc also don’t entertain postponed enrollment requests. The reason is usually associated with the validity of CAT/XAT test scores being relevant only for that particular admission cycle.

While the above policies are regulated for a full time MBA program, you should keep in mind that these regulations are at the discretion of individual schools and thereby subject to change as we speak (or read this blog).
In conclusion, it is clear that most business schools simply choose to be either highly selective, or absolutely reluctant, in handing out a gate pass for another year. With a few exceptions, most universities feel the need to secure the allotted number of seats for that year while giving the next round of candidates a 100% fair chance.

So, it is in your best interest to evaluate your work situation, your finances and your resolve to pursue an MBA, before you pursue an MBA. As for the severe emergencies, trust the humane side of the adcom to cooperate.

For the rest, just swallow the loss and reapply.

Good Luck!
Also read:
Denied a deferral, this INSEAD admit reapplied, and got in again!
MBA reapplicant success stories
Deferred MBA programs: Worth it or not?
Minimum age limit for MBA in India and abroad

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

8 thoughts on “All about admission deferrals in MBA applications”

  1. Hi I have completed Bachelors degree in commerce and have a 5 years experience as a Business Analyst, could you please suggest the specilization that I should choose for joining MBA

  2. Hi,
    I need some advice for MIM from LBS, University of St. Gallen, HEC Paris.
    My Profile:-
    Worked for 8 months in Deloitte, USI as Associate BTA
    Graduation – 61.4%
    12th – 88.7%
    10th- 9.2 CGPA
    Wrote one Research Paper and presented in 102nd Indian Science Congress.
    Worked in National service scheme for 2 years while doing college.
    Please tell me what I need to do extra and make my profile more impressive.

  3. Hai Sameer,
    I have completed my bcom degree. Now i am working as trainee in an organisation for more than 6 years.Does this work experience certificate is enough ? Or else i need a experience certificate working as a staff ? Please reply

  4. Hi Sameer,

    I have done my MBA from Welingkar Mumbai. Now 6 years experience post MBA, however my experience has not been consistent with a specific industry. I worked in Manufacturing/IT/ in various startups ( Operations role, Sales and Business Development role as well). I currently earn 20 Lacs in a start up which is again not a secured and stable job.

    I have been trying to get back in to Established MNCs but couldnt coz of lack of required exposure in to a specific industry vertical.

    I am contemplating to do a 1 year MBA from top Bschools outside India to stabilize my career. Now questions in my mind are

    1. Is it worthwhile spending close to INR 50 to 60 lacs in the middle of my career ( My Age: 33 years and married with a kid)
    2. Considering global slow down, will it be a good judgement call to do MBA now and get a job especially in Europe
    3. Now my earning is 20 Lacs, would it make any significant relative difference in my earnings after MBA .

    Please help me with these questions. I would be glad to hear from you.


  5. Hello Sir,

    I just converted IIMK Executive Program (EPGP). It’s a two year programme accredited by AMBA. Is it worth and comparable with Executive programmes of IIMA/B/C/L ?

  6. Hi,
    Thanks for an informative post. I am applying to the US for Masters in Marketing and Communications for Fall 2018. I have completed my graduation in Economics from NMIMS. Have gained one year of work experience. Unfortunately, I crossed the deadlines for admissions in full time PGDM courses and now I have the option of going for Mumbai University Distance Learning PGDM course. I wanted your take on whether it will be a good idea to do so.

    Thanks !

  7. @Deepa: We’ve written on the various specialisations and how to select them here:

    @Kuldeep: If you have the patience to wait and make your profile more impressive, why not aim for a regular MBA? Here are some tips:

    @Jazim: Trainee for more than 6 years! Are you sure your employer isn’t exploiting your naivety? And yes, that’s more than sufficient for many international MBA programs. I hope you have some documents to show that employment (e.g. appointment letter, salary slips, experience letter).

    @Pavan: A second MBA brings its own share of risks. Make sure you read this before taking a decision:

    @Arvis: IIM A/B are better reputed and ranked by the Financial Times.

    @Avni: Distance education doesn’t generally provide the same mileage as a full-time degree.

  8. Hi,

    Thanks for a great article. I have successfully accepted but deferred admission for a year (due to COVID my school allowed it). But I was hoping for your input on whether I should take this as an opportunity to reapply to my top schools. I didn’t get into my first choice and it would be relatively easy to reapply (assuming a similar application to last year), but don’t want to mess up the offer I already have on hold as I certainly wouldn’t mind going there either. Understanding the admissions community is small and connected, what would you advise here? thank you!


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