Graduate Business Programs for College Seniors: A Deep Dive

By Stuart Nachbar

The more selective MBA programs have traditionally sought applicants who have several years of relevant work experience. Their admissions offices rarely considered college seniors. But now there are seven selective MBA programs targeted to college seniors that offer admission that is delayed until the applicant has acquired the required work experience. Apply to these programs, with an impressive resume and academic record as well as top percentile GMAT scores, and if you get accepted, you will have a seat waiting for you one to four years later, depending on the program you choose.

The seven selective MBA programs that currently offer deferred admission to college seniors are Emory (Goizeuta), Harvard, MIT (Sloan), Stanford, Penn (Wharton), Chicago (Booth), and Virginia (Darden). These programs are a “win” for the schools. The biggest win: each school fills seats at least two years in advance. Competition for the remaining seats in those future incoming classes will be equally—or even more—selective. Each school can also continue to advertise high GPA and GRE/GMAT numbers for each incoming class as well as the average years of work experience that they have publicized all along.

What are the pluses to deferred admission for a college senior, aside from the satisfaction of knowing that you’re in? For one thing, you get to learn, through your work experience, if the MBA is really the degree you want. Suppose you start your own business or non-profit after you graduate and decide that you want to continue to grow it full-time? Or perhaps you accept a job offer from an employer who wants you stay on board and incentivizes the offer with an increase in salary or other benefits and more challenging assignments. Or maybe during the deferral period you find another degree program that is a better fit for your future career. Deferred admission offers a chance to back out and move on. And there’s another plus, whether you accept or back out of the commitment: you can save money towards expenses for life after college and reduce some of your student loan debt.

There is one other elite program, the Yale Silver Scholars, that is worthy of mention. It allows you to spend your first year after college taking business courses at Yale. You do a full-time internship during your second year, then return to campus to take all of your electives and complete your MBA. There are many upsides to this program. First, Yale puts its resources behind your internship search. You receive help from career services and the alumni network to find the right opportunity. Yale offers merit-based aid for tuition and living expenses and also offers financial assistance to help Silver Scholars cover costs towards study abroad to fulfill the Global Studies requirement towards the degree. Want to launch your own business after you graduate? Yale has grant programs that offer seed capital while you are pursuing the degree as well as an Entrepreneurship Fellowship that allows five newly minted MBAs to defer student loan payments for two years.

The reality is that many college seniors may find these MBA attractive but do not have the grades, test scores, and resume needed to be considered. For example, many liberal arts majors who have taken few business courses and have little business experience will not receive much financial benefit from pursuing the MBA. They might even be less competitive for entry-level jobs with an MBA than their friends who earned undergraduate business degrees. For those kinds of students, other schools offer specialized programs in fields such as accounting, business analytics, finance, or marketing, among others. These graduate degree programs take less time to complete than an MBA. They are the ticket for an undergraduate who wants to take advanced courses in their current specialty, or wants to learn another specialty, but does not want to take the other courses required for an MBA. These programs welcome students from a variety of undergraduate backgrounds, as long as they have demonstrated some competency in quantitative reasoning and statistics.

Depending on your resume, academic records, and test scores, college seniors have many more opportunities than you might think. To better understand your options, call Doing College and Beyond for a courtesy consultation now!

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