If you are on the look for deferred MBA programs, perhaps you have heard about the Harvard Business School’s 2+2 deferred program. Being true to its name, the HBS 2+2 program allows students to spend at least 2 years of professional work experience before enrolling in the regular HBS MBA Program for the next 2 years. This article will uncover everything you need to know about the HBS 2+2 and provide useful tips on how to apply for one of the world’s most prestigious MBA programs.

1. How Is HBS 2+2 Different From The HBS Full-Time Program?

The main difference between the HBS 2+2 program and the full-time HBS program is that you get an admit from HBS 2 years prior to joining the full-time program. HBS 2+2 allows students to work full-time for 2 years and then go for the HBS MBA program

Simple as it is, this deferred application process can bring about a lot of benefits that you may not have thought of.

You will have your career future planned out

The biggest plus point with HBS 2+2 is that it gives you a chance to secure admission to HBS now and have the next 4-5 years planned out. Because work experience is not required to apply for HBS 2+2, you are allowed to explore and experience more freely compared to a regular MBA program where you need to be more selective of your career pathways.

You are still in test-taking mode 

Applying for HBS 2+2 while you are in your final year can be beneficial. If your GPA is not quite up par yet, it is still possible to earn more credits and improve your grades. Tests like GMAT or GRE can also be less stressful since you are in test-taking mode and able to cope with the pressure. All in all, you will have a lot more time to prepare for your application than if you are working full-time.

You can land your first dream job

It is not easy for fresh graduates to find an occupation in the first few years of their career, but having admitted to HBS 2+2 can surely help you land a solid first job.  Not only does it represent your knowledge and capacity to work, it also shows that you are a driven individual with specific career goals in mind.

HBS vs GSB Comparison

2. Are You Eligible For HBS 2+2?

Students applying to the Harvard 2+2 program must be in their final year of studies, but it is not exclusive to undergraduates. Essentially, to be eligible for the 2+2 Program, candidates need to have gone directly from undergraduate to graduate school, without having any work experience in between.

Graduating students with little work experience are welcomed

A student graduating with either a joint bachelor/master’s degree or a master’s degree can also apply to the program, though you are not allowed to have spent time in the workforce (other than internships). 

  • Bachelor’s Degree Programs: Undergraduates in their final year of study are eligible to apply.
  • Joint Bachelor / Master’s Degree Programs: Candidates in joint Bachelor/Master’s Degree programs are eligible to apply.
  • Master’s Degree Programs: Candidates from master’s degree programs who have not held a full time work position (other than internships or co-ops) are eligible to apply.

HOWEVER, Students enrolled in PhD programs, law school or medical school are not eligible for the 2+2 Program; instead these students should apply through the regular admissions process.

Technical students are often most wanted

All interested students are encouraged to apply regardless of their educational background. However, HBS has their eye out for individuals who are pursuing career paths outside the norm of general business school applicants. They are particularly interested in a few main groups:

  • Students planning to work in technical roles
  • Students going to work in an operating role (like tech, manufacturing and industrials)
  • Students pursuing entrepreneurship 
  • Individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds who are first generation college students or have less exposure to graduate school in their families.

3. How Hard Is It to Get into HBS 2+2?

Admission to Harvard Business School 2+2 Program is extremely competitive. While being tailored towards final-year university students, its admitted number was about 130, compared to nearly 900 for the traditional program. Moreover, Harvard still looks for the best of the best – only 8 out of 100 applicants are successfully accepted.

HBS 2+2 Program Class Profile

If you check out the 2+2 class profile for the 2020 cohort, the admissions statistic and educational background breaks down as follows:

Admissions Statistic
Total Applicants 1,577
Committed Students 129
Acceptance Rate 8%
Median GMAT Score 730
Average GPA 3.79
Undergraduate Institution Represented 65
Educational Background
STEM  58%
Business/ Commerce/ Economics 28%
Arts/ Humanities/ Social Sciences 14%

For the 2020 cohort, out of 1,577 applicants, 129 students committed to the program. There was an 8% acceptance rate, which is incredibly low, compared to the 12% acceptance rate of the normal cycle. Looking deeper into the class’ academics profile, commits have a median GMAT score of 730 and an average GPA of 3.79. So if you are aiming for HBS 2+2, these are the numbers you should be striving for.

Harvard makes no secret of the fact that this is a competitive program, and that they are looking for the best and brightest. The good news for students who do not have a background in economics or business is that they will effectively be competing in a pool that excludes a lot of that competition. 

The bad news is that HBS is looking for the standouts: those who are graduating at the top of their class with excellent transcripts, impressive leadership experience, and bright prospects in whatever career they are embarking on.

You can start your application and fill in your application online on the HBS application portal.

Interview formats

Harvard only conducted one interview lasting 30 minutes which is extremely fast and high paced. However, please be prepared that the session can last longer and the duration will not affect its results. There will be 2 interviewers who are members of the admissions committee. One will ask, and the other will only observe candidates and take notes.

4. HBS 2+2 Application Deadline

All applicants have to submit their applications by the end of April and the decision from the Admission Board will be released around the end of June – beginning of July. Harvard 2+2 only has one round.You can submit your application form far ahead of the deadline but all the application forms will be reviewed at once, not on a rolling basis.

Since applications can be submitted far ahead of time, the sooner you start planning for your application the better. It is highly recommended that you spend at least 1 year preparing for all aspects of your application.

MBA Application Timeline – Plan to Win

5. HBS 2+2 Application Run-Through

Application process

To apply for the HBS 2+2 you must follow the same process as for its full-time MBA program.

  • Written application: This is the first step to the HBS 2+2 application. The HBS admission team will ask you to assemble and prepare required materials for the first assessment round.
  • Interview: After your written application has been submitted and reviewed, you may be invited to an interview.
  • Post-interview reflection: Within 24 hours of the interview, candidates are required to submit a written reflection through the HBS online application system. Detailed instructions will be provided to those applicants who are invited to the interview process.

Application package

The 2+2 program written application looks much like other MBA applications, including many of the same elements:


For MBA Class of 2023 at Harvard, the average GPA is 3.69/4.0. However, HBS 2+2 does not require a minimum GPA for their MBA program.

2 Letters of recommendation:

One recommendation should come from a current or recent supervisor, if possible. Recommenders should be individuals who know the candidate well and who can attest to the candidate’s leadership ability. Remember that the HBS admission team will reach out and ask your recommenders questions about the reference.

Test scores (GMAT/GRE and IELTS/TOEFL):

The average GMAT score of an MBA student at HBS is 73. Again, the HBS admission team requires no ideal GRE/GMAT scores for HBS 2+2. IELTS or TOEFL is required If you only have a degree (or degrees) from a university where English was NOT the sole language of instruction, you must take an English Language test.


The resume is the roadmap and the centerpiece of your application. Since work experience is not needed for HBS 2+2 applicants, you can fill in your resume with internships or extracurricular activities and awards during the years of your bachelor’s degree.


There are two questions in the Harvard MBA Questions, including one long and one short essay. If you pass the written application round, you are required to write another post interview essay.

Application fee:

The application fee is US $100 for the 2+2 program, which is much lower than the traditional MBA degree ($250). All active duty military applicants don’t have to pay this fee.

6. HBS 2+2 Application Tips

As you don’t have any work experience, many people think that in order to stand a chance in the HBS 2+2 program, you need to really prove your academic worth (GPA and test scores) to the admissions committee. But this is not entirely the case. Here are 5 tips you need to remember when applying to HBS.

Test scores and transcript are not everything

The HBS admission team has stated that test scores and transcripts are two important parts of the application but they are not more important than any other element. While a higher score will never hurt you, it’s not a guarantee to be admitted. And some of the admitted students who have the biggest impact while at HBS and beyond didn’t have the highest test scores.

The transcripts should be one of the easiest parts of the application since your undergrad degree is already behind you by the time you apply.

In the Employment History section, in addition to dates and titles for your most recent three jobs (internships), HBS admission team also provides you with 5 open text boxes. The word limit for each box is only 250 words, but this is more than enough to fully express your stories in a concise way.

Don’t be afraid to show a little personality in your responses!

  • Role and Responsibilities: In your own words, what is your job? In describing your Role and Responsibilities, what has stood out as critical to you as well as to your company?
  • Company/ Organization Description: If you work at a startup or your family business, giving details beyond what is available online is also very helpful.
  • Reason for Leaving:  This can be simple and straightforward and hopefully gives you a chance to reflect on the “why” of a key transition in your work life.
  • Key Accomplishments: In the Key Accomplishments box, think back on your time at this company—what achievement has been most meaningful to you? Try to be as specific and as honest as possible. The same goes for your Most Significant Challenge. 

Recommendations should be specific and forthright

Rather than general platitudes, the best recommendations provide specific examples. How are the people and the places in your world better because you were there? And, just as important, recommenders should be honest and straightforward about the feedback they’ve shared.

It is important to remember that the HBS admission team will reach out to your recommenders and ask these two questions:

  • How do the candidate’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.
  • Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.

Therefore you should spend time considering which person you choose as your recommender. Ask people who know you well in a work context. In most cases, one of the two should be your direct supervisor. The other can be someone you’ve worked with in the past or you are working with in a different capacity now. 

Depending on where you’re working, you can also consider a client, an investor or someone from a partner organization. It is a good idea to think about how the two recommendations can complement one another by drawing on different examples or aspects of your background. 

For more details on how to write a perfect letter of recommendation, check out our article: MBA Letter of Recommendation

Choose extracurriculars & awards that are meaningful

It is advised that you should not take extracurricular activities to make it look good on you as you would appear superficial. You should pursue things that are meaningful or exciting to you. You’ll learn a lot more, likely have more impact and probably enjoy yourself.

Choose activities that are meaningful or exciting to you.

Many strong applicants have “common” extracurriculars, but they pursue them with uncommon purpose or persistence. That kind of approach bodes well for the impact you can have at HBS and beyond, and it will come through naturally in your application and in your interview.

Likewise, you should always choose the awards that are most meaningful to you personally. When you step back from these sections of the application, ask yourself if the things you chose to list give a good sense of what’s important to you outside of work. Does it give a sense of the impact you’ve had?

Resume Guide for Your MBA Application

Harvard MBA Application: The Full Guide

Write an additive, clear and concise essay

The first thing you should know is that this essay is neither more nor less important than the rest of the elements of the application. It’s true that a good essay will definitely impress the admissions team, but spending too much time and energy on your essay can sometimes be counterintuitive. It is easy to be hesitant of choosing ideas to write, nitpicking words and sentences and be absolutely unsure of how you would like your essay to be. 

Instead, set a clear deadline for your essays. Forcing yourself to finish your essay on short notice can help you come up with some great ideas to write about. It is important that you start to write.

There are 3 questions in the Harvard MBA essay questions, including 2 essays for the written application and 1 essay for post interview:

As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program? (no word limit)

An open-ended question like this can leave many applicants confused about what they should write about. You might have the temptation to cover every accomplishment and hardship you have been through, but that usually backfires. Instead, you need to be selective of what you choose to express, which accomplishment you are the most proud of, which hardship that shaped you the person you are today. Keep your essay within the 1000 words range, be clear and concise.

Briefly tell us more about your career aspirations. (500 characters)

Here you should write about your short term and long term career goal, as specific as possible, and why you want to follow that path. You should mention any specific things that are stopping you from pursuing that path, and how HBS 2+2 will help you accomplish your goal.

Post interview essay

All candidates are required to submit an essay to reflect the whole application. This essay is compulsory only to candidates who are invited to an interview.
This essay acts as an ending to your application process. Therefore, you should discuss what you did not have an opportunity to discuss during the application form and interview. This is also the chance for you to reflect on what you have learnt, or maybe explain any embarrassing mistakes you made during the interview.

Here are some common mistakes that many applicants made that you might want to avoid:

  • Essays that are basically a paragraph version of your resume: There’s nothing “wrong” with this essay per se; it just doesn’t add much to your application. You can build on things that are raised in other parts of the application—just make sure it’s additive.
  • Essays that are too long: Use your best judgment, and try to be clear and concise in your writing. What do we need to know to understand you that hasn’t been addressed elsewhere? 
  • Essays that aren’t about you: After you finish writing your essay, ask yourself, “Can this describe someone else?” There is a lot of talk about program elements like HBS or case methods, but sharing about yourself with a small portion of the essay is a missed opportunity to express your world, decisions, motivations or your experience of growth.

How To Ace Your MBA Career Goals Essay – A Complete Guide with Examples

Avoid appearing “scripted” in your interview

Many applicants who failed their HBS interview have reported that the reason for their failure was because they appeared “scripted”. Being “scripted” means being unnatural, unauthentic in your answers or maybe the admission team feels like you are trying to be someone else during the interview. One more common mistake in HBS interviews is that applicants can go overboard with their answers, basically trying to cover too much information about themselves without leaving much of an impression of their personality. 

Here are some tips to avoid those common mistake in your interview:

  • Expect the unexpected: HBS interview questions are often all over the place. Since it is impossible to prepare for every interview question in the world, you are much better off spending time reflecting on yourself and practicing how to express yourself effectively. 
  • Embrace your flaws: Don’t pretend to be perfect in the interview, usually the interviewers can see right through that. Reflect on yourself, talk about your strengths while acknowledging your weaknesses at the same time and how these traits make you who you are.
  • Be accurate, concise: If you realize you are going off topic during your answers, it is hard to make a comeback. You need to listen carefully to the interview questions, take a quick moment to try and understand what they are trying to know. 
  • Embrace the pause: You should not ramble. Each ‘uhhh’ or any filler sounds can become annoying very quickly. Pause, think clearly about your answer and then keep going. 

“Tell Me About Yourself” MBA Interview Question Guide

How To Nail The “Why MBA” Question in Your MBA Interview

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