A recent BusinessWeek story described MBA programs’ increasing reluctance to hand out admissions deferrals the current climate. In an economy where some students have a harder time securing loans and others are unable to sell their houses in order to relocate for school, this could put some newly admitted applicants in a tough spot.
Every year, a typical top school hands out dozens of deferrals. Students may ask for all sorts of reasons, and as long as they’re legitimate ones, admissions officers will usually at least consider such requests. However, with all of the uncertainty in today’s market, schools are unwilling to layer on one more level of complexity in managing a deferrals list.
Many admissions officers interviewed for the article said they plan to offer fewer deferrals this admissions season, and some even plan on scaling this number down further next year. It’s possible that some may hand out zero deferrals next year. This comes as these same schools report that the number of deferral requests are on the rise.
Interestingly, many deferral requests now come not from applicants who want to keep their options open, but who are wondering if they want to stop working and pursue an MBA at all. At the same time, knowing that their applicant pools keep becoming more and more qualified each year, many MBA programs are reluctant to grant deferrals knowing that they may have even stronger applications to choose among next year.
Is this the whole story? Probably not. We believe that yield management at least partly drives this decision as well. Yield rates for deferred admits are below 50% at some top schools. Clearly, schools see a deferral request as at least a weak signal that you may not end up matriculating, making them less likely to play along?
Ultimately, deferrals are unlikely to completely go away. If you are admitted to a great school and have a truly legitimate reason for not being able to matriculate this year, it never hurts to pick up the phone and explain your circumstances. The worst the school can say is “no,” and they may even give you a little more time to decide. They will never take away your acceptance offer, so there’s not much downside in asking. Just know that you’re not likely to get a “yes” unless you have a real reason for requesting a deferral.