So you decided for whatever reason has come up in your life that you are going to ask to defer your MBA start till next year. You read our post yesterday and you know that most schools don’t often grant them, but you really feel that you need to fully explore your options and it’s important to at least see what they say. How do you go about it?
The first thing to do is to pay your deposit. There is no way a school is going to grant you a deferral if you’re not even committing to them first. Paying your deposit is a show of good faith, and it puts you in a much stronger position. They know that you’re serious, and that you actually are intending to go there, and you’re not just playing them.
Because you realize of course: Most admitted candidates who call up to ask for a deferral are only doing so in order to apply around to other schools next round or next year, to see if they can do better. People playing this game are unlikely to pony up for the deposit first — and it’s people doing this that have forced the schools to make a “no deferrals” policy in the first place. You can set yourself apart from that riffraff crowd by paying your deposit first, and then approaching the school with your request.
We always suggest making your request for a deferral by telephone rather than email. Sending an email is the coward’s way. It’s way too impersonal, and you’re basically copping to the fact that you’re scared to ask them directly (because admit it, you will be nervous when you make the ask). Instead, figure out what you’re going to say — and spend some time rehearsing how you’re going to say it — and then pick up the phone and call the admissions office. They may tell you to send in your request in writing, but giving them the courtesy of at least asking over the phone is in our opinion the better way to begin.
And what about the trade-off? What if they say no – but you feel strongly that you should pursue this other opportunity in front of you instead, and to hell with the admit? Are you screwed if you walk away from the acceptance in hand?
No, definitely not – but don’t assume that you’ll waltz straight through to an admit again next year if you turn the school down this time. You probably should even plan ahead for how you might handle your reapplicant pitch. If a school admitted you one year and decline their offer, then you show up asking to be admitted again the next year, they’re going to assume that the reason you turned them down last time was because you thought you were going to get in somewhere better, and then that didn’t happen, so you’re groveling for an admit from them again. You’ll need to take control of your messaging in the reapplicant essay and explain (briefly!) what was going on and why you made the decision to forego the original admit the first time.
And remember, they will be taking notes on whatever you say to them now, and that will be waiting in your file for them to review along with your new application next season.
The other point of course is that “next season” is only like a few months away. If you know you want to start your MBA in Fall 2018 then you really should be applying in Round 1 as a reapplicant. And that means starting to think through your essays and getting your act together in the not-too-far-off future — and a reapplicant pitch can be challenging when there’s not much time from the original app to the reapp. We have plenty of posts about this here on the blahg so you can explore those at your leisure, but it’s something you may want to put some thought into now, before you make your move one way or the other.
Most important of all, of course, is the obvious: Be polite. Don’t expect them to accommodate you. Make it a request and show some humility in how you approach it. Have your reason well defined ahead of time so that you can be articulate in explaining your situation – but please do not make something up. Don’t tell them some story about how your mom got sick and you need to take care of her. That’s bad juju, dude. If you’ve had a job offer you can’t refuse, then just say that simply. Don’t go into all the reasons and details of this new thing that’s been served up. Short and sweet. If it’s a job, then it wouldn’t hurt to offer some angle of why you think it’s going to help you be in a better position to pursue the MBA next year instead, if you can articulate a valid angle for that (in a way that doesn’t discount your entire pitch in this year’s application where you were trying to convince them of why you’re already ready to go do the MBA). Just sketch things out on a piece of paper before you pick up the phone, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take some notes on what you end up actually saying to the admissions person, so that you have that available later on when it’s time to put together that reapp package.
If you’re currently grappling with such a situation, we’re happy to offer input if you’d value an outsider’s perspective. Check out our Private Consult to submit a (concise) question for us to give some two-cents reactions to.