The “Optionality” of Business School: How deferred admissions MBA programs can make you rich


Getting accepted into a deferred MBA admissions program frees you up to take career risks early on, knowing that you can always fall back on recruiting for a cushy management consulting or investment banking job in business school. This is a huge, liberating blessing. Taking career risks early allows for truly superior financial returns in life. Consider an analogy to a financial portfolio. Salaried labor is like a bond – it pays consistent, steady, reliable returns. At the start of your career, you have 30+ working years ahead of you: a veritable basket of bonds. In contrast, starting a business or working at an early stage start-up comes with potentially volatile and uncertain salaries, but the potential for enormous upside through equity. This profile is much more like a stock.

Because you have many working years ahead of you, working in a steady job is equivalent to investing your portfolio 100% in bonds: low-risk, but low-reward. Doing this doesn’t make sense when it comes to personal investments; most financial advisers recommend young people invest 10% in bonds and 90% in stocks. Therefore it is important that you diversity your “portfolio” by taking a lot of career risks early on. Later in life, when you only have a few years of work left before retirement, it’s advisable to shift your personal investments to 90% bonds and 10% stocks. Accordingly, you won’t want to be working at a start-up and instead should have a steady, salaried job.

A deferred admission to business school essentially allows you to take better advantage of this high-risk early strategy by limiting your downside. If you follow this advice and take a bunch of career risks right out of college and your start-up becomes a unicorn, netting you millions of dollars – awesome! Take the money, decline your business school offer and never look back. However, if your start-up flops you can just come to business school and either start again on another start-up with the validation of a brand-name school, or switch to a traditional “bond-like” job at McKinsey.


Many two-year MBA programs allow students to take a number of years off between their first year and second year (at HBS, it is 5), so many students come into school, form a start-up, and take time off to run it, safe in the knowledge that if it flops, they can always come back and get an awesome job.

When you think about it, the payout profile of business school is similar to that of a call option – it lets you sell your labor at a predictable price (~$140,000 in salary for most consulting firms). How do you increase the price of an option? Through increased volatility in the marker. And how do you get that? By taking a ton of career risks. Once you have your admissions offer in hand, taking these risks is just a prudent thing to do to increase the value of your property.

In that way an early admission to business school equips you with the tools necessary to greatly increase your earnings and potentially make you rich.