Plans change. Sometimes the vision you had for your career takes a right turn and you simply need extra time to get things done. Was the effort you put into your positive b-school admissions decision a total waste of time? Not if you can defer the decision.
Schools understand that change is inevitable, but unfortunately, matriculation dates are set in stone. If you find yourself in a situation where you just can’t start school as planned, you should open up a dialogue with your chosen school. Immediately.
The sooner you start communicating your dilemma, the more options you will have.
Schools won’t let you start late, but you might be surprised at the various options they provide. Some schools have January starts, for example, which could buy you up to six months of delay. Granted, this would put you in a different cohort, but you ultimately will remain on track with your original time schedule, so no harm, no foul.
The most common rip cord is the deferral.
Deferring your admission is essentially a negotiation with the school to come back either next year, or in some future year within a reasonable timeframe. The amenability of this suggestion to your target school will depend on many factors; chief among them will be your relative competitiveness. If you were a highly desirable candidate, you will have more bargaining power in the deferral negotiation.
Yield is another important factor.
Schools must fill seats, because any empty seat is lost revenue. If your chosen school has plenty of qualified applicants, you should have no problem getting a deferral, since schools not only are able to fill your current seat, but also have a “guaranteed” seat filled next year when you return. Business schools hate playing the yield game, so any filled seats make them very happy.
But you won’t know any of this until you pick up the phone and talk to them.
The worst thing you can do when considering your deferral options is to stay quiet. No matter what business school you are dealing with, they will appreciate your full disclosure as soon as possible. Remember, your acceptance is generally not something that would be at risk if you chat with them about your options, so there’s really nothing to lose. I have never heard of a school withdrawing an acceptance decision because someone wants to come later. They may not guarantee your acceptance in the future (in some cases, they might require a subsequent reapplication), but you won’t be at risk of losing your current seat by talking to them. One thing that could be at risk, however, is any potential financial offers you have received. Schools may allow you to come back later, but they may not offer the same tuition abatement or fellowship money. Only you can prioritize which is more important.