Adding 2+2 To Equal Five

As Students Defer, HBS's 2+2 Program Learns To Be Flexible

“I think the benefit of being in the 2+2 Program for me was that it was an option that I had,” said one 2009 Harvard College graduate. “I put down a deposit, but for me...I didn’t feel that I necessarily had to go.”

The Harvard alumna deferred matriculation for one year and will enroll at the Business School in the fall. Like Prado, she said her primary reason for deferring was to gain additional work experience.

“All I really had to do was send them [the admissions office] an email telling them I wanted to defer, and I got an email back saying okay,” she said.

She asked to remain anonymous in this article because she did not tell her employer that she had been admitted to the 2+2 Program when she sought one of the three jobs she has held during her three years off.

She was worried about seeming “presumptuous” to her prospective employer by noting her Harvard Business School admission on her resume, she said. Others have noted that 2+2 admission, while certainly a mark of distinction, might also be a hindrance for students’ budding business careers.


“For some companies, if you had put ‘HBS Admit, Class of 2013,’ they actually would not have wanted to hire you because they wanted to keep you for longer than 2 years,” Dickson said, although she said that she told her employer—a health care consulting firm where she had previously interned—about her admission.

Kimball noted that the turnover period for many first jobs is around two to three years anyway and said she was glad she told her manager and co-workers at Microsoft that she would be heading back to Harvard eventually.

“If you believe that you’re likely leaving in two years, that’s going to affect the way you approach your work,” Kimball said. “Your manager’s going to be better able to help you...if they know that.”


As the 2+2 Program enters its fourth year, students have learned how to navigate the newly created gap between college and an anticipated Business School start date. Harvard too has adapted the program during its early experimental years.

In the first year of the program, the Business School offered students help finding employment through career counseling and a recruiting partner system that included companies such as Google, McKinsey & Co., and Teach for America.

Now, Leopold said, “We don’t get involved in that process. Students are required to get their own jobs.”

Harvard also offered summer programs for the first cohort of 2+2 students to practice case studies and network with each other on campus for a few days. The program has since been discontinued. Leopold said, “We found over time that they found ways of connecting without us being involved at all.”

Furthermore, the Business School tweaked the admissions cycle for the program this year, breaking it into three rounds instead of one application deadline to better match the regular Business School admissions process.

As administrators fine-tune the infant program, they can only wait to find out the answer to perhaps the biggest question of all. With no strict limits on repeated deferrals, only time will tell whether students selected for 2+2 will indeed eventually enroll or choose to stay in the working world as their careers develop.

But however many students matriculate and however long it takes them to get there, the program has succeeded at the goal that Leopold identified—drawing bright college students to Harvard Business School, two or more years down the line.

Sitting at the Business School, Kimball reflected on the pilot program that took her from Harvard to the West Coast and back again.

“I’ve seen the 2+2 population stepping into leadership roles in many ways, despite our young age,” Kimball said. “I think that HBS is better for that.”

—Staff writer Brian C. Zhang can be reached at


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