Wharton, the country’s No. 1-ranked business school, is expanding its MBA deferred admissions program to students outside the University of Pennsylvania, officials said this week.

The recently launched Wharton MBA Advance Access Program lets undergraduate and graduate students in their final year of study at other institutions apply for a guaranteed spot in a future Wharton MBA class. In the meantime, they can work for two to four years before entering the full-time Wharton MBA program.

“We are looking for the most talented students across the globe who are innovative, intellectually curious, and ready to impact the world during their deferment period,” said Wharton MBA admissions director Blair Mannix.

Wharton admits roughly 860 students every year, a number that has remained steady for 10 years, she said. Wharton did not say how many students apply every year.

“Advance Access students are encouraged to take professional risks, such as starting their own company, working for a nonprofit, or pursuing global externships while working in traditional business industries. This broad range of experiences will bring valuable perspectives to our future MBA classes and prepare our students to become global leaders in today’s ever-changing business environment,” Mannix said.

More broadly, “the rise of this deferred admissions option is a sign of a continuing shift in the MBA Graduate Management Education marketplace,” said Eliot Ingram, CEO of Clear Admit, a Philadelphia digital media firm covering the MBA admissions space.

Traditional U.S.-based full-time MBA programs are facing challenges in 2019. American business schools are offering deferred MBA admissions as a way to market to college seniors when they may be considering a professional masters program right after college, Ingram said.

“Application volume is down overall because the strong economy is increasing the opportunity cost for top MBA candidates to take time off from work to attend a two-year program. When the economy eventually slows, MBA applications are likely to increase as people who were delaying their business education finally decide to apply,” Ingram said.

Also, demand from international applicants to U.S. business schools is down due to changes regarding immigration policy and work visa restrictions under the Trump administration.

“Specialized masters program offerings — masters in accounting, masters in finance, masters in business analytics — are poaching potential MBA applicants. These offer a faster, cheaper offering that can be completed in one year right after college,” he added.

To apply, students must submit academic transcripts, resume, GRE/GMAT scores, two letters of recommendation, two essays, and an application fee of $100. Accepted applicants are expected to pay $1,000 by the beginning of June to secure their seat and an additional $1,000 the year they decide to matriculate and begin classes.

The program expands Wharton’s existing Moelis Advance Access Program for University of Pennsylvania undergraduates and MBA matriculation program for Wharton undergraduates.

Students interested in applying to the Wharton MBA Advance Access Program can do so until the deadline of April 1, 2020. Applicants will be notified of decisions by May 8, 2020. A virtual information session is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 2 p.m. Register at https://whr.tn/advanceaccesswebinar.

Applicants can attend the Undergraduate Campus Visit Day on Monday, Oct. 21 at Wharton’s Philadelphia campus. Registration is available at bit.ly/register29.