Getting an MBA is one of the best investments you can make in yourself and your future career, but taking that leap, and the ensuing $42K average post-MBA debt, is a leap of faith. But what if you could be part of the 43% of MBAs who graduate with no school debt at all?
If you’re starting to explore how to finance your business school education, you’re likely familiar with the various types of government-backed and private loans, as well as the possibility of using your own funds or receiving financial support from your family. You can, and should, explore all options available to you, but don’t forget to look into valuable business school scholarships: funding that rewards you for being a great candidate and better yet, funding you don’t have to pay back!
Check out these tips to uncover valuable MBA scholarship opportunities:
1. Sniff around
Uncovering scholarships available to you requires significant research. Spend time on each school’s financial aid and scholarship website, and note all the scholarships and fellowships available, as well as external scholarship sources such as Forte Foundation and MBA affinity groups. Then, get organized.
Separate applications for consideration to scholarship programs may be required, including separate essays and recommendations. Research the selection criteria for each scholarship you’re qualified for and keep in mind that “traditional” two-year, full-time MBA tracks tend to have more scholarship and fellowship opportunities than part-time or executive MBA tracks.
The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) has a tool that allows you to input your demographic information and the type of MBA program you’re interested in to see how applicants just like you financed their MBA studies.
2. Leave no stone unturned
Whether you’re a female MBA candidate, a Pacific Islander applicant, an applicant from Eastern Europe, an applicant planning a career in the energy sector, or a candidate interested in selling sea shells on the seashore, there is a scholarship out there just for you. Look for any and every opportunity for funding that you may qualify for. Sometimes, the more unique you are, the better!
3. Be awesome
Schools’ scholarship selection criteria can be notoriously nebulous. What does “exceptional candidate” or “highly qualified” mean, anyway? If you can dig up some stats on previous scholarship recipients, it will help you determine your competitiveness. Keep in mind that you will need to be an above-average candidate for the school you’re applying to in order to be considered for competitive MBA scholarship funds. While schools may be purposely ambiguous about what makes an “exceptional candidate” in their assessment, your academic credentials and GMAT score will figure in—as will your work experience, volunteer or community service, and undergraduate work.
4. Own that GMAT
Assuming you may not be able to change your undergraduate GPA or add more years of work experience to your resume by the time you apply, your GMAT score is a critical part of your application where you can stand out. Luckily, this is the one element you can change with just a few months of preparation (hey, we’ve got an app for that!) While almost no schools will publish a cutoff score for scholarship eligibility, remember that this is no longer about being accepted, it’s about being recognized. If your GMAT score is significantly above the school’s average, schools will want to convince you to become a matriculant.
5. Be the early bird
While American business schools are still rebounding from declining application numbers, strong candidates with all-star applications can attract multiple scholarship offers from schools looking to boost their rankings by wooing highly-qualified applicants. Round 1 applications allow you to vie for all available seats and all scholarship dollars. The longer you wait, the more those opportunities—and those MBA scholarships—will get allocated to other students.
Have great tips of your own to share for financing your MBA education? Let us know!