Why You Shouldn’t Overlook Scholarships for Your MBA Program

You’re applying to business school. It’s an exciting prospect, for sure. But the costs can be daunting! Whether you’re just beginning the process or are putting the finishing touches on your b-school applications, you’ll need to buckle down and figure out the finances. The price tag for an MBA is enormous. The financial aid office at Harvard estimates that a single person in their MBA program will pay approximately $102,000 this year for tuition and living expenses. Yikes!

Hopefully you have given this considerable thought and have a general idea of how you’re going to pay for your degree. Before you commit to a loan with a ten-year repayment plan, make sure you’re tapping into all your resources: personal savings, parental support, employer sponsorship, earnings from your current job, spousal or partner support and scholarships. Of these, scholarships tend to be overlooked. Students often assume that scholarships – which are often called fellowships at the graduate level – are more readily available for undergraduate education. It turns out there are actually lots of scholarship opportunities for MBA students. Don’t miss out on this huge source of funding!

How do I apply?

Good news! Most b-schools don’t require a separate application for internal scholarships, making the scholarship process pretty painless. B-schools base the bulk of their scholarship decisions on the admission applications alone, and generally use the same criteria as those used for acceptance. At Wharton, all admitted students are considered for Wharton Fellowships. Award decisions are based on academic achievement, leadership skills, and professional development.

Sometimes, there are special scholarships that require additional materials from you. Are you in the military? Many schools such as Georgetown University and Duke University are members of militarymba.net. Eligible students can receive $20,000 through the program, but a separate application is required. If you’re a woman, you can apply for a Forte Fellow Scholarship at participating business schools – fellowships range from $10,000 to full tuition. To be considered, you need to submit an essay describing your qualifications.

What about need-based scholarships?

Most scholarships are merit-based, with some exceptions. Notably, Harvard and Stanford offer need-based fellowships. Harvard Business School (HBS) fellowships are offered solely on financial need. According to Harvard’s website, “Nearly 50% of the class receives an average of approximately $37,000 per year in need-based HBS Fellowship.” Stanford has many opportunities for need-based fellowships as well. As expected, Harvard and Stanford require some type of financial aid application before doling out the awards.

How much scholarship money is available?

It depends on the school of course. But, you may be surprised at the size of the scholarship pool. Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business states “More than 60 percent of our MBA students receive fellowships or graduate assistantships.” The awards can vary greatly – in the case of Mendoza, the awards range from $5,000 to $40,000. Georgetown University has $1.5 million available for merit-based scholarships. Boston University Questrom School of Business says that for students who entered their MBA program in the fall of 2016, “almost 90% received scholarship assistance with the average award exceeding half tuition each year.” Be assured – there is plenty of money out there! You just need to know where to find it.

Are there outside scholarships available?

You betcha! There are many opportunities for scholarships outside universities’ offerings, but you have to look for them. Start with the universities’ websites. They’ll often include information about external scholarships. Just know that the process won’t be as automated as it is with internal scholarships. You’ll likely have to complete a separate scholarship application.

There are fellowships that are geared toward specific populations, such as women, veterans, or minority students. Some awards are very specific. Bowdoin College offers the George and Mary Knox Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to Bowdoin graduates enrolled at Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, or Harvard Medical School. Are you from Spain? The Eduarda Justo Foundation is a scholarship program for top notch MBA students.

Believe it or not, there are search engines devoted to finding scholarship money. Here are a few to try: petersons.com and finaid.org.

Apply early.

Be sure you don’t miss out on a scholarship opportunity by missing a deadline. Schools recommend that you apply early. Scholarships are often handed out in Round 1 and Round 2, and the competition is fierce. Waiting too long can cost you. You don’t want the unwelcome surprise of finding out that the deadline was yesterday.

Know the details.

Many scholarships are renewable, though not always automatically. It’s fairly common that you’ll have to maintain a certain grade point average in order to keep your scholarship for another year. Be sure you’re aware of all the requirements for the scholarship.

And finally…

Unlike loans, scholarships and fellowships don’t need to be paid back! It’s free money! You’d be unwise to overlook this huge source of income. Securing scholarship money will go a long way toward helping you put the financial pieces in place as you embark on your business school adventure.