We’re not exactly advocating this as an actual strategy for selecting your MBA programs to target. But it’s something to consider! It’s certainly more practical and intelligent (yes we said it) than using rankings as the priority tool to choose where to apply.
If a top MBA program has a special scholarship fund earmarked only for students in a specific field, then wouldn’t it make sense for you to apply there?
All else being equal (which to at least some extent, is definitely the case when you consider groupings of peer schools), if there’s funding available on campus for some specific sector or industry, then you can bet that the school is placing an emphasis there. Not only is there the possibility you might actually earn some of that scholarship money (maybe — if you’re a legit candidate for that specific sector and well qualified) but there’s also likely to be an ecosystem or infrastructure built out around that interest area on campus.
It’s unlikely that some wealthy alumna/us is going to drop a sh!t-ton of money on their alma mater focusing on a specific industry segment if that school is not on board to support and promote and groom and nurture students to go into that field.
One example is in this news that we saw in March: Michigan Ross Alum Donates $5.4 Million To Create New Full-Ride Scholarships for MBAs Interested in Healthcare
And to that we say WOW! Setting up a scholarship fund for a particular sector is happening more often at many schools but a full-ride scholarship opportunity? That level of generosity being bestowed to multiple students is not common. This Pinkert Scholar opportunity is truly significant and will be a hard one to pass up if you end up getting this on offer.
This Pinkert Scholars program at Ross is not the same type of hyperfocused program such as the Wharton Healthcare Management Track which is fully immersive, and which also often offers some financial support (stipends and such) for students who are accepted. If you’re interested in healthcare, and you’re a fit overall to The Wharton School, then the HCM should be on your radar for sure.
This is potentially even more impactful and important than the alumnus who’s funding student travel to international destinations now at Darden — which is also a notable new development that should be investigated as part of your school research efforts. If you’ve decided that an international career path is part of your future, then going to a school that not only requires international experience in order to graduate, but one who’s putting some money where their mouth is and helping students to go on such experiences seems like a school to investigate.
Now, please don’t get the wrong idea. We’re not suggesting that you decide to focus on a healthcare as your post-MBA career if you’ve never been interested in healthcare, never worked a day in healthcare, never been inside a doctor’s office since the last time you were vaccinated as a child. (We hope you have been vaccinated, Brave Supplicant!) We’re not trying to plant ideas on how you can game the system and try to get in to a top school by pitching yourself as in love with healthcare. The only way this works is if it’s a genuine interest of yours already, that you’ve been pursuing in your life over time, and it makes sense for where you want to continue to focus through your MBA and beyond. You can’t just decide to switch into healthcare now if you’ve not done anything in healthcare before; that’s not an impossible pitch to make for an admit but it’s unlikely you’ll get into Wharton HCM or be awarded this new Ross Pinkert scholarship unless you have the foundation behind you to back all of it up.
What we are suggesting is that if you’re already focusing on healthcare and you love it, and you’re excited by it — or if you’re hot to trot for entrepreneurship and innovation and you know you want to make your mark in the medical field in some way, even if you don’t currently have vast experience there (but you’re, say, looking for bschool to set you up with the right partner who does bring that specialized sector knowledge to the mix, and you can pair up and be a radical success as a team) — then Ross might be one to look closely at.
If you’re gung-ho about fintech, well, this is a non-viable strategy: We’ve not heard of a single school that has any special funding for those going to fintech. There aren’t that many big-ticket scholarships available at the top schools for anything finance-related, actually, and that’s for what’s hopefully the obvious reason: If you want to go into finance, you’re likely motivated by, well, finance — and those jobs pay quite handsomely on the backend, thank you very much. You can find a smattering of scholarships to the tune of around $5,000 here and there such as these at Berkeley-Haas (along with one for $50k) which do include a mentorship component, but it’s not the same infrastructure and intimate nurturing that you’d experience with one of these others we’re discussing.
The reason a school would get an alum to fund a big scholarship for a specific sector is to try and enhance that school’s offering in that field, and to serve the market of employers looking to that school for new talent. Healthcare is a sector where many schools have been unable to fill the available demand, and so these types of student funding opportunities are a way to address that on a broader scale.
Smaller off-the-radar schools also often have some very nice support for particular fields, such as UC-Davis and their Health Professions MBA Scholarship Program . Or, a one-off scholarship awarded to a student in the media industry (apparently preferring a focus on traditional media like newspapers) is available at UVA Darden. Their Batten Media Scholarship is also a full-ride opportunity, but this is clearly open only to a very tiny self-selecting slice of the MBA applicant pool (there’s a sister Batten Scholarship at Darden focused on innovation which more of you might be interested in).
Finally, not an industry focus but an exceptional opportunity for the right candidate: Cornell Johnson has the Park Fellows program which is an intensive track for leaders of distinction and diversity. It’s a way for Cornell to be competitive with certain candidates who they really want to bring on board. Perhaps more than these other full-ride scholarships we’ve been highlighting, this one has certain obligations that the Fellows will fulfill during their two years on campus, along with the mentorship and nurturing for leadership. It’s a community within a community and there are specific expectations that you’ll want to understand before you apply. That’s often the case when a program is titled a “fellowship” versus a “scholarship” though the lines between these terms can be blurry. In any case, if you’re given the privilege of such an award, you can expect for the school to want to use you in marketing and you’ll have some responsibilities for contributing to the network, and an expectation that you’ll stay involved and help out with the next generation even after you have graduated and moved on.
All of these opportunities are worth exploring, and you may be surprised at what’s available at individual schools and the programs they offer. There’s certainly no guarantee you’ll be awarded such a generous gift; most people are thrilled simply to be accepted, they don’t expect to be paid to go get an education. But if you’re the right fit to a school culture already and you’re interested in the sector they want to support, then yeah, going all-in with your application and making sure you’re exploring that opportunity fully as part of your school research, to leverage it to the full extent possible in your pitch, could be an excellent investment of your available time from now till submitting those essays.
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