It’s expensive to get an MBA. It’s a damn good thing that many schools are pulling out the stops in soliciting donations from alumni to fund more scholarships for incoming students. It’s also lucky that you’ve applied in the current season, as it seems to be a down year, which means that we’re seeing more and more offers of admission to top schools that are accompanied by some sweet free $$$.
If you didn’t luck out on the double-score and are only happily celebrating an admit but with no scholarship attached to it, or if you’re an enterprising individual who wants to maximize available funding sources without taking out six-digit loans, or if you are in love with a school that’s accepted you but they’re a little on the stingy side in general, perhaps because they’re limited by the State of California (Berkeley Haas cough) on what they can offer, then you may have been told to look at external scholarship opportunities.
And you may quickly get overwhelmed and lose hope.
About six months ago — not sure how often they update it — we cribbed this list of such sources from Stanford GSB (also available locally from our server here in case that link 404s in the future). It claims that it’s scholarships for Americans and permanent residents, but the actual qualification details listed on many are totally not that, so it’s worth looking at for any of you.
Or, you would think so, anyway.
If your experience is anything like the typical, what first starts as excitement at the prospect of all these possibilities of money being available may soon ebb to defeatism.
Because sure, you’re told that lots of scholarships either go un-awarded completely, or have very little competition, so the implication is that it should be easy to score some of these funds.
And the reality is that many scholarships are for fairly low amounts — $2,500, $5,000 — which, if someone added that to your bank account right now today, you’d be all “WHOOPEEE!!!! LET’S CELEBRATE” and could be a game-changer in your feeling of freedom for the month. You could pay off a whole credit card with that, probably.
But when you’re looking at $2,500 against the prospect of a $100,000 loan for the first year of courses, and you see that they require you to write a 500-word essay and MAIL IT IN somewhere and then wait six months to hear back…
Many of them also require MULTIPLE LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION.
Like, you just got through hounding managers to help you on your apps. Now you’re going to turn around and do all of that again for applications to scholarships?? Granted, you might want to tap very different individuals to write recs for you for a scholarship app. But still.
Suddenly it becomes less appealing.
Most of these scholarships — if you even qualify for them — are a helluvalotta WORK to even apply for.
And many of them are extremely limited in who they are open to. You need to be a member of a very specific socioeconomic demographic group, in many cases, in order to apply. Which makes sense, since many scholarships are built as a way to increase support of certain sectors of society in certain professions.
Some of them are baffling. Chicago Booth has a fellowship that they award (no separate application necessary) to an individual who shows excellence in private equity.
Private equity? Like someone who works in PE needs help paying for Booth?
These external ones all seem well-intentioned by their funders, and it’s kind of amazing that there’s such an abundance of such free money out there at all. That’s a very nice thing about American society, that there are these organizations that set up these opportunities in the first place.
But damn it’s discouraging what kind of hoops you have to jump through for many of these.
Also a warning: AFAWK, if a “scholarship” requires you to pay to be considered, then it could either be a scam or it’s not really one we’d recommend even if it’s legit. We get it, from the scholarship-awarding-org’s perspective, putting a $25 application fee on their scholarship fund may sound like a good idea in order to get only quality candidates applying. But if you the applicant are trying for even a small number of these, that adds up fast. You can ask your school’s financial aid office what their take on this is (and please report back if you do! would love to update this post with further insights like that).
The other major downside is that the cycles on which some of these funds require that you submit often coincides with what will be your busiest time of the school year — namely, right before you start, when you’re busy moving to a new city, or right when you’re beginning the term. You’re not likely to have much free bandwidth or extra motivation to knuckle down and write some essays at that time — if you even remember.
If any of these scholarship opportunities speaks to you, then calendar the information on when the app is available and when it will be due. If they’re open to submissions now, DO THEM NOW.
You will never have another time when you feel more motivated, or have more room in your schedule to take on such a project.
If you end up winning any of these external awards, we would LOVE to hear about it!! Or if you have won in the past, please let us know! That information could be invaluable for future BSers, and would be so, so appreciated.
If all you’ve done is gotten into a great MBA program, then that alone is reason to celebrate!! Getting some free money to ease the financial burden would surely be wonderful, but just getting in is a major accomplishment. The money will work itself out, always does.