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…
We admit to being DownerSnark when the subject of MBA scholarships comes up.
Mostly it’s because it’s….one of those things. Where applicants are often woefully misinformed or unaware of the realities of the situation.
If you’re applying for a graduate program in almost any other field, there is plenty of free money available. That’s how society gets smart people to go research important things. If there weren’t funding for, say, archeologists and sociologists and all those other -ologists who are ologisting all over the place to advance human knowledge, then nobody would be able to go do it.
But the MBA? There’s a very high ROI on this here degree.
We covered this good-news/bad-news situation quite directly in the post from the ‘snarchives called They are not going to pay you to get an MBA.
Today we’ll just burst your lil ol bubble with some Truth: Yes there is free money available in the form of scholarships and fellowships to help support you in your MBA dream, but you cannot assume you’re gonna get any.
The GMAT people did a survey of MBA applicants through much of 2017 and here’s what folks were assuming for how their graduate business degree would be funded:
The only category on that whole chart that resembles reality is the last one, where applicants have some corporate sponsorship lined up and their job is going to pay for their schooling. If you’re getting sponsored, you know it, and you probably know about how much you’re getting, or at least a ballpark.
The other category that’s showing a more realistic percentage is the Parental Support one, particularly for those younger applicants who are going to bschool very early on in their lives and they have their family behind them to make the investment.
But for that first bucket?
Yes certainly there are many applicants who are accepted by great schools who get significant support from the school. That money comes almost entirely from alumni donations; it’s the generosity of grads from that school who want to pay back. When you go to Harvard and you become fabulously wealthy later in life, then you can get a nice tax write-off for your donation (or at least, you used to get one; who knows if that’s going to hold true as it once did now that we’re post tax reform). It’s a little ironic that the school that’s one of the most expensive is also the one with the deepest pockets and ability to help its students out.
Which is an important point to be very aware of: The further down you go in the rankings, there is often less money available for the schools to give away. All schools have the ability to award something but it’s definitely not the same situation everywhere you turn. There’s also usually less money available for an Executive MBA track, though we’ve more recently heard of a few EMBA programs that have been able to offer more fellowships.
If you’re aiming for a Top 20 school, then your entire focus should be on earning an admit. That alone is going to be plenty of a reward! If you have an especially unique background or are coming from a particular country where there are special-focus scholarships available, then certainly you may win the double prize. But please do not assume you will get anything more than the acceptance. Start planning NOW for the costs of the MBA. Save those pennies. Cut down on your expenses today. And consider the big-picture strategy. If getting financial help for your degree is a critical factor that determines whether or not you will be able to attend, then make sure you’re putting a full-spectrum strategy into place, and make sure you’re operating in the realm of reality on how unique or differentiated or distinctive your background is (especially compared to the list of targets you’re planning for), so that you might be able to accurately hope and pray for free money.
If the free money comes, then that will be FABULOUS! But if it does not come, does that mean you won’t be going to bschool?
Having this conversation with yourself now is super important. It would suck to get all the way through this process and be sitting on a win when Round 1 closes at the end of the year, but with no way to actually afford the tuition. The schools publish this information and have lots of planning resources available. Now is the time to be looking at this, when there’s opportunity to adjust plans and create the right strategies. Given the incredible ROI of a top tier MBA, it’s highly likely that the category “Personal Earnings” will end up being a greater than 13% contribution to paying off the bill. And that’s OK! It’s the whole point of getting the degree in the first place, isn’t it?
You want to get an MBA to get a better job. Well then, doesn’t it make sense that you should plan for that better job to be paying off the cost of the MBA?
This seriously happy note came in from a BSer in May last year and we figured it was appropriate to post it now, since so many of you are getting antsy waiting for admit decisions — here’s something that hopefully you can be looking forward to (or at least some variation of it) in the…
One of the many ways things can get messed up with your MBA applications is rushing through the data entry task on your application. The app dataset is an important part of your pitch — not just a chore you need to get through as quickly as possible. We’ve offered a range of strategic comments…
NOTE: We’re reblahgging this from 2012, since it’s a timely topic that gets asked about a lot!!
Had a Brave Supplicant ask us about GMAT scores and scholarships recently — something like, “If my score is impressive enough, will I get a full tuition grant at bschool?”
Here’s what we said:
It is actually quite rare to get a full-ride scholarship. Most schools do offer these but they tend to go to accepted candidates that the school is eager to recruit away from other competitive programs; typically, these go to people who will provide an important element of diversity to the MBA program (women, underrepresented minorities, very unusual backgrounds, etc.). If you’re from an oversubscribed candidate pool like Indian male or white guy in finance or consulting, then we don’t actually hold out much hope for you to get significant scholarship money, just as a very general rule.
Of course, there are always exceptions, and we do not know anything about your profile, so who knows what may happen!! Some bschools (like Harvard and Stanford) only offer need-based awards, based on the student’s financial circumstances; other schools (like Columbia) offer merit-based awards, which are sometimes based on the GMAT but mostly on the GPA and academic performance and other factors that show distinction. Many schools are able to issue offers of aid when they are very interested in recruiting a particular candidate, typically those underrepresented applicants we mentioned above, who the schools want to bring on board in order to increase diversity of the class. Public schools like the MBA programs at the University of California system may be prohibited from offering aid to those candidates, however, based on the laws that they are operating under from their state.
As you can see, each school handles it differently.
Because the MBA is seen as having an incredible ROI — most people are easily able to recoup their MBA investment quite easily based on increased earnings power — there just isn’t much scholarship money to go around. And, because of the extreme ROI, you shouldn’t expect to get support for this endeavor – it will pay for itself, so you should consider it an investment. This typically means looking for loans and funding to cover the cost and believing in the probabilities that you’ll be able to make good on it.
The risk/reward ratio for the MBA — for most people — is favorable.
Now of course there’s always contrarians and there’s all sorts of “is the MBA worth it?” controversies floating around — they tend to come and go quite regularly, yet for now, the MBA has remained incredibly popular. The cost of the MBA is significant, and you definitely need to look at the big picture and evaluate whether it will be worth it FOR YOU.
But sorry folks. If you’re the typical candidate, nobody is going to pay you to get an MBA.
What we specifically said to this BSer was:
The blahg focuses primarily on the competitive top MBA programs and so no, we don’t discuss [School 3] all that often (every client we’ve ever worked with who’s applied to [School 3] has gotten in, so they’re just not overly selective – still a great school though!! you’ll love it if you end up there, we’re certain).
We will add to this comment that we have high regard for the school that the BSer has been accepted to. No, it’s not necessarily full of the movers and the shakers and the go-getter money makers of the world – but in our experience, there are some mighty nice people there (not that those categories of “go-getter” and “nice” are mutually exclusive, but, well, you know).
Also, if you’re planning on staying in the local geography, then it’s got some good recruiting opportunities with the regional corporations. This is often true for these lower-ranked schools. They might not have a broad national or international profile, but they will frequently have clout and status in their local community. Plus, these schools are typically waaaaay cheaper than the big-name MBAs. When you look at the ridiculousness of tuitions and fees at those behemoth schools, it can be a relief to see the more reasonable costs for education elsewhere.
And, obviously, lower-ranked schools tend to be much easier to gain admission to. They’re very open-minded in how they evaluate their applicants. It’s easier to stand out from the crowd because, well, there’s not so much of a crowd.
If you’re coming from an oversubscribed candidate pool like the stereotypical male Indian engineer or white guy in finance, and you have some flaws in your profile – or you’re just chomping at the bit to start your MBA **now** goshdarnit – then these are schools you may want to look into. Even now, at the tail end of a hypercompetitive season. There could still be room at some of these solid-but-perhaps-not-spectacular programs. (And, let’s be real, if you have tried with multiple apps in multiple rounds this season and have come up empty-handed, then we hate to say it but signs are pointing to the possibility that your profile is perhaps solid but not spectacular, too.)
Before everyone starts freaking out: Lower-ranked schools are simply NOT comparable to the prestige schools when it comes to the types of opportunities you can expect to see waltzing onto campus, nor the dollar value of starting salaries when you graduate, nor the numbers of dazzling celebrities and famous business personalities who will grace the halls of your program. If you’re headed to a name-brand top-tier MBA then yeah, it’s a different experience.
EssaySnark met someone at random recently who’d attended a Top 5 MBA program and all they could talk about was how SMART everyone was, that they’d never been around such a concentration of SMART people in one place for so long, either before or since bschool. She said it was inspiring but also intimidating. We’ve heard that from other grads, too. Again, we’re not saying that people at lower-ranked schools are dumb. We’re just offering reports of experiences. Some may also claim that the quality of professors at a brand-name school is superior – though we’ve certainly encountered some shoddy profs at top schools. However, the big universities can afford to pay their professors more than smaller regional schools can. They are able to attract teaching talent based on their reputation, too.
Our perspective is that you get out of your MBA experience what you put into it — because isn’t that true of everything in life? If you don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re going for an EDUCATION, then you can most definitely gain tremendously from a Master’s of Business Administration program that’s not hitting the top of every list.
And, if you have an impressive GMAT score, then you may find yourself in high demand at these lower-ranked schools – to the extent that they could be willing to throw some dollars your direction in an effort to entice you to join them. This level of school doesn’t typically have the massive endowments that schools like Harvard, Stanford and Yale do, but they do know how to use the monies available to them strategically to attract the candidates that will allow them to increase their standing in the world. So yes, your high GMAT score will potentially be a greater asset to you – and to them. Compared to the highly competitive schools, a next-tier program may be more ready to demonstrate that value through a scholarship offer. Their GMAT affects their rankings, so if your GMAT will be a great contribution to that, then you could find yourself in an attractive position.
Which can make for some complicated decisions of course! It all comes down to priorities, and these are personal questions that only you can answer. Saying one school is “better” than another is pretty absurd, and we’re not trying to make claims of that sort in these discussions. It’s to some extent subjective, and very individual. The best way to determine if a school is a good fit for you is to go visit the place, and to talk to people. Do enough of that and you will hopefully be able to gauge how you might fit into their culture and if it’s the right place for you.
If you’re one of those real go-getters who decided she wants to go to work for McKinsey after bschool… And you’ve now made it in to bschool… and you want to get a true leg up on your goals… Then it’s time to apply to be a McKinsey Scholar. From the McKinsey website: This summer,…
And now as a reward, you get to write another essay!! 😀
Berkeley-Haas does financial aid awards as a separate step in the admissions process and they ask for a Personal Statement (same thing as an essay) to be completed by those who want to be considered for their Dean’s Fellowship. A few other school scholarships are also available by submission of that same personal statement as part of the application, and as all schools do, they’ve also often got an opportunity or two for specialized scholarships sponsored by outside foundations and other organizations. The Haas scholarships for entering students are found here .
If you’re facing down the prospect of figuring out how to answer yet another essay question (after you thought you were done!) well we’ve got some assistance to offer.
Most people don’t get these essays reviewed by us – though you could. What many find helpful are our special-purpose scholarship essay guides.
We’ve got one for Tuck (their scholarship essay is due right after their standard round deadlines) We used to have one for Tuck until they removed that requirement. Until Berkeley does that (hint hint), we have one for Haas too.
These essays offer real opportunity – and at least the Haas one is typically gobs less stressful to write! After all, you’ve already been ADMITTED! Getting some scholarship money would be gravy.
There’s definitely some ways to make yours stand out. Check out the helpful hints from EssaySnark and hopefully you’ll see the scholarship board come back with an offer to sweeten your admit!
Some schools will subsidize you more.
We’re talking about the loan assistance programs that most top business schools offer. How it works is this: If you decide to take a job working for a non-profit or the government after you graduate, then you’re unlikely to be raking in the big bucks in post-MBA salary compared to your consulting and finance friends. Yet all the schools want to encourage people to go into these more altruistic careers, and most of them have implemented some form of loan forgiveness, where grads working in these fields can receive help paying back their student loans.
Sounds great, right? Yeah, it is – though you should know that some schools are more liberal with these programs than others. If you’re planning on doing some sort of non-profit or other public-sector career post-bschool, then you may want to look into this angle as you work on short-listing your schools.
Take Yale, for example. They are quite permissive in what they consider to be a “charity”; it doesn’t even have to be a formal 501(c)(3) (that’s the designation given by the IRS when an organization gets approved for tax-exempt status). They will evaluate what the organization does and what your role is and decide if it qualifies. You can apply for assistance anytime within your first ten years of graduation. In addition, this program is integrated into the Yale student culture; every Spring there’s a talent show which serves as a fundraiser, and they have very high student participation rates. This means that funds are renewed every year and the Yale financial aid office has more resources available for their LFP.
By contrast, the comparable program at Duke is not really comparable. Duke is more restrictive in terms of what a qualified employer would be, allowing just formally registered tax-exempt charities and government agencies. Alumni must first sign up within three years of graduation, and benefits are capped at eight years of payments total (you need to get your participation re-approved every year through a renewal application process; this is true at all schools). The maximum offered by Duke is $8,000 per year. These program parameters are down from when it was founded in 2001; it used to be eligibility for $10,000 per year for up to 10 years.
These niche opportunities are not what most people consider when choosing where to apply, particularly since it is tough to mentally grasp the idea of actually graduating from bschool and having to make payments on a student loan, when you’re sitting here on this side of the equation facing down essays and GMAT tests. You have no idea what career you’ll end up pursuing when you go through the process. We’ve heard that up to 70% of Duke students change their goals from what they write about in their essays. This is common. Sitting here today, how can you know if you’ll go for some type of job like this later? Some people might – and for those, these considerations should be examined.
These hidden opportunities can be very important in certain circumstances. Drill down on the actual programs available at a particular school. Do some digging. While Duke is just as supportive, from a culture and community perspective, as the SOM is in terms of encouraging students to pursue social interest jobs, Duke clearly isn’t putting its money where its mouth is in the same way to support its grads in those sectors.
Maybe this will spur some questions for you to ask as you continue your school research projects, Brave Supplicant.
Following up our exhortation to look at the financial side of business school now – before you apply – you should also be aware of the ease with which you can expect to get a loan for your MBA. After the economy fell apart in 2008 due to the proliferation of subprime mortgages, all sorts…