Applying to MBA programs strategically can help reduce tuition costs through merit scholarships. Now, you will find the most selective MBA programs may not offer merit scholarships, but instead may offer need-based aid (something Stanford GSB recently reiterated). However, the majority of full-time MBA programs do offer merit scholarships and for those, here are 5 steps to maximize scholarship dollars:
- Research and apply to MBA programs who offer merit scholarships.
While researching institutions, don’t forget to scour their websites to find a list of the scholarships offered. Take note of the criteria, the number of scholarships offered, amounts, and overall dollars awarded each year. Find out if any of the scholarships require an early application deadline, separate application, or essay. If they do, apply to those for which you are qualified. Scholarships with separate application requirements are often missed by applicants, so you may have a better chance of being selected for those if you follow through.
- Apply early.
The admissions cycle often includes a few different rounds of applications and decisions. Plan ahead and apply during the earliest round! The later you apply, the fewer scholarship dollars may be available.
- Attend preview days, make connections, and show interest.
If you can, attend a prospective student event on campus (or off campus, if available in your city) and connect with an admission officer. Be open with them that cost is a concern but also prove your intense interest to enroll in their program. Show your best self.
Applying to multiple MBA programs who offer merit scholarships may result in being offered different levels of scholarships, or funds from one school and not another. You can use this variety to your advantage by going back to your admission officer and informing them about competing offers. They may be able to come back with some more funding. Be firm, but kind, not pushy or rude (they’ve seen it all). If you are lucky enough to receive scholarship funds, find out if all are renewable for the 2ndyear of your program (if applicable). Negotiate before you pay your enrollment deposit.
- Check in with financial aid.
After you’ve enrolled and settled into your first semester, reach out to the financial aid office to see if they offer any special scholarships for current students, or if they anticipate to next year. If they plan to, set a reminder on your calendar and keep eye out for applications.
MBA candidates understand the importance of this investment, but the price tag can certainly be overwhelming. I worked with MBA students for nearly 10 years, and those who applied at the last minute and to only a couple programs were always disappointed when they weren’t offered any merit scholarships. Research, plan ahead, and negotiate, so you won’t have to finance your MBA with costly student loans.
Michelle Clifton is Senior Manager of College Finance at College Coach, the nation’s leading provider of educational advisory services to organizations and families. Michelle has spent the majority of her professional career in higher education. She is an active member of the Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and volunteers for FAFSA Day Massachusetts.