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Financing Your MBA: Fellowships & Assistantships

In the world of MBA financial aid, you’ll often see more than just grants and scholarships mentioned as funding opportunities.

Fellowships and assistantships are prominent and sought-after awards in b-school recruitment. However, it’s important to know these terms may refer to different types of awards at various institutions.

At some of the most selective b-schools, fellowships may be a term used for a need-based grant, where many MBA programs will use this to refer to their most prestigious merit awards. They may be awarded in a specific annual amount or based upon the cost of tuition. Some fellowships may be generous enough to cover the full cost of tuition, plus added costs like books and supplies. To make it even more complicated, there may even be some fellowships based on academic merit with an additional need component.

Fellowships are unique to scholarships as they may provide you with research, leadership, and internships opportunities, and you may gain on- and off-campus connections that you may not otherwise. In addition to the financial assistance, you may encounter professional experiences and meet folks in your intended field to help prepare for your future endeavors.

Assistantships may work similar to work-study where you’ll work and receive an hourly wage. Or you’ll receive a stipend with a required number of hours to work per year. In order to make this the best and most worthwhile professional experience, you’ll want to connect with your admissions or financial aid officer early to find out which office matches assistantships with professors or departments on campus. This way you’ll be matched in your area of interest.

Like everything in the world of financial aid, it is vital to research potential funding options at each b-school you are applying to. Don’t assume that you’ll be automatically considered for all fellowships, assistantships, scholarships, and grants; look out for any special applications, essays, or early deadlines to ensure that you are not leaving money on the table. Applying in the earliest admission cycle may give you the best shot, as funding becomes more and more limited the later you apply. Find out if there are any awards offered for the second year that you’ll be able to apply for during your first year. Going into these applications informed will help mold expectations and—we hope—an outcome of various offers to choose from! And don’t forget to give your negotiation skills a shot during the process and search for private scholarship snow, and throughout your enrollment, to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

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. 

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