Vlog: You’ve received a scholarship, but not from your dream school. Do you take it?

June 01, 2017 | by Caroline Diarte Edwards

In our second vlog post on the topic of navigating MBA decisions, Catherine and Caroline discuss this fortuitous yet tricky issue: You’ve been accepted by your dream school, but have a scholarship offer from another program. Do you take the money? How can you use this offer to leverage other schools for financial assistance?

Our Fortuna experts, Caroline Diarte Edwards (former INSEAD Director of Admissions) and Catherine Tuttle (former Duke Fuqua Associate Director) talk candidly about this scenario in this 7-minute video.

Take a few minutes and watch, or read a transcript of the full conversation below.

Caroline: Welcome everybody to Fortuna Admissions video blog. My name is Caroline Diarte Edwards, I’m a director at Fortuna. I’m here today with my colleague Catherine Tuttle. Catherine was an Associate Director in the Career Management Sector at Duke Fuqua School of Business. So, Catherine, the topic we wanted to discuss today is whether you can leverage a scholarship offer from one school to try to secure a scholarship offer from another school where you have an admissions offer but not yet a scholarship. So, sometimes candidates have multiple offers and maybe one or two of those come with a scholarship, but not all, and perhaps their top school has not offered them a scholarship. What are your thoughts on that?

Catherine: It’s such a good question, and one that we get often – and it’s a good problem to have! I had a few clients this past round that were in this situation, where they had a scholarship or in one case two scholarship offers from schools, got in to their top choice school but did not get a scholarship offer from there. And business school is a huge investment of time and money, so if someone puts money on the table it makes sense that you would consider that offer even if it’s not your top choice school.

It’s certainly an option to go to the school that did not offer money and ask for them to provide some additional funds, but it’s just important to know going into that [conversation] that there’s no guarantee. They may be able to offer you something, or they may not. I think part of this process, and I talked about this with a client recently, is really understanding if the school you’re going to ask for money is your top school, and if so, why? Going back through that application, going back through those materials, going back through your notes and reminding yourself and comparing the pros and cons of that school to the pros and cons of other school who have put money on the table because ultimately if we’re going to ask we want to know it’s because we really want to go there and if they gave you money you would accept it.

What we don’t want to do is ask for money, and then potentially go in another direction; let’s say they give you half of what the other school provided. Part of this is to just check is this the school you want, and if so, then let’s go for it.

The first thing is, like we said with the waitlist [vlog conversation], is to make sure you’re following their protocols. I mean, there’s going to be certain steps you have to take, certain people that need this information. It may be in writing, it may be an in-person conversation. Make sure you’re following those steps appropriately, and in that [in] conversation [you] reiterate your interest. Let them know who has provided a scholarship and for what amount, but why you would accept the scholarship from their school over that particular offer.

The most important thing is to be genuine, and to show that commitment to the school, and that excitement for the school personally and professionally. And we want to be humble, right? I mean remember that this is a human process: it is people asking other people, there’s no scientific formula. So if you ask and you come across as arrogant or demanding, chances are that person is not going to want to help you, so be as humble and appreciative and respectful of their time as you can.

Caroline: Yes, absolutely. And it is often very difficult for the schools because they have a limited scholarship budget, and whilst they would like to help everyone, they can’t. They will often get these types of requests, and they’re not often able to fulfil all of the requests and the needs even if they would like to. So having some understandings for the constraints that the school is under as well, I think, is important to show.

What are your thoughts on what happens next if the school is not able to offer any financing, any scholarship offer? Trying to make that decision between taking your number one school and your number one offer versus taking your offer from a school that is not your number one choice but they’ve offered you some substantial scholarship package?

Catherine: Such a hard, but good, decision to have to make, right? I think that’s where any admit weekend that you can attend would be incredibly helpful: getting back on campus, being surrounded by current students and being surrounded by your future classmates I think can be incredibly helpful.

I just had a client who was going back and forth on this issue and who went to the admit weekend, and it was for the school that she did have a scholarship that she was debating taking, and she came back and said ‘Oh my gosh! Hands down I’m not even going to ask the other school. It just reminded me of why I wanted to be there.’ Her fiancé was there with her, they both agreed, they were both excited. So I think that is probably the biggest thing that you can do: Get back on campus and take advantage of some of these weekends that bring the community together. And then, if you don’t have that option, depending on where you are in the timeline and the process, reconnect with students and alumni that you have spoken to. Again, re-remind yourself of why it was you were attracted to the school, and start to weigh those pros and cons more formally.

Caroline: In general, I normally advise clients in that situation to take the offer from the school that really feels like the best fit for them even if it’s going to cost them more money in the short term. The return on investment from a top MBA program is very good, as in in the long term it will pay dividends: the difference in cost will not be significant over time, in the long run. I would encourage them to take a long term view of things and go with the school where they feel, as you said, that it’s absolutely the right environment for them, rather than taking a second choice option for the sake of getting the scholarship financing. If they have the option, of course, of being able to finance the MBA with their savings and with loans and so on.

Catherine: And speaking to that long-term view, looking at where their alumni are. If you know where you want to be long term professionally, geographically, industry-wise, then making sure your long-term view is in line with where their alumni are, where they’re living and working. That often comes into play in a more substantial way at that point in the process than it does early on.

Caroline: Absolutely. Okay, fantastic, really interesting stuff, thank you very much Catherine! Lovely to chat again. Speak to you again soon.

Catherine: Thank you for having me!

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