Unless you’re literally made of money, an MBA costs a pretty penny. Combining tuition and living expenses with the opportunity cost of all those coins you’re missing out on by not working for two years, the financial burden of an MBA can be a deterring factor for many on the fence about pursuing a professional degree.
Of course, for some, there’s always federal student loans to fall back on, but going into debt (and the compounding interest associated with it) can be intimidating. Luckily, there are a number of scholarships geared specifically toward MBA applicants that can help ease your financial burden. The top 25 business schools dole out over 200 million dollars per year in scholarships to their applicants, covering roughly a third of their student body’s tuition. If you’re a minority applicant in the business world (women, people of color, LGBTQ applicants, etc.,) there are a number of grants independent of your schools that you could win, sending you to the MBA of your dreams without the nightmare of encroaching debt. Of course, these scholarships are competitive; so, how do you best position yourself to win?
Identity – In your MBA apps, who you are certainly plays a role in how you orient your goals, your leadership style, and what makes you tick as a thinker and innovator, but for scholarships, you’ll want to lean into your personal background even more. Because many of these scholarships are reserved for people of certain backgrounds (many are diversity scholarships designed for persons who are underrepresented in MBAs and the business world in general) you’ll want to make a strong claim about how your identity factors into your approach to business.
Humanitarian angle – MBAs might be looking for the next great CEO, but many of these scholarships are looking for people whose goals align with humanitarian efforts. But that doesn’t mean the future investment bankers amongst us can’t win them. When presenting your goals to the scholarship boards, instead of thinking in terms of how you’ll benefit from being a boss, think about the impact your goals could have on others. Framing your professional trajectory in service could help separate you from the pack of other business-savvy applicants competing for a scholarship.
Commit to a company – Though you may not want to sell your soul to a particular corporation before entering your MBA, some institutions offer lucrative scholarships to those who commit to working for them after. Of course, for many, an MBA is the place to experiment and learn what you want to do, so this might not be a viable option. That said, if you’re interested in going into finance anyway after your MBA, look into specific banks that might help fund your MBA. For example, Credit Suisse offers a $30k tuition scholarship in exchange for a post-first-year internship – not too shabby of a deal! Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs also offer similar incentives.
Demonstrate need – Most MBA scholarships are merit-based, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t demonstrate to the scholarship committees why this money would be better served in your hands than in someone else’s. Why would debt repayment (your alternative to scholarship funds) be more of a burden for you than for another applicant, and how might that burden make following your dreams tougher? This is particularly key for those applicants pursuing goals that are super important from a social or humanitarian perspective but might not pay the big bucks for some time. We’re not saying that you should poor-mouth the committees, but you should try to make them feel just how important of a role this scholarship would play in your future.
Remember, everything it takes to earn acceptance into a competitive MBA applies to your scholarship apps – it’s simply a matter of re-framing certain aspects of your application to better suit the particular scholarship.
So, go get those coins! Good luck!
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