The cost of attending an MBA program, including both the tuition and the opportunity cost of lost employment income, can be larger than the investment to purchase a home. With such high stakes involved, every MBA applicant should consider MBA scholarship options. Here are four strategies to help you maximize your options.
1. Be above the bar on the big 3
MBA programs use scholarships to ensure that their program has an ample supply of “model” students —students who elevate the MBA classroom for their peers and faculty because of their strong intelligence and impactful work experience. While every MBA admissions process is holistic, the “big 3” measures that give you some clues to your rock star (read scholarship) potential are your GMAT, GPA and work experience. It helps to have a GMAT score at least 20 points over the stated school average, a GPA at least 2-3 tenths higher than the average and “desired” work experience. This “desired” work experience may be the hardest to assess as it goes beyond just having more years of work than the class average. The key factor is impact. Alternatively, if your experience is in an area of importance to the program—such as bringing private equity work experience when the program knows they’d like to have more connections in this space—this can help your case. To give yourself the best chance for scholarship success, select some programs where you stand above the pack on these 3 key measures.
2. Find MBA scholarships for women, underrepresented minorities, veterans, and LGBTQ+ communities through key organizations
There are many great organizations dedicated to helping to level the MBA playing field providing both knowledge that makes you more competitive for fellowships and potential scholarships through their program. Organizations like the Forte’ Foundation, which is dedicated to helping women gain access to MBA programs, offers programs such as MBA Launch to help women succeed in MBA admissions. Stratus Admissions is a proud platinum sponsor of MBA Launch and our MBA counselors enjoy regularly offering advice to MBA Launch participants. Even if you are not offered a Forte’ fellowship through a member school, the Forte’ Launch program offers application fee waivers to many top MBA programs including Booth, Darden, Tuck, Fuqua and Sloan. Organizations like Consortium are committed to enhancing diversity and inclusion in global business education and offer generous mentoring and scholarship options. Prospanica, Reaching Out MBA, Yellow Ribbon and TOIGO are all excellent organizations that may be helpful to you in learning about MBA scholarship options if you are aligned with the mission of any of these organizations.
3. Be sure the MBA fellowship aligns with your post-MBA goal
An MBA fellowship or scholarship is only helpful if you can still reach your post-MBA career goals. For example, if your post MBA goal is to work for Amazon and they recruit at just about every top 30 MBA program, you can feel confident that accepting a scholarship at a lesser ranked school will likely not hurt your post MBA goal. However, if you want to work for a company with specific ties to only a few schools, the fellowship may be costly if you have less access to your desired post MBA employer.
4. Decide what will keep you up at night
At the end of the day, however, it comes down to what keeps you up at night. If you will regret not going to your dream MBA program regardless of cost, then pursue that course. I recently had a conversation with a client where she told me that her biggest regret would be not going to the MBA program that will challenge her the most. So she is prepared to walk away from some full MBA Fellowships in order to go for her own gold medal MBA program. But at least having the scholarship option on the table is one potential point of leverage in getting some extra money at your dream school. On the other hand, if MBA debt is a concern, build a scholarship strategy into your MBA school selection. MBA consultants can provide a lot of value in this process as consultants have seen how the MBA market has handled admissions decisions and scholarship awards over several years and can help you make the best school selections to optimize your chances for both MBA admissions and scholarship success.