How to Obtain an MBA Scholarship The MBA scholarship application process may appear complicated, relying heavily on luck, timing, or other factors beyond your control. Nonetheless, most applicants are unwilling to gamble with their financial aid package. So, if you want to be an MBA student, you’re probably wondering what you can do to increase your chances of getting a scholarship.
Before delving into how you can improve your chances of entering business school with a sizable financial aid package, this post will provide some information on MBA scholarships.
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The fundamentals of MBA scholarships
When it comes down to it, MBA scholarships aren’t as mysterious as most applicants believe. The simple rule for MBA scholarships is that the same qualities that make you competitive for admission to an MBA program will come into play when the programs award financial aid—so improving the competitiveness of your application will increase your chances of receiving a scholarship.
We’ll get to the aspects that contribute to a competitive MBA application in a moment, but first, let’s look at why MBA programs offer scholarships. The main reason a business school will offer a scholarship to an applicant is to entice them to enroll in their program. This is not a shady bribe, but rather a compliment. A business school may want to give you a million reasons to enroll in their MBA program if you are a strong applicant.
The good news for students interested in top programs is that the best business schools have massive financial endowments. For example, Harvard Business School has a nearly $4 billion endowment as of 2021! So, how do you get your hands on any of that cash?
What is the most crucial factor? Your GMAT exam score
The most common strategy for obtaining MBA scholarships is a high GMAT exam score. This is because of a number of factors. The typical admissions officer will tell you that this is due to the GMAT being one of the most important indicators of academic progress after admission.
Of course, MBA programs value high GMAT scores because test performance is linked to academic performance, but they also value high GMAT scores because the GMAT is a component of the U.S. News MBA ranking. Business schools place a high value on this ranking and only admit students with high GMAT scores in order to maintain or improve their ranking.
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Other things to think about are your MBA application materials.
For students seeking a scholarship, a strong application is just as important as a high GMAT score.
Military veterans, for example, who have managed large numbers of soldiers in combat, are sought after by MBA programs because of the knowledge they can share in classroom discussions. Other candidates, such as private equity executives or family business candidates, are sought after by MBA programs because they are expected to achieve extraordinary professional success in their post-MBA employment. Admissions officers anticipate that these prospects will be alumni network stars due to their high-ranking positions and potential future donors. Whatever your strengths are, describing them well in your applications will increase your chances of receiving a scholarship.
You must have a high GMAT score to be eligible for merit scholarships. You must also demonstrate that you are deserving of admission based on your GPA, personal essays, interview performance, and a general understanding of the program’s culture and fit with it.
Scholarship considerations outside your control
While all applicants must have a high GMAT score and an excellent written application, some factors affecting your ability to obtain an MBA scholarship are out of your hands. Your identification is one factor; if you are from an underrepresented applicant group, you have a better chance of receiving a scholarship. Some schools and organizations offer MBA scholarships to black and Latinx students.
While two-thirds of MBA candidates are men and one-third are women, MBA programs strive for gender balance in the classroom. Because of supply and demand, business schools must work harder to admit and enroll women and are more likely to grant financial aid to women than to men, assuming all other factors are equal. This is data from the report we linked to earlier, not just an opinion or a logical argument.
Trying to get an MBA scholarship
MBA scholarships can be changed, which many people are unaware of. The best way to increase your scholarship money is to win scholarships from other schools that compete for applicants with your target program.
One of our previous clients wanted to get an MBA and her dream school was Columbia Business School. She was accepted and given a full scholarship to NYU Stern. She was accepted to Columbia as well, but she did not receive a scholarship. I told her to write a letter to Columbia explaining what was going on, why she wanted to go to Columbia, how coming from a developing country made paying for school difficult for her, and why a scholarship was so important to her.
In the end, Columbia awarded her a full-tuition scholarship, matching Stern and allowing her to attend her dream school for free.
Important things to remember
Most scholarships are merit-based, and the best way to get a great offer from a business school is to get the highest GMAT score possible, write an outstanding application, and then negotiate once you’ve been accepted.