MBA Scholarships At Top Business Schools

Top business schools are handing out increasing amounts of cash to lure applicants

Top business schools are handing out increasing amounts of cash to lure applicants

The first in a series on the growth in MBA scholarship money and what it means

The first in a series on the growth in MBA scholarship money and what it means

One of the more closely guarded secrets among business schools is how much scholarship money is annually given in support of a school’s MBA program.

Schools which routinely dole out a lot of cash typically don’t mind sharing that information. After all, it makes them look good. They’ve been able to marshall the resources to help students who would otherwise have to borrow a lot of money to go to business school.

On the other hand, schools that have meager scholarship budgets tend to hoard the information. Making numbers public that embarrass the school among its peers is a no-win proposition. Candidates with that knowledge may be less eager to apply to a school where aid is less certain, and the fact that a scholarship war chest is puny is a reflection on a school’s ability to raise funds from alumni and others.


Poets&Quants spent weeks interviewing dozens of business school deans, admissions and financial aid directors, admission consultants and students who received grants to come up with solid numbers on the MBA scholarship game. In most cases, schools provided far more data than they customarily do. When a school remained tight lipped, Poets&Quants made estimates based on interviews with rival school officials and admission consultants. Those estimates were shared with each school so that it had ample opportunity to correct them. Officials at such schools as Columbia and Wharton would not confirm or deny the estimates.

What did we find? In the past five years, the scholarship game has really heated up. The Top 25 business schools now hand out some $232.7 million a year in scholarships. Surprisingly, the most aggressive players aren’t those with the necessarily the biggest scholarship war chests. In fact, the business schools that now offer scholarship funding that equals a third or more of their gross annual tuition includes Washington University, Notre Dame University, Indiana University, and Vanderbilt University.

The most generous top business school of all? Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, where the $6.7 million scholarship pool equals 59% of the MBA program’s gross tuition revenue. Jones only has 216 full-time MBA students, but 94% are awarded no-strings-attached scholarships that average $33,320 a year. The school says that 98% of the students get the same amount or more in their second year of study.


Admission consultants say that in the past year Wharton and MIT have become more aggressive in the scholarship game. Shawn O’Connor, founder of Stratus Prep, says that he had a client last year with a 760 GMAT that had been offered a full ride by MIT Sloan. Wharton matched the offer and won the candidate. “Once you get a scholarship from one school, it’s definitely a chit you can use to negotiate with other schools,” says O’Connor.

Most schools have significantly upped their game in the past five years. UCLA’s Anderson School of Management went from $5.8 million in scholarship funding to $12.1 million. UC-Berkeley went from $3.2 million to $5.8 million. Washington University’s Olin School increased its average scholarship grant to an MBA student to $31,328 from $26,200. And the pool of money available for scholarships at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business has risen 80% to $15.7 million this year from $8.7 million five years ago. Stanford’s average student fellowship grant this year is $35,830, higher than any other business school.

Harvard and Stanford say they only provide need-based scholarship funding–and will never negotiate financial aid with a candidate leveraging a rival offer–but most of the other business schools are spending their money to attract the absolute best candidates, regardless of need. These are strictly merit-based scholarships meant to land the best and the brightest.


With the money, they’re hoping to increase the overall quality and diversity of incoming classes, often dangling money in front of candidates who are under-represented in the applicant pool. In some cases, the increasing amounts of scholarship funding reflects the belief that the cost of the MBA degree has gone so high that schools are trying to keep down the amount of debt their students are borrowing.

In some cases, schools are literally buying high GMATs and GPAs, to better position their MBA programs in rankings that use those metrics, such as U.S. News & World Report.

Less surprising is the fact that Harvard Business School has the single biggest war chest: $31.5 million, a sum equal to 28.6% of the school’s $1110.0 million in gross tuition revenue. At Harvard, some 65% of the 1,868 MBA students get some form of aid, while 50% receive need-based fellowships (which is what HBS calls a scholarship).

(See following page for how much each school now gives away in scholarship support)

  • Duy N Pham

    Their rankings are much different too.

  • quest

    No. with Indians and Chinese flooding, and desperate admission people for ranking, you will need something above 790! You will have a fair chance with 800! but will be competitive if you provide three times test scores of 810.

  • Roy

    You in what army little man ?

  • tylerdurden

    Is a 760 really competitive enough to get a full-ride?

  • Rachel

    Thank you!

  • JohnAByrne

    Per year.

  • Rachel

    Are the grant amounts noted above per year or overall?

  • omarelmessawy

    My Name is Omar elmassawy stay in Egypt ( North African ) i qualified CPA from USA + Diploma IFRS and i worked in KPMG ( Egypt , Kuwait ) and deloitte egypt, state audit bureau – Qatar and I hope to study MBA – FInancia In USA with schloership option due to i have financial hard if there is any method for helping me, please do it.

  • Nirav Kapasi

    I study at SMU and was told that SMU COX offers a lot of scholarships in their MBA program.Is that correct?

  • Theodore K.

    Grants could be cash money that you use for rent, books, living, or even tour tuition. Scholarship applies solely to your tuition.

  • MistaButters

    Seems like Anderson or Kellogg is off (I’m thinking Kellogg). Anderson gives more money than Kellogg, plus Anderson’s tuition is lower, plus Anderson has less students. So shouldn’t Anderson have a higher % of gross tuition than Kellogg?

    Yeah, with some back of the napkin math, seems like Kellogg should be about 10% points less, or around 17%.

  • Tuk Tran

    i see a VERY serious CRISIS down the road…business schools like all schools in universities, are big bloated bureaucratic machines that rather than cut costs raise fees 4-7% a year or so..dont forget lots of other fees go up too in addition to tuition…people will start saying it is not worth it..even places like McKinsey and Goldman and KKR do all they can to keep their people from applying to bschool (i know it is not official but they push them to consider 1 year programs or not to do bschool)….i see a HUGE CRISIS down the road..a HUGE ONE…

  • Ibukun Ogunfeitimi

    The value of MBA could be improved

  • Betsy

    Would someone mind explaining the difference between scholarships and grants, if there is one? I hear the word “grant” thrown around a lot, but in all my admissions decisions I’ve only received notifications about scholarships. Do grants come later with the financial aid package if you accept a school’s offer of admission? I’m a bit confused about this, and Google isn’t much help for this when it comes to graduate school; all the results seem to be for undergrad.

  • Ethan Baron

    Thanks, yes, you’re right – the school reports that about 23-27 students per class receive Park awards…

  • JohnAByrne

    So we went back to Cornell to double-check the numbers and it turns out the school provided the wrong number, giving us scholarships for first-year students excluding the Park fellowships. The story has now been updated with the correct numbers. Turns out the total is $5,686,650, including $2,554,484 for the Park Fellowships. Thanks for alerting us.

  • Mr. Wannabe Entrepreneur

    Interesting, I wonder why they wouldn’t include the Park Fellows. I think it’s one of the most attractive scholarships out there and would put the school’s scholarship numbers more in line with competing elite schools. Although not everyone accepts the Park Fellow award, from what I could tell, around 23 students a year accept it (almost 10% of the class!). Anyways, I think schools should publish these numbers themselves and highlight them more to prospective students. I think it would make the school more attractive to competitive applicants knowing that they have a decent shot of getting at least a little aid.

  • JohnAByrne

    The numbers were provided by Cornell.

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  • Mr. Wannabe Entrepreneur

    Hmm, it appears that the numbers for Cornell are off. I know that Cornell offers the Park fellowship to up to 25 students a year and that amount alone is greater than the $1.9 million that this table is showing.