I was in your shoes around this time last year and suddenly realized that after all of the effort of the admissions process that I now had to figure out how to pay for my MBA.
So I decided to approach the problem just like a company looking to optimize its capital structure, by creating a spreadsheet to lay out the “Sources and Uses” of my business school expenses. (You can read more about my experience and that first tool I built here.)
But that was a year ago and a lot has changed since then. First, the way federal student loan rates are determined have changed. The rates are now set for the upcoming school year at 6.21% for Stafford Loans (for the first $20,500 borrowed) and 7.21% for Grad PLUS loans (for any amount borrowed after the first $20,500). Second, the MBA Budget Calculator I created last year has now been updated to reflect this change – and to make it even easier to use. I recommend you take a look at the new and improved tool here – MBA Budget Calculator – it should help you figure out your personal financial situation, especially as it relates to financing your business school experience.
HOW TO USE THE MBA BUDGET CALCULATOR
Need help navigating it? Let me take you through the budget calculator step-by-step and discuss some of the finer points I’ve picked up a year into earning (and paying for) an MBA at Wharton. The calculator has three broad sections of input: Cost of Attendance by School (“Uses”), Funding from Savings (“Sources” – Equity), and Funding from Student Loans (“Sources” – Debt).
Cost of Attendance by School is what I’d consider the “Uses” of your money. The calculator allows you to pull in cost of attendance by school automatically, using the dropdown, as pictured below. If you’re unable to find your school in the dropdown, you can still manually enter the information into the tool. Most schools make the cost of attendance information available via their financial aid website.
Once you click “Calculate my budget,” your cost of attendance by school will auto-populate. You’ll notice that, in addition to traditional data provided by schools (tuition, fees, room/board), there are two extra fields for “Once-in-a-lifetime trips” and “Cushion.”
Business school offers a great chance to see the world through global treks, to spend time between semesters to get out and see the world. Traveling can, however, cost quite a bit. I think it is worth a budget line-item simply because these experiences are truly once-in-a-lifetime. As far as a cushion goes, this may be a personal preference, but I like to factor in a cushion for the unexpected because business school offers plenty of opportunities to get involved, with a club for just about any interest you want to explore.