Show Me The Money: How A Scholarship Committee Decides


The next candidate, presented by Dookeran, is a thirty-something Indian consultant with an undergraduate degree in engineering. He gained a key promotion in record time at a global consulting firm, and has a 700-plus GMAT and a perfect 4.0 GPA on his undergraduate transcript. He also is the only applicant in today’s batch getting a perfect 20-out-of-20 score on his admissions interview and a 9 out of 10 for impression.

“He is definitely charismatic,” adds Gauthier, who has also met the candidate. “He has strong inter-personnel skills and the fact that he fast tracked at his firm is quite unheard of. That is a strong signal to us of his potential.”

“And he has a couple of spike factors,” adds Dookeran, who then offers up some highly personal detail on the candidate that immediately endears him to everyone in the room. And like several of the other applicants, he, too, has an online business on the side that Dookeran says is doing “quite well. His entrepreneurial spirit has been hardwired into him.”

“You know what is cool about this?” says Gauthier. “The technology he is using to build the company.”

“I think we should offer him a scholarship of $40,000, due to his perfect interview score and his fast tracking. He has shown that consistent hustle throughout his life. I think he will do well here,” believes Dookeran, who also tells the group that the candidate has worked in several different countries around the world.

“One of the biggest strengths is his combination of presence and resilience,” says Frey. “Those kinds of guys always make it.  One of the biggest obstacles is coming here from another country and connecting in a Canadian context. He can do it.”

Gauthier says the candidate reminds her of another successful Rotman student. “He wants to transition to strategy consulting, and he is already doing a lot of client-facing work. The fact that he has done that globally will really help him. I think all the strategy firms will take a look, for sure.”

As if to add a cherry on the top, Dookeran then tells the group: “He does white water rafting, too.”

His offer letter will be sent with a $40,000 scholarship.


Within half an hour, the committee has run through five profiles, earmarking $170,000 of the $4 million in scholarship money. There is one final applicant to discuss and, despite a GMAT score that is significantly below Rotman’s average, she generates the most enthusiastic discussion of the day.

In her late 20s, the young professional works for a highly prestigious global organization where she has had numerous promotions. She is a confirmed poet, with a 3.6 GPA on a liberal arts education. “She had solid grades all throughout the four years of her program,” says Cruz, “even though her GMAT is a little below our average.”

“You mean a lot below,” says Da Silva gently.

“But her AWA is 6—a perfect score,” adds Cruz. Her interview rank: 19 out of 20. Her impression rank: 9 out of 10.

“She is doing all the right things,” continues Cruz. “One of the things that stood out from her interview is that she wants to use her MBA to do similar work at a more senior level. She is interested in general management, and she wants to help women perform better in the economy. She describes herself as a champion for women and girls and a driver for change. I really like her, and I’m recommending that she be one of our Forte Fellows with a $40,000 scholarship.”

A collective “whoa” echoes in the room.

“Ok,” says da Silva, “let’s talk about her GMAT. Does she really have want it takes to get through the quantitative portion of the program?”


With no hesitation, Cruz assures the committee that she does, noting that the candidate has taken a few online courses in quant subjects and has received A grades in them. She has also traveled abroad to several exotic locales, maintains an active blog, and has already made contact with one of Rotman’s professors due to her keen personal interests in the prof’s research.

Frey isn’t bothered by the low score. “Her AWA score is her get-out-of-jail card on the GMAT. Just looks at two of our recent valedictorians and where they are working now. Forget about the GMAT. She is going places. I have got my money on her for valedictorian.”

Da Silva pulls up the video tape. The question: “What are you enjoying most as you prepare for admission into the MBA?”

The young woman who answers the question does so with remarkable poise and confidence. She comes off as thoughtful and smart. Her answer has to do with how the required essays triggered an introspection about herself and her goals that she found both refreshing and illuminating.

Everyone likes what they see, especially in light of a goal to increase women in Rotman’s MBA program to 40%, up from 32% currently, within three years. She is going to get the $40,000 grant. “She is a very non-traditional candidate who wants a non-traditional career path,” says da Silva. “We want her to represent Rotman at Forte. Her goals align perfectly with what Forte’ s mission is.”

The fact that she has the lowest GMAT score of the day but will still leave the room with one of the highest scholarship grants seems to delight Frey. “I am happy that we are giving scholarships to candidates with high impact potential, regardless of their GMAT,” he says. “The GMAT does a decent job predicting how a student will perform in the program, but it is less relevant in predicting a student’s employment post-MBA. We are trying to direct our scholarship dollars to those who are most likely to have the highest future impact as leaders.”

Some $210,000 in scholarship money awarded, the meeting adjourns. There are more files to read, more candidates to assess, and more than $3.7 million to be given out.


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


The Often Frenzied Pursuit Of The Best Students

The Bottom Line: MBA Scholarships At Top Business Schools

Show Me The Money: How A Scholarship Committee Decides

What Kinds Of Students Win The Scholarship Game

Why Many Fail To Negotiate Scholarship Offers

How NOT To Haggle For Scholarship Cash

Consultants Hype MBA Scholarship Awards To Clients

How A Scholarship Can Transform A Life


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