The Right Way To Negotiate For MBA Scholarships

Karen Marks, president and founder of North Star Admissions Consulting

You have done everything right, and are weighing offers of admission and comparing scholarships. Is it possible to negotiate with business schools, and to leverage scholarships to get more money from other programs? The short answer is yes, it is possible to negotiate for MBA scholarships, but there are no guarantees, and it’s crucial to handle the conversation appropriately.

Based on my years making scholarship and admissions decisions for Tuck, and my experience helping my clients earn and negotiate for more than 9.8 million dollars in scholarships, here is my advice:

Have a clear strategy. Organize your thoughts and have a clear sense of your priorities before approaching any schools. Understand where you really want to go, so that you are entering the negotiation with a well-actualized plan.

Be humble and respectful. You are not entitled to admission or to a scholarship. There are many, many people who would be thrilled just to have been admitted, with or without funding. Please keep this in mind, and also consider the fact that the admissions officer you are talking to has most likely advocated for you, and is on your side. Also, if they tell you that they can’t negotiate, or that there simply isn’t any scholarship money available, please don’t argue.

Follow the school’s protocol. Some schools require you to put all requests in writing, and to answer specific questions. Please follow their rules — again, the school is doing you a favor by even considering you for additional scholarships, and you want to make it as easy for them as possible.

Be discreet. When I was at Tuck, I was very fortunate to have open lines of communication with current students and alums. This meant that I would often hear about what candidates really thought, as they were usually more candid with their peers. In other words: if you are planning to negotiate with a school, please don’t tell the admissions officer one thing and the students at your target school another — like that you are only asking for the additional money so that you can leverage the offer at the school you really want to attend.

Tell the truth. Along the same lines, please don’t say that you have been admitted somewhere you haven’t! By the way, if you are applying through the Consortium, the admissions officers from each of those 17 schools already know where you have been admitted, and most likely know whether you have been awarded funding.

Be appreciative. Most MBA students don’t receive any scholarship support. The fastest way to make the admissions officer disengage and stop advocating for you is to act entitled and grandiose.

The bottom line: Done tactfully, it’s worth asking for money at your first choice school if a scholarship will enable you to attend.

Karen Marks has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, MIT, Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, Booth, NYU, Ross, UVA and more. Clients have been awarded more than $9.8 million in scholarships, and more than 95% have gotten into at least one of their top-choice schools.