MBA Scholarships At Record Levels, With Awards As High As $200K


Chimni sees the same pattern from his perspective of the Indian applicant market. He estimates that nine out of ten candidates will pass on a full scholarship at a top-10 school to go to a top-5 school. “Candidates are willing to give up full scholarship anywhere to attend Harvard or Stanford,” he adds. “Within peer schools, candidates mostly take the school that offers more scholarship money with a $50,000 difference seeming to make it a determinant in nine out of ten cases. The toughest choice is whether you would give up a full scholarship at Kellogg or Booth to go to Wharton? This is a split decision, with half going for Wharton’s brand and the other half choosing a debt-free education as they are not able to explain why they should spend $150k extra.”

By and large, adds David White of Menlo Coaching, applicants choose the offer that they feel is most valuable which in most cases is driven by school rankings. Among Menlo’s cross-admit battles in the last round, he has seen a U.S. finance professional pass on a $120,000 grant from Kellogg in favor of Wharton with no money and another applicant in finance choose Kellogg with no grant over NYU Stern which had dangled a full-ride with an annual $10,000 stipend in front of the candidate. He has also witnessed a U.S. accountant accept an admit from Tuck with no money over a full-tuition scholarship at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management as well as a U.S. consultant going with Kellogg’s $80,000 award over Duke’s $140,000 scholarship.

Predicting who will get a big scholarship grant is difficult because schools view candidates very differently based on their own admissions criteria along with their efforts to craft a diverse class. One of Menlo’s round one candidates, for example,  was offered $100,000 to say ‘yes’ to Chicago Booth, while the person was merely waitlisted at Tuck and Yale. Another applicant got a full ride from Kellogg but no money at all from Columbia and Wharton. Yet another client received an $80,000 scholarship from Wharton but an admit with no money at all from Columbia.


White says the top schools are not using scholarship money to fight application declines but instead are bidding to enroll their favored candidates. As evidence, he notes that three Menlo clients admitted to HBS were declined admission to Wharton in round one. “The HBS offers prove the quality of the students, but if business schools were desperate to admit enough candidates, you’d expect any HBS admit to be accepted almost everywhere they applied.”

While schools are putting more money than ever behind financial aid awards, there is still fierce competition for scholarship dollars. “Applicants need to present a strong pitch for why he or she deserves a coveted spot in the program because the application itself is essential both the admit and the scholarship trigger,” says Blackman. “That pitch needs to be clear and compelling enough that is met with an admit outcome and scholarship generosity, which is the gold standard that we seek for many of our clients.”

The willingness of a school to engage in a negotiation over a scholarship grant varies widely. While most schools claim they will not negotiate scholarship offers with applicants, the truth is that many will–but it’s really dependent on how badly they want an applicant. “Most clients actually don’t have luck negotiating for significantly more money or a scholarship match,” believes Blackman. “When they try to negotiate, the applicants are almost always told by the MBA program something like, ‘It is what it is.'”

Case Studies Of MBA Scholarship Superstars

Candidate Firm Details
U.S. Caucasian male SBC Growth story profile who came from a non-feeder college and managed to get into a rigorous career position in the travel industry. Received $40K from Wharton & $80K from CBS. Chose Wharton for the alumni networks & prestige that his undergraduate experience didn’t afford.
Asian female, liberal arts background, working for a lesser-known tech firm SBC Got into Columbia & Stern. Stern offered $180K in scholarships. Choosing Wharton and paying in full. The Wharton brand for her specific career path and ambitions was that valuable.
U.S. Caucasian female at a tech start-up SBC Admitted to Stanford GSB ($0 scholarship) and Kellogg ($100K scholarship). She chose GSB.
U.S. Caucasian male from MBB consulting SBC Received a full-tuition scholarship to Columbia Business School and ½ tuition scholarship to Kellogg. He chose Kellogg.
U.S. Asian male consultant, with great life stories SBC Received $40K from Wharton, a full-ride at Fuqua, $110K from Booth, and $0 from HBS. He chose HBS.
U.S. Asian female from a lesser-known textile firm with an advanced degree SBC Received a full-time to UNC Kenan-Flagler, $10K from Fuqua, and $70K from Kellogg. She chose Kellogg because of the brand and career recruiting for MBB consulting.
U.S. Caucasian male in corporate finance at Fortune 500 company SBC Received a full ride from UVA Darden, $40K from Fuqua, $30K from Kellogg, $25K from Tuck. Chose Darden due to full ride, optimal recruiting into desired firms, & location.
International female in financial services SBC Received $50K in scholarship from Fuqua and full ride at Cornell. She chose Cornell because of the free ride.
U.S. female applicant with 700 GMAT, no blue-chip brands Admissions Gateway She got full rides to Kellogg, Ross, and Booth, plus $150K from Yale, $120 from Fuqua.
Got all these scholarships because her applications represent her true self – a genuine person
who has traveled far in life and is committed to service and helping and enabling others.
Indian female applicant with 760 GMAT & healthcare background Admissions Gateway Got $110K from Booth, $120K from Kellogg, $50K from MIT, and $80K from Tuck. Still deciding but grants are the result of a strong academic record, her high GMAT score, and experience in women and child development with a highly regarded foundation
U.S. male applicant

Accepted to UCLA Anderson with a material scholarship. Rejected after an interview at Wharton, which was his first choice. Considered UCLA offer and reapplying to Wharton and UCLA. But chose UCLA for its network and brand in Southern California where he hopes to work post-MBA.

U.S. applicant

Accepted to Emory with a material scholarship and to Darden, which had been her strong first choice, with no funding. The difference in dollars made her look into Emory more closely. Realized that she can accomplish her goals at Emory at a materially lower cost. Currently leaning toward accepting Emory’s offer.

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