The average cost of an MBA education—including two years of tuition plus fees—is nearly $200,00 across the top 25 B-schools.
But, experts say, there are ways for students to secure partial scholarships, or even full rides for their MBA education. Fortune recently delved into a few strategies to secure funding and avoid paying full cost at a top B-school.
“I would strongly suggest that candidates who are looking to get a free MBA spend time bolstering their candidacies prior to applying to business school. Merit-based scholarships are given on the strength of an applicant’s profile, and therefore to stand out, candidates should take time to assess their profiles,” Shaifali Aggarwal, founder and CEO at Ivy Groupe, a boutique MBA admissions consulting firm, tells Fortune. “Spending time on their authentic narrative and ‘connecting the dots’ in their story are also important with respect to putting their best foot forward to secure a merit-based scholarship.”
GOT A UNIQUE BACKGROUND? ASK FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
If you have a unique background, especially in a field that B-schools are passionate about, you may be more likely to receive a scholarship, experts say.
“A year or two ago, we saw anyone who had vaccine-related experience was in really high demand as a student. People like these might receive generous scholarships directly from the school,” David White, founding partner and admissions consultant at Menlo Coaching, tells Fortune. “Candidates with an expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and entrepreneurship have been in high demand as well.”
CHECK IF YOUR EMPLOYER OFFERS TUITION ASSISTANCE
Many employers will offer to fully pay or partially fund an employee’s MBA education—usually in return for a commitment of tenure after degree completion.
“Work through your current employer so they pay the full or partial tuition or negotiate a signing bonus from the employer that hires you once you’ve graduated from business school,” Isabel Peña Alfaro, of Fortune, says. “The signing bonus could cover your business school fees and expenses.”
RESEARCH NON-PROFIT FELLOWSHIPS
Another potential way to secure a free MBA is through non-profit organizations, which often offer fellowships for underrepresented minorities.
“In some cases, these organizations also financially support students who have advocated for underrepresented minorities, even if the candidate isn’t a minority,” Alfaro says.
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