Financing an MBA at a top school can be a staggering proposition, and while taking out loans is an alternative, there is abundant scholarship money out there for top candidates—if you know where to look and how to make yourself an attractive recipient.
In fact, Personal MBA Coach’s clients earned over $10M in scholarships last cycle! Here is Personal MBA Coach’s advice on identifying promising scholarships and competing fruitfully for their award.
The Basics of MBA Scholarships
MBA scholarships, sometimes referred to as MBA fellowships, fall into two major categories: merit-based from the business schools that accept you, and outside scholarships or fellowships provided by organizations that support certain types of candidates. Let’s take a look:
- Merit-based scholarships offered by the school
The vast majority of scholarship money is offered directly by business schools to candidates they are accepting and they seek to lure—often away from other schools—for a variety of reasons. Candidates do not have to do anything to receive this money other than enroll. These scholarships are simply in recognition of your promise as an MBA candidate whom the school would like to have as a student and eventual alum.
Sometimes schools partner with outside organizations to offer these merit-based scholarships—for example the Forté Foundation—with key identifiers or guidelines in mind, to facilitate the enrollment of women MBA candidates, for example, or underrepresented minorities.
The Forté Foundation, one of Personal MBA Coach’s partners, provides the following guidelines to admissions directors selecting Forté MBA Fellowship recipients:
- Candidates should exhibit exemplary leadership in one or more ways: academic leadership, team leadership, community leadership, and creative leadership.
- Candidates should represent a diversity of educational and work backgrounds, career goals, ethnicities, citizenship/nationality, sexual orientation, and gender identities/expression.
- Candidates should demonstrate a commitment to Forté’s mission of launching women into fulfilling, significant careers through access to business education, opportunities, and a community of successful women.
- Additional requirements may be set by individual schools (for example, alignment with school’s mission or core values).
Forté provides MBA scholarships for women applying to any of their partner schools. These include top MBA programs such as Harvard Business School, Wharton, Chicago Booth and Kellogg.
- Outside scholarships that MBA applicants or candidates apply for directly
These scholarships are granted by foundations and other organizations—including family foundations—to promote enrollment in business school based on criteria such as ethnic background, gender, or industry. Often such organizations partner with businesses to create a network geared to bring into the business world promising candidates who have been historically absent or underrepresented and who may have more difficulty financing an MBA education. MBA candidates must apply directly and individually to these foundations or organizations to compete for the funds.
- The Consortium
- Military MBA
- NBMBAA (National Black MBA Association)
- NSHMBA/Prospanica (The National Society of Hispanic MBAs)
- The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans
So, how can you maximize your chances of receiving one of these coveted scholarships or fellowships?
Here Are 5 Key MBA Scholarship Tips from Personal MBA Coach.
- Develop a standout application
A first-class application is the best way to win admission to a top business school as well as a scholarship. Make sure your story stands out, that the fullness of your potential is clear, and that your accomplishments distinguish you.
Admissions directors seek diverse and well-rounded classes to which every candidate contributes actively. For candidates seeking scholarships, it is particularly crucial that your application tells a solid story about how you will uniquely add value on campus.
- Show schools you want to go there
MBA admissions directors have limited funds to distribute, and much like they want to select worthy candidates for a spot in a class, they want to give their money to people who really want it. When writing your application, make sure you have studied the school and explored your fit: Show them you will make a great MBA candidate for their school.
In exploring a school’s offerings and ways in which you will make yourself a contributory student, take advantage of in-person and virtual opportunities for connecting; build relationships with current students, alumni, clubs you might want to join, even admissions and other school representatives. This will directly improve your chances of earning a scholarship.
- Be the early bird!
Do not wait to complete and submit your application. Scholarship money is often awarded in early rounds to the candidates that emerge on top as the pile grows. Particularly as schools seek to assemble more and more diverse classes, the competition for scholarships grows as well. With a limited amount of money to go around, the earlier you apply, the better. By Round 3, scholarship money is more limited, so consider taking the leap to get your application submitted earlier in the year.
- Maximize your GMAT/GRE/EA score and extracurricular profile
While this may seem obvious, Personal MBA Coach often sees candidates who have a decent GMAT, GRE or EA score but could do more to improve it. Schools look at test scores, regardless of current job or accomplishments. If you took the test just once or twice and/or did little preparation, consider getting a tutor to reach your full potential!
Similarly, beef up your extracurricular profile. While Personal MBA Coach always advises that candidates develop well-rounded portfolios, this is particularly crucial for those vying for MBA scholarships. Scholarship recipients most often excel in multiple areas.
- Be active in seeking scholarships
If you are from an underrepresented industry, have an interest in an avant-garde industry that is seeking lots of fresh talent, or stand out in your field be aggressive in researching funding or fellowship options. Businesses and entire industries are interested in contributing to the education of people they wish to see as future employees and leaders.
Founded by Scott Edinburgh, a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the board of AIGAC, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 16 years. Scott Edinburgh is the most positively reviewed consultant on Poets&Quants, and Personal MBA Coach was named the top boutique MBA Admissions Consulting firm in 2023.
Personal MBA Coach helps clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing, and mock interviews. Our team includes former M7 admissions directors and former M7 admissions interviewers.
Last cycle, our clients earned more than $10M in scholarships!
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