Funding an MBA at a top school can be a mind-blowing proposition, and while taking out loans is an alternative, there’s plenty of scholarship money for top applicants—if you know where to look and how to become an attractive recipient.
In fact, Personal MBA Coach clients won over $10 million in scholarships last cycle! Here are Personal MBA Coach’s tips on identifying promising scholarships and successfully competing for their awards.
Basics of MBA Scholarships
MBA scholarships, sometimes called MBA scholarships, fall into two main categories: merit-based from the business schools that admit you, and external scholarships or bursaries provided by organizations that support certain types of applicants. Let’s take a look:
- Merit-based scholarships offered by the school
Most scholarship money is offered directly by business schools to the applicants they accept, and they seek to attract—often away from other schools—for a variety of reasons. Applicants don’t have to do anything to get this money except sign up. These scholarships are simply recognition of your promise as an MBA candidate whom the school would love to have as a student and eventual graduate.
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 female MBA applicants, for example, or underrepresented minorities.
TForte Foundationone of Personal MBA Coach’s partners, provides the following guidance to admissions directors selecting Forté MBA Fellowship recipients:
- Applicants must demonstrate exemplary leadership in one or more ways: academic leadership, team leadership, community leadership, and creative leadership.
- Applicants should represent a diversity of educational and professional backgrounds, career goals, ethnicities, citizenships/nationalities, sexual orientations, and gender identity/expression.
- Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to Forté’s mission to launch women into fulfilling, meaningful 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 the school’s mission or core values).
Forté provides MBA scholarships for women applying to one of their partner schools. These include top MBA programs such as Harvard Business School, Wharton, Chicago Booth and Kellogg.
- External scholarships for which candidates or MBA applicants apply directly
These scholarships are awarded by foundations and other organizations — including family foundations — to encourage enrollment in business school based on criteria such as ethnicity, gender or industry. Often, such organizations partner with businesses to create a network aimed at introducing promising candidates who have historically been absent or underrepresented to the business world and who may have greater difficulty financing MBA studies. MBA applicants 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 (National Society of Hispanic MBAs)
- The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans
So how can you maximize your chances of getting one of these coveted scholarships or bursaries?
Here are 5 key MBA scholarship tips from Personal MBA Coach.
- Develop a remarkable application
A top-notch 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 set you apart.
Admissions directors look for diverse and well-rounded classes to which each applicant actively contributes. For scholarship applicants, it is especially important that your application tells a solid story about how you will add unique value to campus.
- Show the schools you want to go to
MBA admissions directors have limited funds to allocate, and just as they want to select worthy applicants 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 research the school and research your fit: Show them you’d be a great MBA candidate for their school.
When researching a school’s offerings and ways to become an engaged student, take advantage of opportunities to connect in person and virtually; 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 winning a scholarship.
- Be wounded!
Don’t wait to complete and submit your application. Scholarship money is often awarded in the early rounds to applicants who come out on top as the pile grows. Especially as schools seek to field more and more diverse classes, competition for scholarships also increases. With a limited amount of money, the sooner you apply, the better. By Round 3, scholarship money is more limited, so consider taking the plunge to apply 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 work or achievement. If you’ve only taken the test once or twice and/or done little preparation, consider getting a tutor to reach your full potential!
Similarly, boost your extracurricular profile. While Personal MBA Coach always advises applicants to develop well-rounded portfolios, this is especially important for those vying for MBA scholarships. Scholarship recipients most often excel in a variety of fields.
- Be proactive in your scholarship search
If you’re from an underrepresented industry, have an interest in a cutting-edge industry that’s looking for lots of fresh talent, or stand out in your field, be aggressive in exploring funding or scholarship opportunities. Businesses and entire industries are interested in contributing to the education of people they want to see as future employees and leaders.
Founded by Scott Edinburgh, a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan alumnus who is an AIGAC board member, Personal MBA Coach has been coaching clients for 16 years. Scott Edinburgh is the top rated consultant on Poets&Quants, and Personal MBA Coach was named the best 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.
In the last cycle, our clients won more than $10 million in scholarships!