MBA Scholarships That Can Help Pay for Business School | Paying for Graduate School

MBA Scholarships That Can Help Pay for Business School | Paying for Graduate School

Multiple scholarships, fellowships and grants are available for students enrolling in a Master of Business Administration program. Since these funds do not need to be repaid, they are basically free money to help pay for your degree.

Some awards are national while others are college-specific. Some are merit-based, often depending on GMAT scores, while others are for minorities. The amounts vary, and some even offer a stipend.

Sam Weeks, an MBA admissions consultant, says that although lenders tend to be happy to finance MBAs, “a scholarship allows you to be more flexible because you don’t have that debt to pay back.”

Without an MBA scholarship, business majors whose hearts were leading them toward social impact or entrepreneurship may get forced into careers like management consulting or investment banking, Weeks says, adding that “you can’t go out and start your own business if you are $200,000 in debt. The scholarship enables them to follow more interesting post-MBA career paths.”

Here are some sources of scholarships and other funding for an MBA that don’t have to be repaid.

National Sources

Military MBA Merit Scholarship

Veterans and active members of the military who are U.S. residents may apply for the Military MBA Merit Scholarship. The scholarship is offered to attend one of 27 partner schools throughout the U.S., and award amounts vary.

A bachelor’s degree and a record of military service are required, along with other application materials, and demonstrated leadership is a plus. Applicants cannot be already in an MBA program or a graduate of one.

Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowships

First-year MBA students seeking a summer associate position at the multinational investment bank can apply for the Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowship. The program is geared toward students interested in investment banking or private wealth management at Goldman.

Recipients receive $35,000 plus a summer associate salary. Upon successful completion of that summer internship and acceptance of a full-time offer at Goldman, fellows receive an additional $40,000 and possibly a full-time associate signing bonus.

Knight-Hennessy Scholars

This program fully funds up to three years of graduate study at Stanford University in California. To qualify, applicants must complete the MBA application for Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and file a separate Knight-Hennessy Scholarship application. Instructions for the scholarship application are on the program’s website.

National Black MBA Association

This professional organization, which has a membership level for undergraduate and grad students, offers MBA scholarships to qualifying members who are U.S. citizens. Recipients attend a partner university, and additional award criteria, deadlines and amounts may vary.

College-Specific MBA Scholarships

Most universities with business schools offer in-house scholarships; some also provide a list of external sources of aid to pay for school, experts note.

For example, the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management and the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School are among schools that offer scholarships, fellowships and stipends in varying amounts for academic achievement, including to specific populations such as university alumni, women, state residents, veterans and international students.

Weeks advises applicants from traditional backgrounds to aim for a GMAT score above the class average. “All schools publish their class averages. When you apply to business school you submit your application, and you receive your scholarship offers either immediately or within a few weeks if your profile is strong.”

However, what applicants tend to not know is that “there is a chance you can go back to the school and negotiate a scholarship,” Weeks says, giving the following scenario: “If you receive offers from two great schools, one of them with a nice scholarship and one with no scholarship, we work with our clients to tell the school with no scholarship, ‘Hey, I have an offer from another top school with a scholarship, but I’d like to join you guys. Are there any other scholarships that I’m eligible for to help close that difference in cost?’”

Applicants are often reluctant to do this because they don’t want to seem pushy, he says. But remember that you are applying to business school, and “good negotiations are part of the process,” he says, stressing that politeness is key.

Weeks also says a one-time scholarship given at the start of your program is not always the end, since sometimes you can apply for scholarships during your first year of school to cover your second year.

Smaller MBA Scholarships

Experts also encourage prospective MBA students to go for smaller scholarships, which can add up. They sometimes are offered by departments within a business school.

“As part of your MBA application, most schools will consider you for a host of merit scholarships or fellowships,” says Candy Lee LaBalle, an MBA application consultant and owner of LaBalle Admissions. “Often all you need to do to be considered is click a box that says, ‘I would like to be considered.’”

A merit scholarship is “based on the strength, or merit, of your application,” LaBalle explains. “So, the stronger your profile, the higher your chances to secure one of these. This is one reason to push as hard as you can for a top test score, either GMAT or GRE. It is a nice surprise when you get an admit from a school that includes a hefty scholarship award.”

Some schools consider applicants for scholarships if they write an additional essay as part of the application process.

“Definitely write these essays and give them as much care and consideration as you do to your general application essays,” LaBalle advises.

She says there are also many private scholarships available, although they can be difficult to track down because many are offered by small organizations and target specific demographic groups. She says one comprehensive listing of outside funding is curated by UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

“Don’t limit yourself to just one scholarship,” she says. “Apply for as many relevant scholarships as possible. Remember that even smaller scholarships can add up and contribute to your overall funding.”

Some countries offer scholarships for their citizens that will cover full tuition, LaBalle adds, such as Spain’s La Caixa and Indonesia’s Endowment Fund for Education.

More Tips For MBA Scholarship Seekers

Experts suggest paying careful attention to rules when applying for scholarships.

“Some scholarships, such as those from Fulbright, must be applied for well before you apply to an MBA,” LaBalle says. “Others, you apply after you are admitted. Websites like Scholarships 360 and GoGrad provide comprehensive lists of MBA scholarships along with application details.”

Keep track of application deadlines, required documents and follow-up steps so that your scholarship applications are complete and submitted before deadlines, LaBalle suggests.

Weeks, who says he helped clients win more than $2.5 million in scholarships in 2023, cautions that a scholarship from the school is seldom awarded based just on the application essay.

“Your whole application has to be good,” he says. “If you have a good profile overall – good GMAT score, good undergrad GPA, good work experience – you are more likely to get a scholarship on the basis that the school wants you to join.”

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