Scholarships have established themselves as the largest business degree funding source, overtaking savings, loans and employer support, the Financial Times has reported.
Many of the awards are linked to developing a more diverse student intake.
About 30% of the average financial mix for full-time MBA programmes consists of grants, fellowships and scholarships, exceeding loans (24%), according to the 2017 Prospective Students Survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council.
Scholarships open up new possibilities
Kelsey Lents would not have gone to business school if it had not been for MBA scholarships. She worked as an associate at a New York architecture practice, having studied English as an undergraduate, followed by a Master’s in Architecture. Most people in her workplace came from design backgrounds and few had any formal business training. Ms Lents saw an opportunity to build valuable business skills, but without the USD 80,000 award offered by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business (US), she could not have justified the estimated USD 170,000 cost of the two-year course.
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The money provided her with both the means to study and the financial freedom to try entrepreneurship after graduation. She told the FT:
I was interested in studying business, but receiving a scholarship made it possible.
Together with a co-founder she met in her MBA class, Kelsey is preparing to launch a Washington DC-based combined co-working space and childcare service for new parents operating in the gig economy, called Hatch. The idea came to her after she had her first child midway through the MBA course and tried to fit her studies around motherhood. Hatch has itself won USD 30,000 from Georgetown University in a pitching competition.
She said both the scholarship and this seed funding allowed her to be more focused on what she is passionate about rather than chasing a specific salary.
Scholarships for strong candidates
Although business schools often claim that scholarships are about broadening access to less well-represented groups, such as women and ethnic minorities, money also flows to candidates who can help an institution maintain a strong academic record.
Justin Atwood received a USD 60,000 scholarship offer from Babson College (US), covering 80% of the MBA programme fees. He attributes his success to a good score in the GMAT entrance exam, a good pass at undergraduate degree level, and his previous work experience in finance.
Justin had already saved hard for five years from relatively well-paid jobs, first as a financial adviser for Morgan Stanley and then as an associate at investment consultancy Cambridge Associates. But the scholarship was a key part of his decision to return to full-time study.
I needed this extra money to have a roof over my head and food to eat.
The most successful MBA applicants are often the most sophisticated and steadfast negotiators, according to Jessica Burlingame, a consultant at The MBA Exchange, an admissions adviser.
One of her clients, a student at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, doubled an initial aid offer of USD 33,000 by going back to the school’s admissions and asking whether any other factors would have helped her chances. After she sent in further details of her situation, Duke made the revised offer.
Burlingame warns that “timing is a wild card in the pursuit of merit-based aid,” noting that some schools send aid offers automatically with offers of places while others only make decisions about scholarships months after the course has been filled.
Another of The MBA Exchange’s clients successfully applied for a USD 17,500 merit award linked to her place on the prestigious dual degree Lauder programme of The Wharton School (US). Several months later, without having made any suggestion that the school increase her aid, the client received a letter offering her an additional USD 15,000.
If you do negotiate a higher scholarship level, success is never guaranteed — even if you have bargaining chips. Laura Chen received a USD 70,000 merit award offer from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (US), enough to cover half the fees for her two-year MBA. She also received promises of financial aid from two other US schools, including one that would have covered all the course fees.
Buoyed by these offers, Ms Chen called Kellogg’s admissions office hoping to persuade it to increase the scholarship, but was turned down. She said:
Increasing from USD 70,000 is much more difficult than from zero to something.
Source: The Financial Times