Business school is an expensive investment, and it’s never too early to start figuring out how you will pay for it. It helps to think of the MBA as a long-term investment, and fortunately, schools want to work with students to find a solution to financing school through a combination of loans and scholarships.
As you create your plan to pay for business school, you should contact your prospective school’s financial aid office. You can also get advice through admissions events. Financial aid officers have seen it all before, and they want to ensure qualified candidates can pay for the degree.
Starting early – at least three months before applying – is also important if you’re pursuing scholarships, fellowships or grants. You can count on fierce competition for scholarships–AKA free money—so you’ll benefit from having the time to create strong scholarship applications, and from knowing the key deadlines so that opportunities don’t pass you by.
You may also need to submit a different application for each fellowship or scholarship. Don’t lose out because of a missed deadline. Look beyond your business school, too, to organizations like the Forte Foundation or Consortium for Graduate Study in Management that offer highly valuable scholarships for MBA students.
Schools that offer you admission may automatically consider you for merit fellowships based on your academic credentials, accomplishments and experience communicated in your application. Some schools may also offer additional fellowships that you can apply for directly through the program.
Applying for the Money
There are many different application processes for financial aid, from demonstrating need to demonstrating merit. Organize the deadlines and submission guidelines to make sure you have a plan to complete the applications, and carefully follow the directions of each scholarship, fellowship or loan you apply for.
If you need to submit an essay, answer the question thoroughly and succinctly as you would any other MBA essay. Questions may vary, though this question is representative of the type of question you may receive:
Describe what you see as the value of fellowships/scholarships to students. Why should you receive one? What impact will it have on you and/or your business school experience? (500 words)
The value of fellowships/scholarships should be fairly straightforward, though you may emphasize either need or merit in your response, depending upon the direction you plan to take in the argument for your own application.
The need-based direction may be difficult to prove without serious financial hardship. If you did have difficulties with finances throughout your life and could not attend business school without such assistance, you may have a good argument. If not, you should pursue the merit-based direction.
Providing evidence for the need-based direction of the argument should be fairly straightforward. Describe your situation and why you would have difficulty paying for your MBA education. Avoid any complaining or blame, and instead focus on what you have accomplished in your life with little resources, and what you would continue to accomplish as you benefit from greater resources.
If you choose a merit-based argument, you should outline your accomplishments, both academic and professional. Sell yourself as you would in a job interview, and provide solid evidence for your accomplishments as you did in your application essays.
The impact of financial assistance may allow you to pursue activities such as travel and leadership opportunities. In addition, your receipt of aid may benefit the people around you. If you have been involved in your community or with charity, you can certainly describe the impact you have made on the lives of others thus far and how that impact will be even greater with a business education.