Most people know all about undergrad scholarships, but they don’t realize that there are merit-based scholarships for MBA applicants, too—and they are not as hard to get as you might imagine. Here are some tips from the experts on how to snag some scholarship scratch:
Research the possibilities
All sorts of organizations want to support your education and offer scholarship money to those who meet their requirements. You just have to know what’s available, so take to the Internet and search, search, search. “A lot of scholarship opportunities are not publicized that well,” says Zeke Lee, co-founder of GMATPill.com, a GMAT test-prep service in New York. Search terms should include those related to your gender, ethnicity, and citizenship, intended field of study or career path, undergraduate alma mater, schools you’re applying to, and any other clearly defined group to which you belong.
For example, the Stanford Reliance Dhirubhai MBA Fellowship Program is for Indian nationals who are seeking an MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Each year, up to five Indian students receive the full scholarship after completing a separate application and promising to work for an Indian organization in India for at least two years after graduation. International women studying anywhere in the U.S. can receive financial support from the American Association of University Women, and minority MBA students pursuing careers in finance may be eligible for a fellowship from the Robert A. Toigo Foundation.
Talk to students and alumni
Ask students and recent alumni how they financed their MBA education during information sessions or when the school puts you in contact with them, suggests Lee. They often can clue you in to scholarship opportunities, both inside and outside the school, that are not well known.
Put your best application forward
Many business schools offer merit-based scholarships based solely on students’ admissions applications. Applicants should focus on writing exceptional essays, scoring as high as possible on the GMAT, and sharing their impressive work experience, says David Simpson, admissions director of the MBA and masters in finance programs at London Business School, which is aiming to raise £18 million for new scholarships over the next five years. Most importantly, you should prepare to have a strong interview. “We’re looking for someone who will have an impact during and after the program,” says Simpson.
Be an early bird
When you are aiming for scholarship money, you should apply as early as possible to your top-choice schools, says Simpson. Most schools will decide who warrants a scholarship at the time they are accepting applicants. It also demonstrates to the school that you are really interested in it.
Consider ways to finance other parts of the process
MBA applicants seem to go on a spending spree from the moment they decide they want to apply to business school. There are GMAT courses, admissions consultants, and application fees, just to name a few. There are awards that help offset these costs, too.
For instance, in 2013 the Beat the GMAT competition will dole out eight scholarship packages that include a $250 voucher for GMAT registration fees, a full GMAT test-prep course, and MBA admissions consulting services. To be eligible, winners must have demonstrated financial need, professional references, and personal essays outlining interest in the scholarship and a clear reason for pursuing an MBA.
The good news is that business schools are competing more and more for top talent, which is a great motivation for offering more scholarships. “Offering scholarships helps us attract the very best candidates, irrespective of their means to attend,” says Simpson.