Scott Edinburgh
February 20, 2020

The Truth About MBA Scholarships

Last week, I shared with Poets & Quants founder, John Byrne, how my clients are receiving record scholarship amounts this year. In fact, this season, our average round 1 scholarship recipient was awarded $115,000 in scholarships, often across multiple schools.

Unsurprisingly in this stronger economy, some top schools are using scholarships to compete for prospective students. More so than in previous years, schools are also matching scholarship offers to attract top candidates, even when they did not initially offer those same candidates funding.

Scholarships/fellowships fall into two major categories:

1. Merit based money offered as a result of the MBA application.

The vast majority of scholarship $$ are offered based on your original MBA application. They do not require you to submit anything additional. Schools offer this money to candidates they are trying to attract (often away from other schools).

This money can come directly from the school itself, having nothing to do with the applicant’s specific demographic or professional background or in collaboration with another organization. While this other organization may suggest guidelines for consideration, it is up to the schools to decide which candidates actually receive the award.

For example, one of our partners, the Forté Foundation, gives the following guidelines to admissions directors selecting Forté Fellowship recipients:

  • Candidates should exhibit exemplary leadership in one or more ways: academic leadership, team leadership, community leadership, and creative leadership.
  • Candidates should demonstrate a commitment to women and girls via personal mentorship or community involvement. Such commitment is in alignment with the mission of Forté Foundation.
  • Schools are encouraged to nominate fellows from their schools who represent diverse educational and work backgrounds, career goals, ethnicities and citizenship.

2. Scholarships that students apply for directly.

    • These scholarships are generally targeted at specific candidates based on industry, ethnicity, gender, etc.
      • A separate application is required for each of these scholarships and specific criteria apply.
        • Examples include:

The Consortium (note: you can also apply to participating schools through the scholarship application): Since 1966, we have offered more than $465 million in fellowships to the best and brightest MBA students in the country. We have programs that cover full tuition and mandatory fees for two years of full-time study (Emory also offers a one-year program).

The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship For New Americans: The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans is a $90,000 merit-based fellowship exclusively for immigrants and children of immigrants who are pursuing graduate school in the United States. The program draws nearly 1,800 applications annually for just 30 fellowships.

Military MBA: Military MBA is an education network for military officers and NCOs who are interested in obtaining and applying their MBA graduate degrees for career advancement. We represent MBA schools and prospective MBA students who have a background in the military.

While the rise in scholarships is great news, many candidates may be wondering what they can do to maximize their chances of earning a coveted scholarship.

Here are 4 key tips from Personal MBA Coach.

Ensure your application stands out! The good news for candidates hoping to receive a scholarship is that the same advice Personal MBA Coach provides on developing stand-out applications applies to earning scholarships, too (which is why our clients do so well).

As we have advised, business schools look for well-rounded classes. For candidates hoping to secure extra $$ it is even more crucial that your application paints a solid story as to how you will add unique value on campus. At the end of the day, the school wants to pay you to be one of the best students on campus. This can be because of your outstanding academic qualifications or because you will contribute on campus in a unique way.

Court your target schools. No school wants to hand out precious money only to lose the candidate to another school. Therefore, while not required, getting to know a school never hurts your chances of getting $$.

Apply Early. With limited money to go around, the earlier you can get your applications in, the better. Schools also want to be sure that their classes are filled with well-rounded students and are more likely to use scholarships to ensure this earlier in the process. By round 3, there is likely to be less money left. That said, scholarships do open up sometimes even late in the year.

Excel in as many areas as possible. While this may seem obvious, I often have candidates who have a decent GMAT score but have not put in the extra effort to maximize it. Or I have candidates who do not want to dedicate time outside of the office to beef up their extracurricular profiles. While I always advise that candidates put their best foot forward, this is even more crucial for those looking for a scholarship. Scholarship recipients most often excel in multiple areas.

Need help? Personal MBA Coach is willing to be your guide. Founded by a Wharton and MIT graduate, we regularly help applicants navigate their applications each year. We also conduct mock interviews with former M7 interviewers on our team.

Personal MBA Coach has been guiding candidates through all aspects of the MBA application process for 13 years with a 96% success rate. Call us today at +1 617-645-2424 or email for a free consultation on your profile along with how we can help make your MBA dreams a reality!