Be realistic about your budget
You need to pay for tuition fees (in many countries) as well as living expenses and travel. Even if you are awarded a scholarship, you will need funding for your living expenses. Do not rely on work during your studies to support yourself, as you will need to focus on your studies: most programs, especially MBAs, are very demanding. In addition, a student visa status usually imposes limitations on work opportunities.
The typical sources of funding for Master’s and MBA studies are listed below and some of them may be combined.
Option 1: Scholarships from the schools
Scholarships typically cover only tuition fees. Most scholarships are partial and typically range from 10% to 60%. Some schools provide full-tuition scholarships, but these are limited and highly competitive. Specific scholarship requirements are announced on the websites of the schools and you can request details through the Admissions or Financial Aid Office. All applicants should first meet the admission requirements for the school and programme and then the additional scholarship requirements. In some cases, a scholarship application form and essay or project will be required from those who would like to be considered for scholarships. In other cases, scholarships are awarded automatically to all admitted students who meet the scholarship requirements, e.g. a high GMAT score, etc.
Option 2: Financial aid and stipends from the schools
Some scholarships might be combined with additional financial aid, fellowships or on-campus work-study schemes. However, these opportunities are limited and highly competitive. Work-study options are usually announced only after the school year begins, so you cannot plan in advance for this source of support. If you need to apply for a student visa, you will be required to provide evidence that you have available all the funding you need for your studies: tuition fees and living expenses. Fellowships will also have specific requirements and will usually be awarded on merit, not only on demonstrated need.
Option 3: Loans
You should consider and investigate loans from three sources: banks or institutions in your home country, banks/institutions in the country where you will be studying, and loans associated with the university. Some business schools have special loan programs and you can get details from the Admissions Office. Research on all loans provided by banks is your own responsibility. In some countries there are student loans for Master’s studies abroad. Check all options early as you might need to take out a loan to cover part of your expenses.
Option 4: Study abroad scholarships from international programs/institutions
For Master’s studies much more than for MBAs, some funding is available from third parties, e.g. EU programs, international education foundations, etc. Some schools can provide a list of these organisations, but you need to look for such sources actively yourself. In some cases, these scholarships will be available just for a limited number or category of schools, countries or fields of study. Take the time to do your research.
Option 5: Personal savings and family support
This is a common source of support for both MBA and Master’s studies. Family support is typical for Master’s programs, but is also sometimes used for MBA studies as well. You need a long-term plan to accumulate savings and invest them in your further education. In most cases, savings cover living costs, travel expenses, and part of the tuition if you have been awarded a scholarship. If you need a student visa, your savings should be in a bank so that you can provide documentary evidence of the availability of funding.
Option 6: Employer sponsorship
Financial support from your current employer is the most common option for MBA studies, especially for Executive MBA programs where you can keep your job while studying. Some companies have policies to support employees for full-time MBA studies as well. However, it is your choice whether to apply for company support, because it is always binding. If you are interested in this option, contact your HR department for details of company sponsorship policy and requirements and discuss the options with your supervisor. Even if you do not get direct financial support from your employer, you may ask for your business objectives to be adjusted for your period of study and get some extra days off for attending classes if you are considering an Executive MBA. This support is considerable from both a company’s perspective and your own.