There are also some scholarships and grants provided by foundations, professional associations and international organisations. However, it is fair to claim that the major part of scholarship aid comes directly through business schools. They provide scholarships either from their own funds or from donations which they have attracted from individual or corporate donors.
The best thing about scholarships is that this is financial assistance which you receive without any ties attached to it. Scholarships are not like loans, which you have to pay back with interest. Neither are they like employer sponsorship, which binds you to working for the company for several years after graduation. Once you get a scholarship, the only requirement in order to keep it is usually to maintain a high Grade Point Average (GPA).
MBA Scholarships do however require that you put in some effort up-front – to achieve a high GMAT score, to write additional essays, to develop a project, etc. But this strategy usually pays back well. Vassia, who graduated her US MBA in 2013, invested about 18 months in GMAT preparation and took the GMAT three times, improving her GMAT score from about 500 to 650. This helped her
gain two scholarships, a graduate assistantship and a health insurance waiver.
This package covered virtually the full cost of her education. Watch video interview here.
Type of MBA Scholarships
A ‘guaranteed scholarship policy’ means that you will automatically receive a scholarship if you meet a particular requirement – e.g. admission with a GMAT score above a certain minimum. This kind of MBA scholarship is very attractive because applicants can easily set their target and evaluate their chances.
Merit-based competitive scholarships
These are the majority of scholarships. However, it is usually complicated for applicants to evaluate their chances in advance, because the criteria are difficult to interpret without access to the rest of the application pool. Usually, in order to qualify for these scholarships, applicants need to provide evidence of leadership potential and academic excellence. The application process may or may not require additional materials, e.g. scholarship essays or projects. These scholarships are an important tool for business schools to attract the best applicants to enrol in their programme. They are also a tool to attract a large number of MBA applicants.
Targeted competitive scholarships
There is a huge diversity of this kind of MBA scholarship. They are targeted at applicants with a particular profile, which the school would like to have in their class due to the school's development strategy. These scholarships may target specific regions, positions, skills or achievements. In all cases, they are competitive, meaning that applicants first need to meet all admission requirements, and then will be competing against all other applicants in the same category. This is usually better than having to compete against the whole application pool.
Another type of financial assistance which some universities provide is the graduate assistantship. Assistantships require that you do some work for the university or business school and your earnings cover some of the MBA related expenses. There is a limitation on the number of hours you can spend working, to ensure that you keep focused on your studies. In addition, you should maintain a good academic standing. Prerequisites to applying for this kind of financial assistance include meeting the requirements for the type of work which you will be asked to do and obtaining good scores in tests such as the GMAT or the GRE.
Michelle, who gained her MBA from a US business school in 2013, had a graduate assistantship. Her job was to
coach the university’s soccer team in and out of season.
She passed several rounds of interviews with the coaches and the athletic director who assessed her professional skills. Her GRE score was another factor which was evaluated before granting her the assistantship. Finally, she had to maintain a GPA of 3.0 in order to keep her aid. Watch video interview here.
Grants are another type of financial support. They are very similar to scholarships, but they are usually provided by third-party organisations, not by the universities or business schools. So you should apply for a grant directly with the organisation which provides it. The terms and conditions of grants vary. See two examples shared by MBA alumni:
Vassia considered applying to the Fulbright programme for a grant for her US MBA studies, but her research showed there were a number of conditions which prevented her making use of this programme. Learn more in the video interview above.
Natalia completed her MBA in International Business in Italy in 2013. She won both a scholarship and a grant. This package covered a considerable part of her MBA costs.
The grant which I was awarded was actually disbursed after I had completed my studies, so I had to use my own funding
Only upon successful completion of her MBA did she receive the reimbursement. Watch video interview here.
Despite all the benefits of scholarships, assistantships and grants, this type of funding is less attractive to MBA prospects. The 2014 Prospective Students Survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reports that 42% of respondents will rely on personal funding, 24% of the MBA prospects declare that they will apply for a loan, and only 18% will apply for scholarships and grants, followed only by the 14% who will rely on employer support.
Learn more about the different sources of funding for your MBA studies in the other articles of the Debate of the Month: