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Reduce MBA Costs With Scholarships and Fellowships

Reduce MBA Costs With Scholarships and Fellowships
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated June 1, 2023
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Earning your Master of Business Administration (MBA) could lead to new opportunities and a fulfilling career, but first you’ll have to figure out how to pay for your degree. The average cost of an MBA is $61,800, according to the Education Data Initiative, but some schools charge well over $100,000 in tuition and fees. Fortunately, there are a variety of MBA scholarships and fellowships that could help reduce your out-of-pocket costs. 

Differences Between Scholarships and Fellowships

Both scholarships and fellowships can help cover the costs of your MBA program, but they have some key differences. Scholarships are typically merit- or need-based, and they may or may not be renewable. Scholarship awards offer money that you don’t need to pay back. For the most part, they don’t come with stipulations beyond using the money toward your program. You may have to maintain a certain grade point average while you’re in school.Fellowships also offer money for school, and they’re often renewable. Along with money for tuition, you might receive a monthly stipend that you can use for living expenses. Some MBA fellowships involve funding for research abroad. Fellowships may be need- or merit-based as well, but they may have some additional conditions. For instance, you may be expected to complete a research project, commit to working with the fellowship provider after graduation, or work as a teaching assistant while you’re in school. Some fellowships also come with additional opportunities, such as networking events or mentorship, to help you build your career after you finish your MBA program

Types of Scholarships for MBA Programs

You can find MBA scholarships from a variety of business schools and private organizations. Here are a few examples: 
  • Military MBA: This organization offers a merit-based scholarship to MBA applicants with experience in the military. 
  • Daniel B. Goldberg and Miller Public Finance Scholarship: Funded by the Girard Miller Foundation, this award goes to students getting ready for a career in state and local government finance.
  • Golden Key Graduate Student Award: The Golden Key International Honour Society offers various scholarship opportunities for graduate students.
  • Beinecke Scholarship Program: Part of the Sperry Fund, this program awards scholarships to men and women attending graduate programs. 
You can find additional scholarships for MBA programs by using scholarship engines and inquiring with your school’s financial aid office. 

Available Fellowships for MBA Programs

There are also a variety of fellowships available for MBA programs. Here are a few examples: 
  • The Leonard Lauder Fellowship: This fellowship goes to students of Wharton’s Lauder Institute and covers Lauder fees for two years. 
  • Forté Foundation Fellowship: The Forté Foundation funds these fellowships for women attending Forté sponsor schools. Each school selects the fellowship recipients. 
  • Toigo MBA Fellowship: The Robert Toigo Foundation provides this fellowship to diverse men and women who represent its commitment to excellence, leadership, and change. Along with funding, this fellowship provides mentoring, career coaching, networking, and other benefits. 

Steps to Apply for an MBA Scholarship

Depending on your school, you may be automatically considered for some scholarship awards. For others, you’ll want to submit a separate application by the deadline. Some steps for applying may include: 
  • Filling out the application with your personal and academic details 
  • Providing your transcripts and resume 
  • Listing any extracurricular activities, awards, community involvement, or other notable achievements 
  • Writing personal essays in response to the given questions 
  • Providing letters of recommendation from your professors or employer 
MBA financial aid requires paperwork. It’s important to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to put yourself in the running for federal financial aid. This application asks for your personal and financial information. It becomes available every year on October 1. 

 Most important Factors for Earning a Scholarship

The criteria for winning scholarships for MBA will vary by provider, but most look at the following: 
  • GMAT score. A good GMAT score can help put you in the running for merit-based scholarships. 
  • Transcripts. Scholarship committees will review your grades to get a sense of your academic background. 
  • Extracurricular activities. Your involvement outside the classroom may play a factor, such as volunteering in your community. 
  • Relevant professional experience. A scholarship evaluator will look at your work and other relevant experiences when reviewing your application. 
  • Future goals. Some scholarship awards may go to students with specific future goals, such as working in government or a nonprofit organization. 
  • Financial need. Some scholarships take financial need into account and go to students in need of financial assistance. 

GMAT Score Required for MBA Scholarship

Many MBA scholarships review your GMAT score when evaluating your application. Applicants with a good GMAT score may have a better chance of qualifying. A good GMAT score is usually one that’s higher than the average score of your school’s incoming class. For the top 10 business schools, a competitive GMAT score is around 730 or higher. Most scholarship committees don’t solely rely on your GMAT score when making their decision, though. They may also look at your academic record, community involvement, work experience, and financial need when reviewing your application. 

Ways of Paying for MBA Program

In addition to scholarship and fellowship awards, you may need to find additional ways to pay for your MBA program. Here are some alternative financing options: 
  • Personal savings. If you have personal savings you can draw upon, you can put that toward your program and reduce the amount you’ll have to borrow in loans. 
  • Income from a part-time job. Working while you’re in school can also help you pay for living expenses. 
  • Federal student loans. The government offers Direct unsubsidized loans and grad PLUS loans to graduate students. Both come with fixed interest rates and are eligible for a variety of repayment plans. 
  • Private student loans. Private student loans may also be worth considering, especially if you have great credit and can qualify for a competitive rate. Many lenders let you check your rates online with no impact on your credit score. 

The Takeaway

Pursuing MBA scholarships and fellowships could be well worth the effort, since these awards could significantly reduce the price tag of your MBA program. If you need additional funding, borrowing a student loan could help fill the gap. 

Student Loan Tips

  1. Once the pandemic-related pause on federal student loan payments ends, going back to making payments may be hard on budgets. One solution is to refinance to a lower interest rate, longer loan term, or both, depending on your situation. (The tradeoff is that you’ll be forfeiting federal benefits such as repayment programs.) Find and compare your student loan refinance options.
  2. Paying extra each month on your student loan can reduce the interest you pay and so lower your total loan cost over time. (The law prohibits prepayment penalties on federal or private student loans.)
  3. Depending on their income, qualified borrowers can deduct the interest they pay for student loans, both federal or private, up to $2,500 per year. The deduction phases out for modified adjusted gross incomes of $70,000 to $85,000 for single individuals and $145,000 to $175,000 for people married and filing jointly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get a full MBA scholarship?
What GPA do you need for an MBA scholarship?
What GMAT score do you need for a scholarship?
How do MBA fellowships work?
When should you start applying for MBA scholarships and fellowships?
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About the Author

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier has nearly a decade of experience writing about personal finance. Formerly a senior writer with LendingTree and Student Loan Hero, she specializes in student loans, financial aid, and personal loans. She is certified as a student loan counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC).
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