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7 Tips for a Winning MBA Scholarship Application

Get some advice on formulating a winning MBA scholarship application

While prospective business school students often need to obtain MBA scholarships and other forms of financial assistance to fund their studies, the process of filling out scholarship applications is not an easy one. Answering those required scholarship essay questions requires, “time, thought and a lot of editing,” states Piersten Gaines, a QS Scholarship winner this year and a member of Harvard’s MBA class of 2018. Here are seven tips from Gaines and seven of her fellow recipients of QS Scholarship awards in 2016 (be these in the QS Leadership or QS Community Scholarship categories) to put you on the path towards submitting a winning scholarship application.


1. Get past your fear of applying

“Don't be afraid to apply. It takes time and effort to fill out scholarship applications but this is a small risk compared to the potential rewards,” states entering part-time MBA student at UC Berkeley-Haas, Kota Reichert.

2. Apply for a variety of MBA scholarships

“As with any project or endeavor where you are seeking financial assistance, it is important to seek out and apply to as many sources as you are eligible for,” says Karl Schwonik, who will take his MBA at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School.

This tip extends even to sources of financial aid you are not confident of winning. Katherine Watson, a current MBA student at Columbia Business School advises prospective students to, “apply to a wide range of scholarship opportunities, even ones you think you have little to no chance of winning.”

3. Conduct thorough research

In order to be able to apply for a variety of scholarships, you need to conduct adequate research to identify all the opportunities that are relevant to your applicant profile. “Search all your options, national and international,” states Jorge Ordoñez R de la Gala, who will attend the University of Strathclyde Business School, starting this fall (autumn).

Of course, doing sufficient research means looking beyond business school websites. Kelechi Ezeozue, who will be enrolling at Cornell, has a note of caution for MBA scholarship applicants in this regard: “Don’t just rely on the school’s website; Google is your friend.”

4. Be persistent

“Just as you can have some great successes in securing funding, you can also have disappointments along the way. It’s important to keep applying if you feel the project is important and worthwhile pursuing,” reasons the entering Cambridge MBA, Schwonik.


Even if you haven’t yet felt the disappointment of an unsuccessful scholarship application, it can still be easy to feel weary at the prospect of having to submit scholarship essay responses on top of the work you’ve put into your MBA admissions essays. However incoming Harvard MBA, Gaines, cautions prospective MBAs against resting on their laurels if there is still work to be done. “As soon as you submit your last business school application, pat yourself on the back and be proud of yourself, but don’t get too comfortable. If you plan on securing some financial assistance, remain in essay mode!

5. Give yourself enough time to revise your scholarship essay

“Timing is always important, make sure you apply for scholarships on time so you have enough time to check them a few times,” states Strathclyde’s Ordoñez. That’s why it’s important to start your scholarship applications early and plan ahead.

Planning ahead worked for Gaines. She began her scholarship search immediately after deciding on attending Harvard Business School and, as we already know, ended up securing some financial assistance for her degree. “Start your scholarship application process as soon as your business school applications are submitted!” is her advice to applicants.

6. Make sure your scholarship essay makes a compelling case

“Narrate a story that not only paints you as a deserving candidate of a scholarship but also answers the question directly and in a compelling way,” says Sarah Wong, a QS Scholarship winner who is set to start her MBA at INSEAD.

Columbia MBA, Katherine Watson, also advises applicants to think carefully about their approach to a scholarship essay question. “Answer each question in a creative, authentic, and thoughtful way,” she says.


7. Write a scholarship essay that reveals who you really are

“Show your authentic personality and be genuine in your essays and applications!” is our final piece of advice, from Pulton Leung, a scholarship winner who will be starting at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in the fall.

Written by Nicole Willson

Nicole is the SEO manager of TopMBA.com, as well as a contributing author. She holds a BA in history and sociology, and a master's in library science. Aside from her work for QS, Nicole is a long-time contributing editor and administrator for WikiHow.

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