The Real Benefits of Full-Ride MBA Scholarships |

The Real Benefits of Full-Ride MBA Scholarships

By Seb Murray

Updated September 10, 2018 Updated September 10, 2018

Receiving a full-tuition scholarship might sound too good to be true, but for MBA students at several of the world’s top business schools it’s a reality. Some scholarships cover entire costs of an MBA — upwards of US$100,000 per year at the elite US schools.

The Stanford Graduate School of Business in California pays up to US$160,000 to each of its three USA MBA Fellowship winners. The cash is given on condition of the students working in the Midwest for two years on graduation.

Conditions of this nature are common for full-ride scholarships, which are infrequent and competitive, says Alex Min, CEO of The MBA Exchange admissions firm. “For the vast majority of top tier business schools, we believe full-ride scholarships are relatively rare,” he says.

How are scholarships earned?

Just one percent of the entering class at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management have a full scholarship which are all merit based. This means the school looks at academics, interpersonal skills, career progression and community service when deciding who receives the money.

“Candidates who receive top marks on all these areas may be awarded a full tuition scholarship,” says Christie St-John, director of MBA admissions.

“We also award scholarships to promote diversity in the class, such as the Forte Fellowship for Women, Diversity Scholarships for Underrepresented Minorities, for European, Latin American, Indian, Chinese, Canadian and other citizenships,” she says.

One of a kind funding

Two years ago, the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University made its full-time MBA degree free. Every student, who once paid US$54,000 if they lived in-state or US$90,000 if international, now receives full-ride scholarships.

“Scholarships greatly decrease the cost of graduate school, which provides a unique opportunity for each student to focus on maximizing their time in the program and launch rewarding careers,” says Pam Delany, director of recruiting and admissions.

A major tip for being admitted to Carey’s course is “to articulate a clear professional purpose and how the MBA will serve you in reaching your goals”, she says, adding it also helps if candidates have a unique element to their application.

St-John, at the Owen school, advises applicants look at the school’s published class profile to see where they stand in relation to the overall quality of the cohort.

“Reach out to our student ambassadors to gain insights into the program that you may not find on the website so you can ask good questions in your interview,” she adds.

More than financial aid

But there’s more to full-ride scholarships than finance. At the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, some scholarships come with other perks, including being partially funded to attend conferences and events, in addition to meeting the dean and alumni board — a good networking opportunity.

Min, at The MBA Exchange, adds that receiving a scholarship can signal quality to potential employers. “Some can also provide additional access as well as prestige,” he says. “For example, at the MIT Sloan School of Management, a few that come to mind are the McKinsey Award, the Legatum Fellowship, and the Forte Foundation Fellowship — each with its own criteria for selection and different benefits.”

Several of Rice’s scholarships cover all tuition costs, including the Military Scholars Program for active or veteran military applicants, and the McNair Scholars Program which recognizes students with demonstrated academic excellence and inspired leadership. The school also offers eight full-tuition Dean’s Scholarships for top international students.

There’s no separate application process for scholarship consideration at Rice. Once an application is submitted, it’s reviewed and considered for scholarship based on “the entire application package, including the GMAT score, undergraduate transcripts, work history and leadership experiences”, says Sue Oldham, executive director of recruiting and admissions.

Different funding options

While full-ride awards are a rarity, many schools offer funding covering a portion of the MBA. Scholarships have overtaken loans and employer support to become the top funding source for business school students, with the proportion receiving financial aid rising to 61 percent of this year’s cohort, according to entry test organizer GMAC.

All admitted full-time students are considered for merit-based scholarships at Rice, which range from 10 to 100 percent of tuition, which is US$58,000 per year. Overall, 79 percent of incoming full-time MBA students receive a merit-based scholarship, with an average 55 percent of tuition awarded.

At the Owen school, 65 percent of the first year MBA class received scholarships, ranging from $8,000 to $56,150; the average amount was $28,000, or half of the school’s tuition fees.

For business schools, scholarship funding has become more plentiful because they need to entice top candidates, who are often weighing multiple offers, and for whom money can be a huge factor in their decision, says Min at The MBA Exchange.

“Competition among schools for the most qualified and attractive students has gone up, and scholarships are one way to try and increase yield,” he says, adding “we have seen an uptick in both the number of scholarships awarded as well as average award amounts”.

He says candidates with multiple offers can leverage them to either request or increase the amount of scholarship money offered by a business school. “However, delicacy and tact are paramount when taking this approach,” he adds.

This article was originally published in September 2018 .

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Written by

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.


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