Study MBA in the US | TopMBA

The US boasts outstanding cultural and economic reputation

The land of the free, the home of the brave, where people go to follow their dreams – these ideas, in conjunction with the high level of educational provision, have long drawn students from all the all over the world to come and study in the US.

It is easy to see the appeal. The US has been the top destination of choice each year in the QS TopMBA Applicant Survey with its leading schools well represented in the QS Global MBA Rankings 2018. Indeed, no country can match the US in terms of the sheer volume of the world’s best business schools.

As an Anglophone region, America is popular for both English-speaking students and for those who would like to improve their conversational ability in the world-leading language of business.

The culture of the US will of course be familiar to nearly everyone in the world as a consequence of the widespread dissemination of US popular culture throughout the 20th and 21st centuries – particularly in film and television.

Another US contribution to world culture was the concept of business education – borne out of the necessities of the country’s transition to a highly industrialized economy in the late 19th century.

Learn more about studying an MBA or master's degree in the US by attending a webinar. Click here for more information.

Harvard follows Dartmouth as pioneers of the MBA in the US

Dartmouth College led the way in 1900, establishing the Tuck School of Business, the world’s first graduate school of business, and with it came the first advanced degree – an MSc in Commerce. Shortly after, other business schools followed suit. The first official MBA program was born, at Harvard Graduate School for Business Administration, in 1908.

Retaining its reputation as the leading MBA in the US even after its monopoly was shattered, Harvard’s program still stands at the forefront of graduate business education. Around 85% of MBA case studies used around the world are written by HBS faculty.

The QS Global MBA Rankings 2018: United States reveals the list of top business schools in the US in the eyes of the world's employers. The global ranking highlights the dominance of US business schools and their MBA programs. In fact, 12 of the top 20 MBA programs are based in the US. Though the popularity of US business schools has decreased slightly in recent years, it still remains the most popular destination in the QS TopMBA Applicant Survey.

The progressive environments of these top schools adds to their appeal, with many Ivy League and reputed business schools having affiliate clubs involved in the Reaching Out  MBA conference, as well as having higher proportion of women among their annual cohorts.

Graduate MBA salaries and bonuses average at around US$123,239 for graduates of US schools in the Elite Global category.

Ivy League Colleges battle for the top MBA in the US

When it comes to world class business schools, no country can match the US. The QS Global 200 Business Schools Report certainly reflects this.

Ivy League business schools – led by Harvard Business School and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania – consistently dominate the upper echelons of rankings and ratings, including QS’s employer index. Stanford GSB (Graduate School of Business) and MIT Sloan are equally as omnipotent, as are the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the Kellogg School of Management, at Northwestern University.

Many of these top schools are based in business hubs such as New York, Boston or the Silicon Valley in Stanford GSB’s case. The proximity to a wealth of MBA job opportunities only serves to add value to the proposition of studying an MBA in the US.

Harvard Business School currently sits at the top of the global hierarchy, with only INSEAD and London Business School rivalling it in terms of employer reputation.

Learn more about studying an MBA in the US with's city guides:

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Expected MBA salary variation at top US business schools

It’s not all about the money, but nonetheless, the question on the lips of many MBA graduates is, what will my MBA salary look like?

According to the QS TopMBA Jobs and Salary Trends Report 2018, the average graduate starting salary in the US & Canada is US$120,900 (including US$18,800 bonus). Top US business schools are very competitive in terms of salaries as well as bonuses and the percentage of students in employed within three months of graduation is more than reassuring. With figures taken from the Global 200 report, here is a quick look at the statistics of the US’s top business schools:

Harvard Business School:             
MBA Salary (US$) – 120,000          Bonus (US$)- 26,216         Total - US$146,216

Stanford Business School:           
MBA Salary (US$) – 129,692          Bonus (US$)- 26,573         Total - US$156,265 

The Wharton School:                     
MBA Salary (US$) – 120,000          Bonus (US$)- 28,563         Total - US$148,563

Chicago Booth:           
MBA Salary (US$) – 115,079          Bonus (US$)- 27,680         Total - US$142,759

Kellogg School of Management:
MBA Salary (US$) – 120,000          Bonus (US$)- 21,755         Total - US$141,755

Although MBA graduates heading into positions within consultingand technology, for instance, are well-remunerated, the Jobs and Salary Trends Report 2018 states that the highest paying sector, among all employers in Europe and North America, is finance, offering an average MBA salary of US$97,100.

Demand for MBA graduates is increasing, and is predicted to rise further still. In spite of the credit crunch’s impact on global finance, with CitiGroup and Bank of America struggling in particular, entry-level recruitment has now largely recovered with many recruiters actively seeking MBA graduates. 

MBA fees

How much are MBA fees in the US? Are they different for international students?

To study in the US, all domestic and international students generally pay the same amount in tuition fees. However, these costs vary from institution to institution, with top business schools often having large fees. The QS Global 200 Business Schools Report  provides an insight into the average MBA fees that you would expect to pay at a leading elite business school, the duration of the course and the percentage of international students that attend the respective schools.

Harvard Business School:                  
Average MBA Fees - US$119,100              Course Length - 24 months         74% international
Stanford GSB:                  
Average MBA Fees - US$129,692              Course Length - 24 months         92% international
The Wharton School:                            
Average MBA Fees - US$120,000              Course Length - 21 months         83% international
Chicago Booth:    
Average MBA Fees - US$115,079              Course Length - 21 months         89% international
Kellogg School of Management:         
Average MBA Fees - US$120,000              Course Length - 20 months         86% international


How do I know if I’m eligible?

Your eligibility to study at your chosen school will depend on the institution’s entry requirements and can also be specific to a certain course within each, but that’s just the first hurdle. Generally speaking, entry requirements for MBAs are usually a high GMAT/GRE score and a good academic record, coupled with solid work experience at managerial level.  


I’m an international student, what else do I need to consider?

If you are an international student looking to study in the US, you will need to consider any possible visa restrictions, to start.

To begin applying for a student visa, it is important to note that you must already be accepted into your school of choice. Don’t try and apply before you’ve been accepted, as this will only delay your visa application.

With this in mind, you’re better off applying to your course of choice sooner rather than later to allow enough time for your visa application to be processed, especially in case something goes unexpectedly wrong (first round admissions tend to be less competetive as well). A useful website for more information and guidance on student  visas is Travel State


Get to know the facts about your US student visa


What important things do I need to know about my visa?

If you are entering the US on a student visa, you will be entering on an ‘F1 Visa’. As mentioned above, you will need to be accepted onto your chosen course of study already, but it is important to ensure that your course is at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program Approved School (SEVP). Don’t worry about this too much, as all major schools within the US are SEVP approved. Once you have been enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, you must then pay what is known as an SEVIS I-901 fee. Your school should then provide you with a form to present at your visa interview.


What documentation will I need for my interview?

At a glance, you will need:

  • Passport valid for travel to the US - Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the US
  • Non-immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page (see a list of FAQs about the Form DS-160 here)                                             
  • Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview
  • Photo – While you’re completing your online form DS-160, you’re required to upload a photo. Please also take a copy of your photo along with you. See the photograph requirements for details.
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students, Form I-20A-B’ – This is the form your school will give you once you’ve been enrolled onto the SEVIS database. Both you and a school official must sign the Form I-20.
  • You may also be required to provide: details of your academic preparations, a declaration of intent to depart the US upon completion of the course of study; and details of how you will pay all educational, living and travel costs.

Expenses, fees and financial aid can be daunting, but there are options available


While we’re on the subject of costs, how much will I need for living expenses?

As well as hefty school fees, you'll need to think about how you'll pay your living and general expenses. For the full year, you can expect to need around US$100,000 to keep you afloat, and with the intensity of a full-time course, it is advised that you do not commit yourself to part-time work, as this may hinder your ability to dedicate time to, and get the most out of, your studies.


If I can’t work, what other methods of financial aid are there?

Self-funding can be a big ask, so it is recommended that you do some research into funding and think carefully about this when choosing which schools to apply to.

Luckily, top business schools do understand that a lot of students don’t have the freedom to unlimited funds to spend on education and so many top business schools offer 'need-blind' financial aid, which is sometimes offered to outstanding candidates. Often this is only available to US citizens though, so be sure to check carefully.


What options of financial aid do top US business schools offer?


QS Funded Scholarships

QS offers a handful of scholarships of varying criteria, for instance:
QS Leadership Scholarship for MBA Studies

One winner will be chosen to recieve US$10,000 from the QS community scholarships fund. Application criteria includes a written essay and completion of the Applicant Survey, amongst other criteria.

QS Community Scholarships for MBA Studies

Five winners will be chosen to receive US$2,000 each from the QS community scholarships fund. Application criteria includes a written essay and completion of the Applicant Survey, amongst other criteria.


Harvard Business School financial aid: 

According to Harvard’s website, 65% of Harvard MBA students receive some sort of assistance with funding. For more detailed information, see the Harvard Business School’s financial-aid page, here.   

To support its students, Harvard Business School has set various fellowship programs internally and externally. HBS' internal fellowship programs are available to students of varying backgrounds and interests. For example:

The Robert S. Kaplan Life Sciences Fellowship
Awarding US$20,000 each to 10 incoming MBA students who express outstanding credentials from disciplines in the life sciences. Credentials include academic achievements, recognition from outside organizations and professional accomplishments. Students who are planning careers in science based organizations or businesses will be granted preference. 

Horace W. Goldsmith Fellowship
Awards of around US$10,000 are granted to between 7 and 10 first year MBA students who have shown themselves to exhibit leadership and extraordinary commitment to working in the nonprofit sector. This fellowship runs alongside the school's needs-based awards.

John H. McArthur Canadian Fellowship
Named after the former dean of HBS, this fellowship is funded by donations from Canadian alumni and acts as incentive to attract high potential students from all over Canada. The fellowship amount totals US$10,000 per year.

Junior Achievement Fellowship
This award is a significant financial contribution, ranging from US$5,000-$6,500. The fellowship is awarded annually, and must be reapplied to for each academic year. To be considered for the fellowship, you must have at least two years of experience in junior achievement, whether this is mentoring at high school or acting as an advisor during college. While it is not essential for a candidate to be in need of outside financial assistance, the committee may consider this as well as factors such as the quality of your experiences, your contributions to the program and how the program has affected your personal and professional development.

Their funding opportunities provided by external associates are open to:       

  • Women students            
  • Minority students
  • International students
  • Veterans
  • New Americans
  • College students/recent graduates
  • Bowdoin College graduates
  • Students of public administration, finance and business administration,
  • Swarthmore College graduates
  • AICPA student affiliate members
  • LGBT students
  • Farmworking students

For further information on any of these schemes, including contact information, click here.
For more information on Harvard Business School's fellowship programs, click here.

For information on Harvard Business School’s Domestic Student Loan Program, please click here.

If you are an international student, you might find this section of the Harvard funding website helpful.

To view Harvard’s Scholarship Schemes, click here.


Stanford MBA financial aid:  

Stanford’s cost summary gives a breakdown of exactly what you can expect to pay in the first year of MBA study, but it is accompanied by myriad ways in which they can assist financially. The figures can appear daunting, yet Stanford offers a wide range of financial aid, ranging from loans to fellowships.

Stanford GSB Fellowships are available to all applicants who can demonstrate financial need, and are not qualified on a merit-only basis. However, there are other schemes which do take into account specialist subjects and outstanding achievements. For example, Stanford’s Yellow Ribbon Program is available to eligible military candidates.

Also available at Stanford GSB are the following Fellowships:

P4D Fellowship

To be eligible for this fellowship, open only to U.S citizens, you will need to have completed a 9-12 month internship with a corporate partner before enrolling at Stanford. You will receive a salary and benefits for your internship as well as a grant covering all of your tuition fees at Stanford GSB.

Stanford Africa Fellowship

As its title suggests, this fellowship is available to students from African countries with a need for financial assistance. The program pays for tuition and associated fees (around US$140,000) and requires that upon graduation, recipients return to Africa to work for at least two years in a professional role that contributes to the continent’s development.

Stanford Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship

This fellowship was created to encourage talented and motivated Indian citizens to apply to Stanford GSB regardless of financial concerns. Up to five candidates will receive financial support covering the cost of tuition and associated fees (around US$140,000) for each year of the MBA program.

Within two years of completing their MBA, fellows are required to return to India and work for an Indian organization for a period of at least two years. Fellows become integral members of the Stanford University, Stanford GSB and Reliance Dhirubhai Fellows communities.

TOMODACHI-Uniqlo Fellowship

A collaborative effort between the US-Japan Council and the clothing brand Uniqlo, this fellowship provides financial support for at least three Japanese students in the Stanford MBA program. The TOMODACHI-Uniqlo Fellowship gives preference to Japanese citizens (having lived in the country for at least one year), individuals who have demonstrated leadership potential in a growing, international business, as well as to those who were particularly impacted by the earthquake that hit Japan in March 2011.

Fellows are also required to participate in a month-long internship at Fast Retailing and/or Uniqlo in Japan prior to matriculation at Stanford.

Orbis Investment Management Fellowship

The Orbis Investment Management Fellowship is a US$10,000 cash award to be applied towards tuition or course-related expenses for an exceptional first-year MBA student, from any background and with any experience, who can demonstrate his or her talent and passion for investing.

McKinsey & Company Emerging MBA Scholars

McKinsey selects and celebrates a group of finalists with cash awards (US$2,000-5,000 per award), and other benefits including ongoing mentorship from current consultants, networking opportunities with fellow peers across top business school campuses, as well as an invitation to a distinctive summer celebratory weekend event in Chicago. This scholarship is also open to applicants of other business schools, including Harvard (HBS) and Duke (Fuqua)

To find out more on the fellowship opportunities at Stanford and other types of funding, please click here.


Wharton MBA financial aid:             

Wharton have compiled a useful FAQ page which handily addresses all questions regarding MBA financing. To view this, please click here, and scroll to the bottom of the page.

The Wharton Fellowship Program is something for which all admitted students are considered. Criteria for the selection of awards may include academic achievement, compelling leadership, exceptional professional development and unique personal qualities. There is no formal fellowship application, and notification of fellowship support is included with the admissions decision. 

Please click here to view the school’s external funding sources, including scholarships targeted towards specific populations, those open to broader groups, and various scholarship search engines.

If you are an international student who is neither a dual US citizen nor a US permanent resident, you are encouraged to investigate all sources of funding within your home country, including government and private scholarships and loans. 

Chicago Booth MBA financial aid: 

As specified on Chicago Booth’s scholarships page, there are three main groups of awards that are on offer to full-time MBA Students. These are grouped into:

Merit-Based Awards – Purely financial awards to help exceptional students meet their educational expenses.

Chicago Booth Fellowships – Structured to foster long-term career mentoring relationships with faculty, alumni and corporate leaders.

Corporate Fellowships – Jointly funded by Chicago Booth and other specific corporations, these fellowships are designed to attract talented and diverse candidates who can demonstrate outstanding leadership skills on top of their academic and extracurricular acheivements.

Full list of fellowships on offer at Chicago Booth:

The Dennis W. and Jane B. Carlton Fellowship

The Distinguished Fellows Program

The Enid Fogel Diversity Fellowship

Forte Foundation Fellowship

The David W. Fox Fellowship

The Nelson Germanos Fellowship

The Harper Fellowship

The Herman Family Fellowship

The India Trust Fellowship

The James M. Kilts Marketing Fellowship

The O’Brien Fellowship

Akhtarali H. Tobaccowala Fellowship

The Wallman Fellowship

Yellow Ribbon Program

The Zonis Fellowship


Corporate Fellowships at Chicago Booth:

Robert W. Baird Fellowship

Cranfield Private Equity Fellowship


Kellogg MBA financial aid: 

At the Kellogg School of Management, financial aid information is compiled into a handbook, which is available to download here as a PDF file. This includes information on scholarships, loans, tuition fees and how to access and apply for all of the above.

Information on all the scholarships and fellowships available at, and endorsed by, Kellogg are below (click each link for more details):

Fastweb Scholarship Search

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Site

The Rootbert Fund, Inc.

Paul and Daisy Soros fellowships for new Americans

Gateway to 10 Free Scholarship Searches

American Psychological Association (APA) Scholarships and Fellowships 


Finaid: The Smart Students Guide to Financial Aid

International Student Scholarships and Aid Help

College Board Scholarship Search

Federal Scholarships & Aid Gateways

Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford


Do I have to pay tax on my grant or fellowship?

The Tax Reform Act of 1986 states that grant assistance is treated as taxable income for any amount over the figures for tuition, required education fees, and course-related expenses (books, equipment, supplies, etc). For international students, the business school is required to withhold federal income tax on grants received in excess of these expenses.