It’s easy to understand why so many MBA students care so much about scholarships. First, despite some exceptions, top-quality graduate business education in the United States has become an extraordinarily expensive proposition. And second, the increasing role that debt plays in financing higher education—including MBA programs—poses implications that concern many.
In 2014, New York University’s Stern School of Business became the first full-time MBA program to crash through the $200,000 total cost barrier. Never before had any university advised incoming students to budget more than $200,000 to pay for a master’s degree in business administration.
Today, these skyrocketing cost estimates have become common at the best private schools and even some public universities, but they still don’t completely account for all the costs many fail to recognize. Those involve opportunity costs—i.e., the economists’ concept of the costs of foregoing one thing in favor of something else. In that respect, $400,000 might seem more like the real cost of an elite MBA degree. Why? That’s because the opportunity cost from sacrificing a well-paying job for two years drives total costs well above tuition, fees, and living expenses at Harvard and similar universities; in general, students at those schools leave jobs already paying more than $85,000 a year.
Nevertheless, financing higher education with loans involves challenges. Student loan balances jumped nearly 150 percent in the decade preceding 2017 to reach $1.4 trillion, according to a report from Experian. The average outstanding balance is now $47,671 and total student loan debt hit $1.67 trillion in 2020—an all-time high.
Given that higher education has now become the second-largest expense for an individual in their lifetime, only topped by buying a home, it’s no wonder why so many students now look to scholarships and fellowships for help. Fortunately, research compiled for our profiles below revealed many scholarships that can help defray the cost of earning an MBA.
FEATURED MBA PROGRAMS
University of North Carolina MBA@UNC Online MBA View Full Profile
Ohio University Online MBA View Full Profile
Villanova University Online Master of Business Administration View Full Profile
Purdue University Global Online MBA View Full Profile
Maryville University Master of Business Administration View Full Profile
Northeastern University Online Masters of Business Administration View Full Profile
Business School Scholarships: Common Application Requirements
Derived from the entries below, here are the common application requirements for MBA scholarships:
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
Competitive GPA from undergraduate program(s), at least a 3.0
Either an in-person or video interview
A personal statement of objectives
Letters of recommendation
GMAT or GRE score reports (may be optional)
Proof of citizenship or permanent residency in the United States
Most (although not all) donors require prior admission at a specific partner business school; this is why locating qualifying MBA scholarships is a challenging process. In our guide below, we’ve included examples of such donors that include the Arizona State University W.P. Carey Forward Focus MBA Scholarship, the University of Florida Warrington College of Business, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business Scholarships, and the University of Houston. Please note that we’ve tried our best to focus on scholarships that don’t restrict their recipients’ business school selections.
In other cases, donors require prior admission to at least one of a network of partner business schools. This requirement seems to be especially common among certain prestigious, lucrative scholarships offered to underrepresented groups such as women and people of color. In our profiles below, foundations with business school network admission requirements include The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, the Committee of 200 Scholars Program, the Forté Fellows Program, the Reaching Out LGBTQ MBA Fellowship, and the National Black MBA Association Graduate Scholarship Program.
As a final note, several donors require evidence of future career plans that align with their foundation’s mission. For example, this evidence might include transcripts indicating preparatory coursework consistent with licensure requirements, such as the CPA examination. In our guide below, we’ve included examples from industries that include public accounting, public finance, and commercial real estate.