MBA scholarships come in handy when you need help funding your graduate business studies. Although competition for financial aid is fierce, applicants can secure a scholarship if they put in hard work.  

Below, Access MBA outlines the two major categories of MBA scholarships and shares some tips for obtaining funding for your studies:

Merit-based scholarships

This type of MBA financial aid is offered as part of the MBA application. Merit scholarships might be awarded based on academic achievement or on a combination of academic ability and a special talent/achievement in a particular field. In some cases, you are automatically in the running for these scholarships simply by applying to a programme. However, some schools require a separate application.

The funds can be provided by the school or from donors working with the school. This type of award does not take the applicant’s specific demographic or professional background into account.

Boston College’s Carroll School of Management (USA), for instance, considers all domestic and international applicants to its full-time MBA programme for merit-based scholarships. About 90% of entering full-time MBA students in 2021 received Dean’s scholarships which cover part of tuition fees and are awarded to exceptionally strong candidates.

Moving over to Europe, INSEAD (France) offers 11 merit-based scholarships for which students need to write scholarship essays. The funds are provided by donors such as Syngenta, L’Oreal, and Hinrich Foundation. Candidates are judged on the quality of their scholarship essays and the degree to which they meet the eligibility criteria for the particular award.

Diversity scholarships

Many scholarships are awarded to particular groups of people and require a separate application. Here are some of the awards available to candidates..

  • London Business School (UK) offers the 30% Club Scholarship, which covers up to 50% of tuition fees and is awarded to women who have the potential to make an impact in business and society.
  • The AHEAD Scholarship (acronym for A Higher Education Advancing Diversity) is awarded to female MBA and Masters in Finance students from developing countries. The award is worth USD 35,000.
  • Access MBA, which facilitates meetings between MBA aspirants and business schools around the world, gives applicants who have participated in at least three meetings the opportunity to win a scholarship of EUR/USD 1,000 or a free campus visit.  

Read: Access MBA Scholarship Winner Already Accepted to B-school

How to win a merit scholarship

MBA scholarships are always competitive, but definitely not impossible to obtain. You can definitely increase your chances of getting one by having the right approach.

Research and plan

Note that the scholarship application process is a time-consuming endeavour that requires an appropriate and timely strategy. Each scholarship has its own criteria and your job is to go through them and evaluate your eligibility. This takes time. “Scholarship application requires in-depth research and good planning. All the effort is well worth it,” says Iliana Bobova, head of admission consulting at Advent Group. 

A strong GMAT/GRE score will help

A stellar GMAT score alone cannot secure you a spot in an MBA programme. Admissions officers take a holistic approach, which means that they consider everything – your GMAT score, essay, academic record, interviews and overall fit to the programme. However, when it comes to scholarships, GMAT or GRE scores can have an outsize impact because results are used to rank applicants.  

Apply early

Many scholarships, and especially the merit-based ones awarded at business schools, are reserved for candidates who apply early. In addition, it can be argued that submitting a first- or second-round application can boost your chances of admission because it serves as a testament of your dedication and resolve.

Winning a scholarship does not depend on luck, coincidence, or other factors beyond your control. This is not a lottery. There is a lot you can do to increase your chances of getting a scholarship. So, do it!