Once you have decided to pursue an MBA degree, the question of how to pay for your education becomes an urgent issue to resolve. A Master of Business Administration will cost you. It is an investment that pays off in the long run but finding the money now can prove a tough nut to crack. Scholarships are everybody’s first choice when it comes to financing their graduate studies. The good news is that there are plenty of scholarships to choose from. The bad news, however, is that tens of thousands are applying for them. So how do you go about choosing the right scholarship and ultimately getting one?

Finding out as much as you can about all the available scholarships in your field of interest is crucial. And information is not hard to get. A Google search can prove to be surprisingly helpful. Just type “MBA scholarships”, and voila – but remember to switch to the news section to see the latest news about MBA scholarships. You can also visit the scholarship pages of MBA universities. It’s good to know which of the top business schools have the best grant policy. The best business schools to apply to in 2013 have already been identified by different top ranking organizations such as Financial Times, Forbes Magazine, the Economist and Businessweek and the reviews include information on the scholarship and loan offerings of the MBA universities.

Thus, for example, London Business School , which is ranked amongst the top 10 business schools in the world, offers over 30 scholarships and bursaries for MBA students. INSEAD business school also has a very generous scholarship fund – currently the university has about 50 scholarships for different target groups listed in their scholarship page. IE Business School, on the other hand, has started implementing the IE Fellows Programme wherein admitted students receive funding in exchange for their work on a fellowship project. They also have about 30 scholarships targeted different citizenship, backgrounds, and interests. Through individual, alumni, corporate and foundation donors, Chicago Booth School of Management is able to provide partial and full tuition fee awards for exceptional Full-time MBA students – local or international. They offer 3 kinds of scholarships – merit-based scholarships, Chicago Booth Fellowships and Corporate Fellowships. The school does not offer needs-based scholarships.

It is true that a large number of scholarships from a variety of universities are up for the taking, but one man’s food is another man’s poison, as Sir Winston Churchill once said. So getting all the information out there is only the first step to take. Sieving through that information and digging out the scholarships that best suit your needs is your end goal. Besides, it is advisable to apply for those grants which match your ‘qualifications’ (academic achievements, interests, experience). This will increase your chances since you’ll be competing with a smaller group of scholarship applicants.

There are basically three different kinds of scholarships – needs-based, merit-based and a combination of the two. Most of the good business schools have some kind of merit-based scholarships to attract the best students. For example, as part of their financial assistance programme, the Kellogg School of Management offers merit-based scholarships or merit/needs-based scholarships which range from a partial to a full tuition fee discount and cash grants. All students admitted to Wharton School are automatically considered for Wharton’s fellowship programmes. The fellowships are merit-based and the fellowship criteria may include high academic achievement, good leadership skills, and except ional professionalexperience.

NYU Stern too highlights the fact that 40% of the students admi tted to the full-time MBA programme are awarded merit-based scholarships, and all admitted students are considered for the six major merit-based scholarships and the three fellowship opportunities. Needs-based scholarships generally look for evidence of financial need and assess your current financial status. Most MBA universities offer needs-based scholarships to first-year students. However, there also those business schools that advocate an entirely needs-based scholarship policy.

The Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania is one such example. All students admitted to Wharton School are automatically considered for Wharton’s fellowship programmes. The fellowships are merit-based and the fellowship criteria may include high academic achievement, good leadership skills, and exceptional professional experience.

There are other specific types of scholarships targeted at people with different interests, gender, backgrounds, and nationality. Although the scholarship criteria for these types of grants would also include academic, leadership, and professional achievement, it requires a specific type of criterion in order to be eligible. Thus MBA graduate schools today have scholarships specifically targeted at women, students from developing countries, or applicants from a particular geographic region, entrepreneurs, students with disability or named donor-funded scholarships for a specific type of candidate.

Duke Fuqua School of Business, for instance, has scholarships dedicated to minority students. HEC Paris has grants for women and students from specific countries. ESADE Business School has over 20 scholarships listed on its website geared towards different groups or individuals regarding their citizenship, gender, field of study.

The top international business schools can be quite generous when it comes to giving money to prospective students. If you want to tap into that fund you must do your research right and choose wisely. And last but not least, you have to do your best with that scholarship essay (an unfailing requirement with most MBA universities). Scholarship essays give you a chance to “talk” to the scholarship providers and show them your best qualifications that can’t be measured by academic grades or professional experience. And originality counts: in 2011 someone won a full-time MBA scholarship to Tippie Business School by submitting the most creative ‘tweet’ essay.