Dealing with MBA tuition costs and all the additional expenses that come with attending business school is an essential task on the action plan of every aspiring manager. If you are worrying that an MBA programme exceeds your budget, do not give up before exhausting all possible alternatives to get over any financial roadblock.

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Save up

One of the first steps to take after deciding to do an MBA is to create a thorough plan containing the estimated expenses of enrolling in business school with the funds you have available. Take into account everything that could be a factor in increasing your expenses. Did you choose a local business school or one abroad? What is the standard of living in that country? If you have opted for a part-time MBA, will you keep your job during your studies? Applicants should consider all the long-term expenses of attending business school, living abroad, and travelling for both personal and professional commitments.

Whether you are starting your MBA in a few months or longer, it is important to have access to your savings. Make sure you set aside a percentage of your earnings specifically towards funding your MBA. According to Caroline Diarte Edwards, Director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Director of MBA Admissions at INSEAD (France), it is never too early to start saving up. Even if you are still getting ready to apply for the programmes on your shortlist, make sure you have a realistic budget plan for the entirety of your studies. “You also want to be in a position to make the most of the opportunities you have during business school, such as study trips and career treks as well as travel to interviews,” adds Ms Diarte Edwards for Poets&Quants.

Apply for scholarships

Next, ambitious applicants should research available scholarship opportunities which usually take care of tuition fees and are offered by schools and by external sources. It is important not to underestimate the scholarship application process and come up with an appropriate and timely strategy. For one thing, it is best to apply for the scholarships which make the most sense in terms of your profile and background rather than sending as many applications as possible. At the same time, do not limit your chances – if there is a funding opportunity that can fit in your schedule, go for it! “MBA scholarships funding can help you afford business schools that initially looked way beyond your reach financially, if you factored in just your savings and loans options,” highlights Iliana Bobova, head of admissions consulting at Advent Group’s PrepAdviser. “Scholarship application requires in-depth research, good planning, often high GMAT scores and early application, but all the effort is well worth it.

Read: Scholarships for MBA Students

Consider employment sponsorship

Corporate sponsorship is a viable funding option for professionals working in financially stable organisations. Most commonly provided to Executive MBA candidates, the sponsorship can cover business school expenses partially or fully, as long as the employer is convinced that the investment in your development as a manager and business leader will make a difference to the company. Usually, you will need to sign a contract with your employer stating that you will go on working in that organisation for a specified period after obtaining your diploma.

In other words, whether this is the right funding option for you depends on your career goals and plans for the future. If you are looking for a major shift in your professional role or industry, securing corporate sponsorship will obviously not work. However, if you feel inspired in your current workplace and believe you can grow within its internal structure, you have every reason to explore this funding possibility together with your manager.

Ask yourself if this is the right time

This suggestion may seem redundant at first but it is worth giving it some thought before diving into an MBA. If your salary and savings are not sufficient to cover at least a part of your studies, then perhaps it is worth considering business school enrolment in two or three years. Could it be that you are at the start of your career and still need to accumulate not only more experience but also more savings to be eligible for an MBA? Or perhaps you are at the right age and your career and savings plan will enable you to acquire exactly the amount of funds you need in several years’ time?

Of course, this is an important decision and professionals need to be sure that they are not missing out if the timing is right. As admissions consultant Stacy Blackman suggests for U.S. News & World Report, “[…] you will need to determine whether the costs associated with delaying a full-time MBA programme create a larger opportunity cost, not only in foregone salary but also in lost career momentum, especially for those coming from fast-moving high-tech industries.

Everyone has their reasons but the bottom line is that any doubts you have about your eligibility for the degree may influence the success of your application. Choose to start your MBA when you are actually ready for it.

Read: Explore MBA Opportunities for Personal and Career Growth

Seek online or local MBA options

Nowadays, business professionals are lucky to be able to choose from an incredible range of educational formats. Even better, some of these formats can be very affordable compared to their counterparts while still offering excellent value for money. The Global MBA programme at IE Business School (Spain), for instance, is priced at EUR 51,200 for the entirety of its 18-month duration. Earlier in March 2019, this programme strengthened its reputation after getting ranked as #2 in the world by the Financial Times online education ranking. In contrast, the full-time programme taught in Madrid at the same institution requires an investment of EUR 72,200. While the difference in tuition is not always startling, professionals can rely on an increasing variety of online MBA opportunities. “More people are doing online programmes because they don’t want to stop their careers and quit their jobs,” Ramesh Venkataraman from Kelley School of Business at Indiana University (US), told Forbes. “They are doing perfectly fine and like their companies. So the quality of students in these programmes is quite high.

Read: 6 B-schools Launch a Digital Learning Platform

If you are not a digital native and would like to benefit from face-to-face interaction, and still trim your MBA expenses, consider a local business school. It can be as culturally diverse and globally immersive as a school abroad. Thus, you will save up on additional lodging and travel expenses, which can be a considerable part of the overall MBA bill. Also, living expenses and travel are usually not covered by scholarships and are usually covered by your own income or savings.

The MBA can be a significant financial investment but it is also one of the most exciting challenges that any business professional could undertake. Consider your funding options carefully and you will gain more from this opportunity than you have to give.