The MBA Scholarship Landscape in 2020

Getting an MBA from one of the world’s top business schools comes with a considerable price tag. However, this steep investment also comes with many benefits. GMAC’s most recent alumni survey once again found that the majority of graduates considered their MBA experience professionally, personally, and financially rewarding. 

Business school aspirants should not become deterred by the expense of an MBA degree. For one, alumni surveyed by GMAC reported recouping their investment within four years of graduating, on average. Yet another positive indicator: here at SBC, we have seen a considerable increase in financial incentives to entice admitted applicants of late. 

Across the board, you’ll find that business schools want to work with students to find a way to pay for their degree. In fact, they have always used scholarship offers to attract the best and the brightest to their programs. Today, we’re sharing our observations about current MBA scholarship trends at M7 business schools.

Show Me the Money

For the past decade, MBA scholarships have become increasingly common, partly because of the rise in funding of advocacy groups such as the Consortium and Forte Foundation. These organizations have been able to boost their financial support thanks to partnerships with several elite business schools.

Here at Stacy Blackman Consulting, we’ve noticed an annual increase of about 10 percent in scholarship awards among our clients. However, it’s worth noting that SBC has seen full scholarship awards for many years—even before MBA demand trends changed.

Last season, our client pool received $4.8 million in scholarships. Indeed, 20-25% of SBC clients receive scholarship packages ranging from $10,000 to full-ride offers valued at $200,000. Also, we have worked with many clients who received merit scholarships from two or more schools. 

Financial incentives vary by schools, and some MBA programs have a reputation for generosity.

For example, Kellogg School of Management often offers large scholarships because it competes with nearby Chicago Booth School of Business. In one such instance, an SBC client received $120,000 from Chicago Booth and a full ride from Kellogg.

We have found that NYU Stern School of Business, Kellogg, and UCLA Anderson School of Management have the highest per recipient award value. The bar graph below shows the average award amount per program for our client pool of scholarship recipients.


Money Isn’t Everything

As Stacy Blackman shared with the business news site Poets & Quants, money—even a lot of it— doesn’t always seal the deal. We recently worked with a female applicant admitted to seven of the world’s top MBA programs. She scored 740 on the GMAT and had a 3.6 GPA, with an undergrad degree in engineering from a liberal arts school on the east coast.

She is white, from the U.S., and working in urban planning—a non-traditional industry for an MBA applicant. Here is the scholarship offer breakdown from each of the schools: 

  • NYU Stern—full-ride scholarship
  • Chicago Booth—$110,000
  • Dartmouth Tuck—$100,000
  • Kellogg School—$90,000
  • Columbia Business School—$90,000
  • Duke Fuqua—$80,000

Her MBA application highlighted her leadership style within a male-dominated workplace. It also showcased her grasp of the strategic trends in the urban planning industry. She has had a lifelong passion for urban planning and wrote about how, in many areas of her life, she has opted for the ‘path less traveled.’ As you can guess, her application made her one of the season’s most desirable candidates.

But despite the enticement of a combined $620,000 in scholarship awards, she turned down all those programs. The reason? She also received an offer of admission from Harvard Business School—her number-one choice. Even though HBS offered only a need-based award of $20,000, she chose Harvard because of its strong network, academic experience, and globally recognized brand.

Can I Ask for More Money? 

Applicants sometimes receive vastly different scholarship offers from two or more schools, or a financial award from one school and nothing from another. They often ask whether it is possible to negotiate for more money. This is a delicate situation and applicants should proceed with caution. 

You could contact the admissions committee to explain your situation. Reiterate your interest in their program and ask whether a higher scholarship is possible because you are now weighing their offer against another admit with a financial incentive on the table. Do not name the competing school, share your offer letter, or make demands. 

In our experience, clients who try this tactic usually do not have much luck negotiating for significantly more money. Or a scholarship match. One SBC consultant, a former admissions officer at Chicago Booth, says, “My experience at Booth is that if you weren’t offered a scholarship at the time of admission, it was very rarely given after the fact.” Prepare yourself for a potential disappointment. However, if handled professionally, you have nothing to lose. 

The MBA is an excellent investment, and Stacy Blackman Consulting has a proven track record of admissions to the world’s top business schools. Year after year, our clients’ acceptance letters and scholarship awards speak for themselves. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you take the first step toward reaching your highest professional goals. 

About the author: Stacy Blackman is the founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting (SBC). Since 2001, SBC clients have been admitted to every top business school worldwide, often with merit scholarships. SBC is the only MBA admissions firm with a complete panel of former Admissions Officers from every top MBA program in-house. The SBC team has MBA expertise at every top US and EU school, has graduated from the best MBA programs and understands career paths in every industry, traditional and non- traditional. Visit SBC’s website to request a free consultation:

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