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4 Expert Tips on Paying for Business School

MBAs can be an expensive endeavor; luckily, there are many options to help you finance this graduate degree. Here is our expert coach's top advice on paying for business school.

By Mark B.

February 3, 2023

Hi, I’m Mark B., an MBA and Management Consulting Coach on Leland. I was able to fund the majority of my business school experience through a combination of scholarships and grants and would love to help you do the same thing. If you’d like to work with me on any part of the MBA application process or scholarship search, book an intro call on my profile.

As higher education in the United States continues to be disrupted, the importance of conducting a cost-benefit analysis on graduate degrees should not be understated. The MBA is no exception. Don’t get me wrong, I will be the first to argue the benefits of the MBA. The experience provided me with lifelong friends, new perspectives, an exceptional education, and a graduating salary of more than double what I was making before the program. With that being said, I have seen individuals leave business school with massive amounts of debt, which frankly may cause them to lose out on future opportunities, such as buying a home or starting their own business.

Top Tips for Financing Your MBA

To minimize or potentially eliminate debt incurred at business school, I put together a short list of potential resources to help pay for school. Using many of the following resources, the majority of my own graduate expenses were covered without racking up debt. While employer sponsorship should absolutely be investigated, I have chosen to discuss some perhaps less obvious considerations.

1. Negotiate scholarships

Scholarships at business school are somewhat negotiable. All you need to do is ask and be prepared for some back-and-forth. If you have already been offered a partial scholarship, you can usually increase the initial offer by a meaningful amount. I increased my initial admissions scholarship by $10k just by sending an email explaining that while grateful for the initial award, an increase to X would be incredibly impactful to me and my family.

Having multiple offers from different schools gives you leverage in negotiations so make sure to apply to multiple schools even if only for scholarship negotiation purposes. Remember, scholarships can be thought of as after-tax income. In other words, a $10k increase in scholarship is roughly a $13k increase in salary depending on your tax situation.

2. Accumulate additional scholarships after admission

Many scholarships are awarded to students during the course of the two-year program. I was awarded an additional meaningful scholarship for being in the Student Investment Fund program, where I managed a portion of the school’s endowment. Be sure to ask which programs at your school sponsor students in specific industries or fields. These scholarships are often merit-based, so make sure to do well academically your first semester.

3. Grant money

Grants, just like scholarships, do not need to be repaid. They also are hypothetically post-tax income! Grants can be awarded for a variety of reasons. A few grants that I saw at USC included Travel Grants, Professional Development Grants, Emergency Grants, and Childcare Grants, among others.

These grants are often funded by the fees you pay in addition to tuition, so it’s in your best interest to see what you qualify for in order to get some of that money back! While they typically range from just a couple hundred to a few thousand, if you can accumulate a couple they can really add up.

4. Diversity, equity, and inclusion

We live in a fantastic era that champions a diverse range of thought and expression, both in corporate America and in higher education. If you identify as a woman and are considering going back to business school, the Forté Foundation should absolutely be on your radar. It offers significant financial sponsorship to help pay for tuition.

If you are from a historically underrepresented segment of the population, The Consortium foundation can do the same. Minorities and people of color have several avenues to help pay for school outside of their universities.

At the end of the day, if you are pursuing your MBA degree, only you can decide the value of this pursuit. Broadly speaking, if you can increase the amount of financial aid you receive and thus lower the cost basis, the return on your investment will increase.

Final Note

If you’d prefer personalized guidance for any part of the MBA application and scholarship process, I’d be more than happy to work with you! Schedule a free intro call on my profile to get started.

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