What MBA programs offer scholarship opportunities?

BY Jason ArmestoSeptember 10, 2021, 2:00 AM
Martin Laksman

While MBAs can be a great way to invest in yourself, that investment doesn’t come cheap. When you’re comparing the price tags of different programs, don’t forget to consider the possibility of a scholarship. 

First, the bad news: Full-ride scholarships to top-ranked institutions are rare. Now for the good news: By casting a wide net, applicants can increase their odds of getting financial help, says Judith Hodara, cofounder and director at Fortuna Admissions. “Recognize that maybe you’ll end up at your fourth or fifth choice, but maybe your fifth choice is really coming up with a financial package that is going to make it feasible for you.”

Although prestigious programs may have large endowments to distribute to students, that doesn’t mean your likelihood of getting a scholarship offer is higher. “They may say, ‘We can give you $10,000 but we can’t really go much higher than that, and if you don’t take it we’ve got other people who are going to,’” Hodara says. Meanwhile, a less prestigious program could be willing to fight to get a candidate it really wants. Or as Hodara puts it: “If they sniff a big shark, they’re going to try to land that shark.”

Having options can help you to negotiate on financial assistance. “If you’re a really strong candidate you may say, ‘I’m going to go to a lesser-known name because they’re offering me better financial support,’” Hodara says. 

By doing your research, you can narrow down the list of schools that can help your career aspirations, and by applying to a variety of programs, you can increase your odds of getting scholarship offers. While many business schools offer scholarship money, they don’t publicly disclose the average amount awarded. That said, below are 10 of Fortune’s top-ranked MBA programs that provide details of their scholarship opportunities. 

Harvard University 

Fortune’s top-ranked MBA program offers not only a great education but also substantial scholarship opportunities. Harvard Business School’s need-based scholarships are awarded to roughly half of the class and average $80,000 in total for the two-year program. 

The school determines if a student qualifies for these scholarships by examining three things: income from the last three years, assets, and socioeconomic background. Students who receive loans or sponsorship from their employer are not typically eligible for these scholarships. 

University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)

Every student admitted to Wharton is automatically considered for a Wharton Fellowship. Candidates are granted fellowships based on their unique personal background, academic excellence, or other achievements. Some students may be eligible for some fellowships and not for others, but all fellowships are two-year awards divided equally over four semesters. 

University of Chicago (Booth)

The majority of Booth MBA students fund their education through student loans, but every admitted candidate is considered for a merit-based scholarship. Decisions are made solely according to the information provided in a student’s application to the program. According to Booth’s website, “Recipients are chosen based on academic merit, prospective concentration, the quality of the interview, competitiveness, career goals, and life experiences.”

Northwestern University (Kellogg)

The Kellogg School offers 24 different merit-based scholarships that all admitted students are automatically considered for, assuming they are eligible, according to its website. Financial need-based scholarships are also available, but to be considered, students must complete the optional financial need-based scholarship application during the admissions process. 

Columbia University

The majority of scholarships offered by Columbia are need-based, and students can apply after being admitted. Award amounts typically range from $7,500 to $30,000, and to determine eligibility, the school considers all of a student’s potential financial resources, including savings, investments, income, and retirement accounts. About half of those who apply receive a needs-based scholarship, with the average award being $20,000. 

New York University (Stern)

About 20% to 25% of full-time two-year MBA students at Stern receive a merit-based scholarship, the majority of which are half or full-tuition rewards. All prospective students are considered for scholarships upon applying, and decisions are made at the time of admission. 

Dartmouth College (Tuck)

The Tuck School offers MBA students scholarship opportunities ranging anywhere from $10,000 to a full ride, with the average award being $29,290. There is not a separate application process, and scholarships are granted to “outstanding students who, absent funding, might not attend the Tuck School.” Each student awarded a scholarship is required to write a letter of appreciation to the donor who made the scholarship possible. 

Cornell University (Johnson)

With over $14 million in scholarship money available each year, the Johnson College distributes these awards to more than 35% of students. The admissions scholarship committee determines which students will receive merit scholarships by using the same criteria it uses to determine which applicants will be admitted to the program.

University of Virginia (Darden)

In addition to merit scholarships, which every Darden applicant is automatically considered for, the school also offers competitive scholarships and need-based scholarships, both of which require a supplemental application process. Competitive scholarships are given to students who demonstrate outstanding achievement, and while less than 10% of the student body is awarded one, these scholarships can sometimes cover the full cost of attendance. Need-based scholarships, on the other hand, offer up to $20,000. 

University of North Carolina– Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler)

“Exceptional applicants” at Kenan-Flagler are awarded with fellowships. Every MBA applicant is automatically considered, with the school offering anywhere from partial scholarships to as much as full scholarships with an additional stipend. Roughly 50% of students are awarded a fellowship.

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best executive, full-time, and online MBA programs.