How to Afford Business School

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Posted by TheMBATour on 22 November 2011 / 5 Comments

By: Shrim Bathey, Associate Director of MBA Recruitment & Admission,

Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business at Mills College

For many of you, the cost of attendance plays a major role in deciding if now is the right time to attend business school. Although the sticker price may seem high, you may find that if you follow these guidelines, affording b-school may be much easier than you thought!

Talk to the right people

Start by talking with the business school admissions representatives about scholarship availability, deadlines, and qualifications. Read what you are sent by both admissions and financial aid, and read the website thoroughly as it relates to scholarships and financial aid opportunities both for your first year and second year. Also ask about assistantships, or paid work within the school that you might be eligible for.

In conjunction, talk to the institutional financial aid offices to get a realistic picture of the costs of attendance. The financial aid officers are there to help you learn what your options are and to offer valuable advice given your particular financial situation.

Talk with your employer to see if they offer a sponsorship, or any tuition assistance for you while you’re attending school. This is most common for part-time study, however there are some instances where employers will help you pay for school so long as you return to work for them for a certain number of years afterward.

Do the research

There are many organizations that offer scholarships to prospective and current MBA students (domestic and international). We call these ‘outside scholarships’ because they are available to you no matter which school you choose to attend. Browse the internet, or search the B-school’s website to see if they recommend any particular scholarships. Speak with admissions and financial aid offices about this, and also talk with employers, colleagues, and family members to ask if they know of opportunities you can apply for.

Find out about your eligibility for low-interest federal loans (limited to US citizens and permanent residents). Many students are offered loans to cover the entirety of their program, including living expenses. Consider that once you’ve completed your MBA, the chances of you securing a higher paying salary to pay off your loans is strong.

Also consider private loans and ask lenders about eligibility and the application process and timeline.

Students who are interested in working in the nonprofit arena for at least 10 years after business school may be eligible for loan forgiveness. Do some research based on your career interests.

Remember that most full-time MBA students take advantage of internships during their time in the program. Start researching the types of internships you’d want, and see if they are mostly paid or unpaid. Talk with employers at organizations you may want to work for to see if they would offer you a paid internship.

Start saving!

Get your current finances in order. Look at your current budget and cost of living in the city/town of the schools you’re considering. Consider tuition as well as the cost of books, living expenses, networking events, health care, etc. Start looking at ways to cut costs now so that you can save and afford business school later.

Some helpful tips for how to save: brown bag your lunch, brew your coffee at home, look into refinancing your mortgage or car loan, switch to a gym with a lower monthly cost, sell your car (now or when you start school) and use public transportation…

Aside from saving money, also consider ways that you can you generate some income.

Getting admitted and making the choice

Many schools offer merit based scholarships to applicants. These scholarships are based on the strength of your entire application. Admission committees will consider every piece of the application, and will not base your decision and scholarship solely on a good GMAT score or GPA. If you want to be considered for top scholarships, make sure each piece you submit is as strong as it can be.

If you are admitted, you will then receive a financial aid award packet from each school. Find out what is required payment and what can be waived. For example, some schools include cost of living on campus and a health plan, but if you’re going to live on your own and you have other health insurance, those fees can often be waived.

Ultimately, while you are looking at the price-tag, don’t forget the overall value of the MBA degree and what each specific institution offers. No business school is the same, so take into account the benefits of each school regardless of the final ticket price.

Be realistic about the fact that business school isn’t free, but the payoff of receiving your MBA will feel priceless!


The Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business educates ethical and socially responsible organizational leaders. Graduates have the strategic perspective, business knowledge, and management skills to deliver strong financial performance while making a positive impact on society and the environment. For more information visit: http://www.mills.edu/mba/.

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