Paying for an MBA is a big financial commitment but you don't have to face it all on your own. There are tons of scholarships and fellowships available to help business students cover the cost of an MBA program. The trick is locating the right ones – and winning them. Several MBA scholarship opportunities are highlighted in this guide, along with helpful advice from two MBA scholarship recipients. Find out what you can do to increase your chances of landing a grant, as well as how to avoid the things that can quickly take you out of the running.
Scholarships for MBA Students
Most MBA scholarships are school-specific, meaning they're only open to students who have been admitted to a school's MBA program. But there are also scholarships that aren't tied to a particular business school. Below is a sample of such opportunities. The list includes some awards specifically for MBA students as well as awards that are open to anyone pursuing a graduate degree. Keep in mind application requirements can change from year to year, so be sure to carefully review all details and deadlines before applying.
MBA Scholarships Open to All Students
Deadline: June 2
Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Awards based on GPA, extracurricular activities and an interest and dedication to the insurance industry. Students must be enrolled in an insurance or business-related field. Sponsored by the Association of Insurance Compliance Professionals.
Amount: $2,500 to $5,000
Deadline: June 16
Offered to sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students. Applicants must have at least a 3.0 GPA and demonstrate interest in a business administration/management career in the public transportation industry. Applicants must also be sponsored by a member organization of the American Public Transportation Association.
Deadline: December 15
Available to full- and part-time students pursuing a post-baccalaureate or professional studies degree. The scholarship can be used at accredited universities throughout the world. Applicant must be a Golden Key member.
Amount: $5,000 to $15,000
Deadline: January 26
The GFOA sponsors a number of scholarships for full- and part-time students interested in careers in state or local government finance. Applicant must be a citizen or permanent resident and can't be a past winner. Individual scholarships may have additional requirements.
Deadline: March 1 and November 1
Open to students with at least one year of college, a minimum 3.0 GPA and a demonstrated passion for internet marketing.
Deadline: December 15
Awards are based on a written essay on one of three given topics – what would be your motivation to start a small business, how does the U.S. economy benefit from surety bonds or an essay on auto dealership, freight brokerage, construction or mortgage brokerage. Applicant must be currently enrolled in a U.S.-based degree program.
Deadline: February 15
This is a Daughters of the American Revolution-sponsored award specifically for full-time MBA students. Renewable only with reapplication. Applicant must have a minimum 3.25 GPA.
Amount: $1,000, $2,500, $5,000 and $10,000
Deadline: January 29
Recipient must be currently enrolled in a full-time degree program and demonstrate a desire to pursue a career in fraud examination or a similar anti-fraud profession.
Deadline: December 1
This annual award is available to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in an accredited U.S. degree program. Applicant must have a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Amount: Up to $37,000 annually
Deadline: January 12
Available to students enrolled in a two-year master's degree program in a field related to the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service (including business administration). Requires two summer internships and employment in the Foreign Service upon graduation.
MBA Scholarships for Minorities
Amount: $500 to $2,500
Deadline: March 31, June 30, September 29, and December 29
Scholarships for students diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Awards are made quarterly and based on academic accomplishment and financial need.
Amount: $500 to $5,000
Deadline: April 26
Merit-based scholarships available to students of Hispanic Heritage with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Open to U.S. citizens, permanent legal residents, DACA and eligible non-citizens.
Amount: $1,000 to $7,000
Deadline: January 16
The Kosciuszko Foundation offers a variety of national, regional and local scholarships. Open to full-time graduate students, including business/business administration students, of Polish descent. Must have a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Deadline: February 28
Open to full-time students with a minimum 3.2 GPA. Applicant must be African American/Black, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino or Native American/Alaska Native and must major in a field that has an emphasis in advertising, marketing or public relations.
Deadline: March 31
Amount: $1,000 to $5,000 (depending on specific scholarship)
Deadline: Varies by specific scholarship
NABA offers national and regional scholarships to students of African-American or African descent. Graduate students must be full-time and currently enrolled in or accepted into an MBA program. Applicant must also be an active student member of NABA.
Amount: $1,000 to $50,000 (depending on specific scholarship)
Deadline: Varies by scholarship
Through its Collegiate Partnership Program, NBMBAA offers a variety of business/business administration scholarships for students at nine colleges. Applicant requirements vary by specific scholarship. Visit the site for more details.
Amount: Up to $90,000 over two years of study
Deadline: November 1
Philanthropists and Hungarian immigrants Paul and Daisy Soros offer fellowships to help immigrants and children or immigrants pursue a graduate degree. Available to students under 30 years of age who are legally in the U.S., and whose parents were both born outside the U.S. as non-citizens and not eligible for U.S. citizenship at the time of their births. Fellows can study any graduate-level degree program, including business administration.
Amount: Minimum of $10,000 per academic year or $20,000 total
Deadline: No general application or deadline. Contact participating school for more information.
Available to LGBTQ students enrolled at one of over 40 participating business schools across the U.S. Selected fellows also receive mentorship and leadership development through Reaching Out.
Amount: $5,000 annually, plus additional benefits
Deadline: April 9
Applicant must be a minority – as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor – applying to or accepted into a two-year full-time MBA program, and planning a career in finance.
MBA Scholarship for Women
Amount: $5,000 to $18,000
Deadline: January 10
Open to women of color pursuing a master's in business administration, as well women of color pursuing other programs in historically male-dominated fields. Awards restricted to applicants in their second year of study. Sponsored by the American Association of University Women.
Deadline: Currently closed but deadline is always in March (visit site at the beginning of 2018 for details)
Open to women of Chicana/Latina heritage enrolled in a college program located in one of 13 Northern California counties. Graduate students must have a 3.0 cumulative GPA and be currently enrolled in a graduate program. Applicants must commit to attending the CLF Leadership Institute and 10 hours of CLF volunteer work.
Amount: Varies; includes a package of additional benefits
Deadline: Varies. Contact school for more information.
Forte Fellows grants are awarded to women pursuing full-time MBA degrees at participating schools. Recipients are chosen by the schools. Awards are made to candidates who exhibit exemplary leadership and demonstrate a commitment to women and girls through personal mentorship and community involvement.
Amount: $1,000 (U.S. regional) and $7,000 (international)
Deadline: Varies. Contact local Zonta club for deadline information.
Open to women of any age pursuing a business or business-related program, and demonstrating outstanding potential in the field. Offered by the Zonta International Foundation.
Deadline: June 15
Scholarship awarded to students pursuing careers in the grocery industry. Open to students in good standing with a 2.0 or better GPA. Sponsored by the Women Grocers of America (WGA).
Amount: Up to $12,500
Deadline: December 15
Open to full-time students working toward a graduate degree in the U.S. or Canada with a full year of coursework remaining.
Deadline: December 15
Funds from this scholarship may be used for “any educational opportunity,” including paying for tuition, books and paying off student loans. Award is given to the winner of a random drawing of eligible applicants.
Amount: $250 to $2,000
Deadline: Applications must be submitted at least two months before start date of the education program.
Eligibility open to female survivors of intimate partner abuse who have been separated from their abuser for a minimum of one year and maximum of seven years. Demonstrated financial need is also required.
MBA Scholarships for Military/Veterans
Amount: $1,000 to $12,000
Deadline: May 1
American Veterans offers a variety of scholarships for active duty members, guard and reserve members, veterans, and their children and grandchildren. Applicant must show financial need.
Amount: Up to $5,000
Deadline: April 15
Now accepting applications for the 2018 year, FRA Education Foundation offers a variety of scholarship opportunities for Navy, Marine and Coast Guard service members and their families. FRA Association membership is not required for some scholarships.
Deadline: April 21
This merit-based scholarship is open to dependent children, grandchildren and spouses of blinded active duty service members or veterans. Sponsored by the Blinded Veterans Association.
Deadline: November 4
Open to those honorably discharged from active duty or currently serving in the National Guard or Reserve pursuing a degree in finance, business administration or related field. Sponsored by PNC Bank and the Student Veterans of America.
Amount: Up to $5,000
Deadline: April 30 (fall semester), November 15 (spring semester)
Applicant must be retired, honorably discharged, active duty or member of the National Guard or Reserve with military rank of E-5 or below. Sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Amount: Varies ($10,000 average per academic year)
Deadline: March 1
Applicant must be active duty military, veteran, or spouse pursuing a degree as a full-time student at a public or private U.S.-based school.
Amount: $1,500 to $3,000
Deadline: February 28
WMA offers a variety of scholarships to current or veteran members of the USMC or Reserve, or their descendants, siblings or descendants of siblings. Students who have participated in a Marine Corps JROTC program are also eligible. Grants can be used at any accredited college.
Deadline: April 30
Several scholarships available to those who have served in the 506th Infantry and their families (including parents, grandparents, spouses and siblings). Awards based on academic excellence, financial need and quality of the academic institution.
How to Improve Your Chances of Earning an MBA Scholarship
Scholarships are competitive, but every applicant has a lot to offer. How, then, does one stand out from the rest? The following sections offer tips and advice from MBA scholarship recipients Arkin Buyukozturk and Marissa Almeida to help you improve your chances of winning a grant:
- 1. Work towards a 5-year plan
When it comes to MBA scholarships, planning your professional future is key. A typical requirement is proven interest in pursuing a business-related career. Whether your plans are to become an entrepreneur or to become a C-level executive at an existing company, make sure everything you do â from the courses you take to the organizations you join to the volunteer work you do â is aligned with your business career goal.
- 2. Think big and small
Scholarship awards come in all shapes and sizes, from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars and from big name companies to small local organizations. Big awards are great, and if you meet all requirements, you certainly should apply for them. But keep in mind the bigger the award, the more competitive it is. Don't rule out smaller scholarships, and remember, small amounts can add up.
- 3. Know your audience
Have you noticed that a lot of scholarships are created in memory of someone, or have a distinct stated purpose? Pay close attention to such information and find a way to incorporate it into your application, particularly if an essay or interview is required. Scholarship providers like to reward applicants who best fit their program's intent or mission. Florida State University MBA student Arkin Buyukozturk did just that and was awarded his school's prestigious Rollo William Gilbert Knight Scholarship. âI had to write a two-page essay and explain how my values matched up with what they were looking for,â he said.
- 4. Check out past winners
Most scholarship websites list past award recipients. Read what's written about them and see what they all have in common. More likely than not, that's what the award committee will be looking for in the next recipient. You might also want to consider contacting past winners for advice.
- 5. Get a hobby
If you're a big hobbyist, find a club that offers a scholarship to its members. You'll be stunned how many hobby groups offer scholarships to their fellow enthusiasts. You'll probably be looking at a relatively small pool of applicants, too.
- 6. Talk to current and past employers
Many companies provide funding to employees who want to pursue an industry-related advanced degree and are interested in remaining with the company once the degree is earned. And an MBA is almost always industry-related. These funds often come in the form of a scholarship, and some of these scholarships are open to former employees as well. It never hurts to ask.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
There are plenty of obvious mistakes an applicant can make to sink their chances of winning a scholarship, like missing a deadline or failing to fill out every part of the application. But there are other things that can take you out of the running. Below are a few common but less obvious mistakes you should try to avoid:
- 1. Only searching for scholarships online
It's easy to depend on the internet when searching for scholarships but that can be a big mistake. There are plenty of scholarship opportunities that are hard, if not impossible, to locate online. Visit your school's financial aid office and talk to community members and organizations. They may have the inside scoop on smaller, locally-sponsored scholarship opportunities. Other places to try include your local library, job fairs, and business events or conventions. Arkin Buyukozturn notes, âA lot of times scholarships and other opportunities are announced at these events.â
- 2. Not taking your essay seriously
You can assume the majority of applicants meet all the award requirements and probably have similarly impressive lists of accomplishment. So, the best chance you have of demonstrating your uniqueness is in the application essay. The mistake most people make is to use the same essay, with a few modifications, for every application. This may be the faster option but if you don't tailor your essay to every application, the committee won't see why you're the right fit for the scholarship. It will require more work, but be sure to write a new and thoughtful essay for each application, taking into close account the specific essay requirements and scholarship's stated purpose.
- 3. Not taking the interview seriously
If your scholarship requires an interview, prepare for it like you would an interview for your dream job. Consider the questions you'll likely be asked and prepare your answers ahead of time. And dress appropriately. That goes for online interviews as well.
- 4. Being afraid to toot your own horn
Applying for an MBA scholarship is not the time to be shy. Scholarship committees like applicants with a lot of academic and extracurricular accomplishments, but they won't know about them if you don't tell them. You don't want to be arrogant, but you do want to highlight major accomplishments, awards and memberships that make you qualified for the scholarship. The business world is all about confidence and the ability to make a sale â what better way to show you're ready for this industry than by selling your strengths to land a scholarship.
- 5. Not maintaining a good GPA
Grade point average is almost always a primary consideration for MBA scholarship committees. If your GPA starts to drop, meet with professors and advisors to see what you can do to get back on track immediately.
- 6. Not cleaning up your social media
Everyone has access to everything you put online, and that includes scholarship programs. Make sure your clean up all your social media accounts, deleting and avoiding anything that may be inappropriate or otherwise damaging to your scholarly and professional image before sending in your applications.
Additional Expert Tips
- 1. Always be looking
Even as he approaches the end of his MBA studies, Arkin Buyukozturk says, âI'm always looking for scholarships because I've put in a lot of hard work and time to really have a positive impact, so I'm always looking for new ways to fund my education.â New scholarships can pop up anytime and every bit of financial aid can help, even if you're about to enter your last semester.
- 2. Think about scholarships as soon as you start thinking about your MBA
It's important to not leave the issue of funding your MBA until after you've chosen your program. Marissa Almeida, who received a full-tuition scholarship through her MBA program at the University of Florida, made funding discussions a top priority when speaking with recruiters at the colleges she was considering. âHaving open conversations with recruiters [about funding] was important,â she said. âIf they told me there was no financial aid available, I would tell them that their program wasn't the right one for me.â
- 3. Be genuine in your pursuits and the awards will follow
While you should apply to as many scholarships as possible, it's also important to really focus on awards that are aligned with your own personal values and goals. This should hopefully make the process of applying less stressful and lead to better, more meaningful opportunities. âI don't think I've ever done something with the specific intention of receiving some kind of financial support or award,â says Arkin Buyukozturk. âI get involved with things because I'm passionate about them and they're a good match for my skills and abilities, and have the most potential for personal growth and professional development.â