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What Is an MBA Fellowship?

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Cost is one of the biggest factors impacting whether prospective applicants pursue a graduate business degree. According to research from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 83 percent of mba.com registrants are concerned by cost.

While business schools offer an array of scholarships to applicants, one of the more lucrative ways of securing funding for your MBA is through an MBA fellowship. These fellowships bring not only necessary funds, but also access to mentorship, networking, and other opportunities.

If you’ve decided to pursue an MBA, it’s worth understanding what an MBA fellowship is and how you can boost your chances of securing one.

What makes an MBA fellowship different from other scholarships?

MBA fellowships are usually offered through a corporate partner, donor, or foundation, meaning they come with additional opportunities aside from covering tuition fees and stipends towards your business degree.

Due to their lucrativeness, MBA fellowships are offered on the basis of specific criteria that applicants have to fulfil. For example, awards may be based on nationality, academic excellence, gender, personal background, and more.

Fellowships generally offer a wider array of funds than a typical merit-based scholarship. For example, the Global Fellowship at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University offers students US$30,000 to cover tuition and fees for their full-time two-year program.

If the fellowship is provided by a corporate partner, there may be additional caveats. Goldman Sachs’ MBA fellowship is offered to first-year MBA students who have successfully secured a place as a Summer Associate at the company.

If you’re applying for a fellowship offered by a corporate partner or foundation, you’ll also get the chance to network with other business school alumni at those companies, which may help you secure a graduate job.

How do I know if an MBA fellowship is for me?

If you’re finding it difficult to gather the funds for business school and realize that you fit into one of the demographics typically supported by a fellowship, then you should apply.

MBA fellowships are often offered to applicants with minority backgrounds, partly in order to improve course diversity, but also to offer chances to students from underrepresented communities.

✔ Read more: How to Tell an Authentic MBA Story From an Underrepresented Minority Perspective

Goldman Sachs’ MBA Fellowship is specifically for students who are Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American or women, while Kelley’s Global Fellowship favors students from Latin America, those with Latin American ancestry, or those with work experience at Latin American companies.

There are also specific fellowships for LGBTQ+ applicants. Reaching Out MBA, an organization supporting LGBTQ+ MBAs, offers its own MBA Fellowship (ROMBA) in collaboration with 60 member schools, which include Columbia Business School, the Kogod School of Business at American University, and Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

ROMBA Fellows receive a minimum US$20,000 scholarship, plus access to leadership workshops and the chance to serve as an LGBTQ+ ambassador at your business school.

Dennis Yim, director of academics at Kaplan Test Prep, advises applicants to consider all their unique skills when applying for a fellowship or scholarship. “Do you have a special talent? You might be able to find a way to leverage that skill into your scholarship search,” he told BusinessBecause.

“The point is to look for any and every opportunity that you may qualify for.”

How do I get an MBA fellowship?

MBA fellowships are competitive, especially those that offer full tuition fees and a hefty stipend on top of that. Make sure to apply as early as possible, as the sooner you get your application in, the better prepared you can be.

If you’ve already accepted your place in an MBA program, and want to apply to fellowships for current first-year students, you’ll want to be extra aware. If part of your application relies on academic achievement, make sure to put as much effort into your studies in that first year as possible—those high grades will pay off in your application.

Finally, leverage your past experience and your personal identity in your application. If you’ve spent time working in diversity or LGBTQ+ organizations and are applying for the ROMBA fellowship, spend time detailing how those experiences make you the best fit for the scholarship.

❓ Read more: Should I Be Out as LGBTQ+ in My MBA Applications?

Make sure to target those fellowships that match up with your personal experiences and background, and where you can make a case for what you’ll achieve if you are accepted.

What are the most coveted MBA fellowships?

There are plenty of MBA fellowships out there—chances are, at least one of the business schools you’re interested in offers one. They’re most common in the United States, where 15 percent of MBA programs offer this kind of scholarship, though 8 percent of European programs and 3 percent of Asia-Pacific programs offer one as well.

💲 Read more: These Business School Scholarships Can Reduce the Cost of Your Degree

Harvard Business School offers the Forward Fellowship to students from lower-income backgrounds or those who financially support other family members.

Fellowships offered by companies are among the most competitive, as companies usually offer a full-time, paid position (usually as a summer internship) alongside paying tuition fees and a stipend. As well as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley runs a fellowship program for certain locations in the United States.

Women should look to the Forté Foundation and its MBA Fellowship. Forté Fellows receive bursaries for their MBA programs, but also access to a networking community, participation in a Women’s Leadership conference, and special invitations for job openings at partner companies.

Tell your story to land an MBA fellowship

Earning an MBA fellowship, just like earning a seat in an MBA classroom, is all about effectively telling your story. Our free guide, How to Get Started: Your First Steps to a Full-Time MBA, provides you with step-by-step, expert guidance on how to position your personal brand in your applications to ensure you tell an authentic and compelling narrative that differentiates you from other qualified applicants and sticks in the minds of the admissions committees.