How do I research and negotiate scholarship opportunities?

Mar 31, 2010
Tags: Financial Aid

Written by Alison Hope Jesse, Senior Associate Director, MBA Admissions, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Paying for your MBA—what is your plan?

  • A good place to start is by asking friends who have completed an MBA program how they financed their degree.
  • Go to MBA program websites and find out if you must apply by a certain date to be considered for a scholarship or if there is a separate application to be completed for a scholarship. Organize your research in a spreadsheet so you can get the “big picture” for all schools where you will apply.
  • Check out the School Search Service on to uncover information on scholarship amounts at your favorite schools.
If you belong to an underrepresented minority, have served in the military, or are a woman, there will be scholarship information for you in a number of places: Don’t forget that a simple Google search will point you toward outside scholarship resources to pay for your education. 

If you are one of the lucky few offered a scholarship, what do you need to think about before you accept the award?

  1. Read the award letter carefully. Note the deadline by which you must accept the scholarship.
  2. Is the scholarship renewable if there is a second year of study? Will you need to maintain a minimum GPA?
  3. Are there any expectations that accompany the scholarship, such as service to the school, participation in certain activities, etc.?
How fortunate you are if you receive scholarship awards to multiple schools! But sometimes there are still some hard decisions to make: 

If your first choice school does not offer you a scholarship, should you default to your second choice program that has come through with a scholarship? Be honest with yourself about your priorities and the future return on investment. 

If you have not been awarded a scholarship, should you contact the admissions office and ask to be reconsidered? 

Yes, writing a letter or email with this request is fine. If an MBA program has offered you admission, the hope is that you will enroll. Sharing information with admission officers lets them know what is important to you in your decision making. It lets them be part of the conversation and decide if there is something they can do to make the offer more attractive. In the end, programs hope to minimize any reasons that might cause you to turn down the offer and go elsewhere. 

Should you point out that MBA Program X has offered you $10,000 and another program has offered a much more substantial award of $30,000?

It is permissible and can be helpful if you do it in a respectful way. Expect to be asked what school has offered you the award. Understand that the parameters for awards will differ from school to school. Don’t threaten not to come or state your case negatively. If you know that you will enroll with a scholarship, include that in the conversation. Finally, follow up with a thank-you note and reiterate your interest in the program. 

Good luck!