The MBA is a massive financial investment. Just think about the cost of the course, which could be anything from about £10,000 up to near to £30,000 a year. Then there is the cost of living, which in reality is the same as the cost of going to work - what with your food and your travel and your mortgage or rent if you do not own a home in the city where you are studying. Then you have the cost of books, which can add up to near to £1,000 in the year or two that you are studying. You also have the cost of a laptop, which will make your life easier as you won't be reliant on the computer systems at your business school, and there is software to get as well.
If you are taking a full-time course then you should also remember that you are foregoing your salary, which could be any amount after tax and is an opportunity cost of doing your degree. Even if you are taking a part-time course you still need to be able to pay for the course. You need to be able to fund all of this - and unless you have a lot of savings, can take out a good value loan, or have generous parents, then it will be difficult. This is why it's very important to apply for scholarships.
Scholarships are basically awarded to those who are believed to be worthy of them. This is important to realize. Organizations who offer scholarships try their best to do so on merit. What they regard as merit can differ between organizations so it's important for you to find out what the organization that you are applying to require in a "scholar".
Searching for Scholarships
- Start Searching for Scholarships ASAP. It pays to start your search for scholarships as soon as possible. Many scholarships have early deadlines, even as early as August or September. If you start searching in January, you will miss the deadlines for half the awards.
Start searching for scholarships at an earlier age. Most students don't start searching for scholarships until their senior year in high school. But there are many awards available for students in earlier grades, even junior high school.
- Apply to as many awards as possible. Apply to every award for which you are qualified, no matter how small the award amount. Every penny helps, and winning an award adds a line to your resume that can help you win other awards. The less lucrative scholarships are often less competitive, so you have a better chance of winning them. Several small awards can add up to a significant amount of money.
You can't win if you don't apply. Even if you are extremely talented, your chances of winning any particular scholarship are low, since you are competing with many other equally talented applicants. To improve your odds of winning a scholarship, apply to more scholarship competitions.
Do not, however, apply for awards for which you do not qualify. It is a waste of your time. Scholarship sponsors receive far more qualified applications than they have awards available, so they are not going to look at any candidate that doesn't satisfy their criteria.
- Seek out less competitive scholarships. Seek out small local awards that are not listed in most of the national databases and scholarship books. These awards are less competitive, and so your chances of winning them are greater. Examples include the local PTA scholarship, Dollars for Scholars scholarship, local cultural and religious organizations, local businesses, and your parent's employer. You can also find information about local awards on bulletin boards at the local public library and outside your guidance counselor or school financial aid office. (The Fastweb scholarship database is particularly thorough about listing small local awards, and encourages all scholarship sponsors to submit information about their awards, even local awards. Fastweb can code those awards to show them only to students who qualify.)
- Use up-to-date award information. When looking for information about scholarships in books, check the copyright date of the book. A book that is more than one year old is too old to be useful. Similarly, ask how frequently an online scholarship database is updated. Most are updated annually or quarterly. The Fastweb scholarship database is updated daily.
- Beware of scholarship scams. If a scholarship has an application fee or other required fees, it isn't worth your time and money to apply. At best such "scholarships" are recirculating the fees to the students, and at worst no money is ever awarded. Never invest more than a postage stamp to obtain information about or to apply for a scholarship.
- Ask the school about academic scholarships. Many colleges offer presidential or academic scholarships to attract talented students. This is especially true at second and third tier institutions. You might be able to get a free ride at a college that isn't as well known.
The main difference between colleges is not in the quality of the faculty or the quality of the facilities, but in the students. After all, Harvard and MIT graduate more PhDs than they can hire as faculty, so many less-well-known institutions have top notch faculty. Since you will be spending more time learning from your peers than inside a classroom, you should visit the school while classes are in session to get a feel for how well you will fit in. But if you like the atmosphere at the school and the school has a good program in your major, there's no reason why you shouldn't accept a full-tuition scholarship at your third choice school. This is especially true if you intend to go on to grad school, since nobody cares where you got your bachelor's degree when you have a PhD or MD.
- Ask to be nominated. If a scholarship requires that you be nominated by your school or the local chapter of the organization, find out who is responsible for nominating applicants, and ask them to nominate you. Often the nominator will not have a formal process for selecting a nominee. If the nomination deadline is approaching, sometimes they will nominate you simply because you're the only one who asked. Even if they have a formal process, by introducing yourself and your qualifications to them you will have improved your chances of being nominated (assuming you didn't annoy them by being too persistent). Provide the nominator with a copy of your accomplishments resume.
- Don't forget to renew your scholarship. If you won a renewable award last year, make sure you satisfy any requirements for retaining it in subsequent years. This may involve maintaining satisfactory academic progress, maintaining a minimum GPA, continuing to study in the same major, retaining full-time enrollment, submitting an annual progress report, and providing a copy of your transcript each year. Some scholarships may require community service or other activities.