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Admissions Tip: Can I Negotiate A Scholarship for Business School?

When decisions are released, excitement among the applicant pool can be palpable. After months of hard work and significant introspection, many candidates are rewarded with offers from their dream programs. Some of those offers come with scholarships; money that helps defray the significant financial burden of taking two years away from work, while also paying considerable tuition costs and living expenses.

If Only My Top-Choice Had Come Through with a Scholarship…

Of course, many candidates might receive scholarship at one or two programs, but not at their ideal program. This leads to an age-old question: Can an applicant negotiate scholarship money with his or her ideal program? Schools often express frustration around negotiating for a scholarship that wasn’t originally offered, but the reality is they may prefer to negotiate, rather than lose a candidate completely.  As such, many programs are typically open to the request.

You are in the best position to negotiate if you have a scholarship offer from a school that the program in question believes is a peer school, or even one from a higher tier. So, for example, if MIT / Sloan offers you a scholarship, then Northwestern / Kellogg might be inclined to listen to a scholarship request. You may not receive the equivalent of the original offer from the first school, but you may receive an offer that goes at least part of the way towards making up the difference.

If you don’t have scholarship offers from peer schools, you can still use other offers as a means to “bargain”, but you would be in a less favorable position to negotiate.

There are cases where you might not have other admissions offers, or other scholarship offers to use as points of negotiation, but some economic shift now means that the MBA program you want to attend is now more cost prohibitive. One example of this would be for an international student whose home country exchange rate has shifted significantly against the MBA program’s home currency. Schools may be open to trying to help out, a little.

5 Components to Negotiating a Scholarship

Whatever the reason for your negotiation, there are key steps you must follow when drafting a request:

  1. Reiterate your thanks for the offer of acceptance
  2. Reiterate why the program is best suited for you to achieve your goals (make this more than just surface level; you need to demonstrate a true passion to join the school)
  3. Describe why the competing offer, or your change in personal circumstances, has made the opportunity harder for you to pursue
  4. Ask if they will be able to offer some form of help (scholarship)
  5. Thank them again for the original opportunity to attend the program, with the hope that you will be able to pursue your goals

This should go without saying, but it is imperative to remain humble and polite in tone; you will not secure scholarship dollars by threatening the program in question

Requests should be made in writing, either word or PDF, via email. You should try to submit the request to an adcom contact you’ve made through the process, which might include the person who called you, notifying you of your admissions.  It can be helpful to include any letters of scholarship offers from other program(s) as an attachment, since many schools will ask for proof at some point.

It Never Hurts to Ask!

Finally, keep in mind that there really isn’t a downside in making a request like this; you won’t get much in life if you never ask!  Of course, you will also have to be prepared to remain humble and gracious, regardless of the outcome.

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