While MBA programs can be costly, business schools offer attractive MBA scholarships to help you fund your MBA, cover tuition costs, and explore new career prospects.
These MBA scholarships include merit and need-based rewards, as well as scholarships for women, entrepreneurs, and persons from specific nations and backgrounds. Yet, not every accepted MBA student receives a scholarship.
To find out how to boost your chances of MBA scholarship success, BusinessBecause caught up with two MBA students from Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management (SEM), one of China’s most prestigious business schools.
Ken Chong, who worked for Uber, EY, and Revolut in Singapore prior to his MBA, was awarded a full tuition scholarship to Tsinghua, while Nikolaos (Nick) Rigopoulos, who went from a Master of Engineering Management to the MBA program, was awarded a Chinese Government Scholarship.
The Tsinghua Global MBA costs around $30,000 in tuition and the school offers a variety of scholarship opportunities, including full-tuition scholarships, to qualified candidates.
Here’s five top tips to improve your chances of landing an MBA scholarship, from the students who’ve done it:
1. Tell your unique story in your application to boost your MBA scholarship chances
To apply for a scholarship at some business schools, you must complete a separate application. Scholarships are awarded at Tsinghua depending on your performance in the conventional MBA application procedure, with awards of up to 100% off tuition fees.
“Getting an MBA scholarship boils down to how good your overall application is, including your essays, the video essays, and your performance in the interview,” Ken explains.
To have the best chance of success, Ken recommends that you be clear about what you want from the MBA throughout your application.
Ken wanted to pursue an MBA after working in consulting and technology for four years in order to expand his managerial skillset and explore various career opportunities. He says he selected Tsinghua to reconnect with his Chinese heritage and study at a prestigious institution—Tsinghua University is rated 16th in the world in the Times Higher Education University Ranking 2022.
“You want to be able to tell a clear story, about your background, your aspirations, and how the MBA is going to help you achieve your goals,” he says.
“For Tsinghua especially, you need to explain why you want to study in China, and why that’s going to benefit you.”
2. Do your research to find the best MBA scholarships for you
Nick, who is originally from Greece, chose the Tsinghua Global MBA to advance from engineer to engineering management and to contribute to the success of Belt & Road—global China’s infrastructure development initiative—in his homeland.
“I was sure the MBA would boost my career after graduation and help me achieve my long-term goals,” he says.
When considering MBA scholarships, Nick (pictured) says MBA candidates need to do their research to explore all the opportunities available.
Tsinghua University alone provides a variety of scholarships for various types of candidates, including high-potential female business leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals working in family enterprises.
Foreign students can also apply for a Chinese Government Scholarship on their own, either through the Chinese embassy in their native country or through a school recommendation.
The scholarship grant varies, but it usually includes tuition and/or housing. Some students receive a monthly stipend to help pay their MBA experience.
3. Ace the GMAT or GRE to increase your chances of MBA scholarship success
While MBA scholarships are frequently offered based on your whole profile, a strong GMAT or GRE score will help you stand out to the admissions team—in fact, some scholarships are totally based on your GMAT score.
“I would highly recommend everyone prepares rigorously for taking the GMAT or GRE before applying,” says Nick, who took the GRE.
“Your test score will definitely make you stand out during the application process. It shows to what extent you’re ready to start the program and whether you have the quantitative and analytical skills you need for an MBA.”
Ken and Nick both had high test scores. Although they admit that their work experience and interview performance were more important in securing an MBA scholarship than their test results, they warn that a low GMAT or GRE score can harm your MBA application.
4. To really stand out for an MBA scholarship, think beyond the MBA to how you’ll help enrich the school’s alumni network
More than your test results, business schools aspire to establish classes of people who will go on to leadership roles in a variety of industries and contribute to the development of an influential, worldwide alumni network.
That is why every top-tier business school seeks applicants from varied backgrounds who will one day contribute back to the school as well as the larger society. Tsinghua alumni return to campus as guest lecturers on a regular basis and even recruit Tsinghua MBA students.
Tsinghua SEM has 130,000 alumni from 60 countries, and current Chinese President Xi Jinping is a Tsinghua University alumnus.
Before the MBA interview at Tsinghua—typically around an hour long with a panel of admissions staff and professors—Ken suggests speaking to alumni to find out what to expect and start building your network.
“Tsinghua alumni are the most influential people in China right now and Tsinghua wants to gauge whether you’re somebody with potential who’s going to help push the school’s name forward,” he says.
“They want you to make an impact. If you bring in diverse experiences then you’ll be considered favorably for a scholarship.”
5. Apply early when more MBA scholarships are available
With every MBA application round, more scholarships are handed out. So if you apply to business school early, you can also increase your MBA scholarship chances.
“You need to apply as early as possible,” Nick, who successfully applied to Tsinghua in the first application round, advises.
“By applying early, you’ll have more time to search for scholarship opportunities and it also shows the school that you’re not making a last minute decision, but that the MBA is something you’ve thought about and prepared for.”
Even so, if your profile is high enough, you can still get an MBA scholarship if you apply in a later application round. Although he agrees that hopefuls should apply early, Ken applied late and received a full tuition scholarship.
You’ll have a decent chance of receiving an MBA scholarship if you do your research, present a captivating story in your application, and add something unique to the program.