How to ask the college for more scholarship: Financial aid negotiation tips

How to ask the college for more scholarship Applicants to an MBA / MS program surely have their work cut out for them. Whether it’s about acing the GMAT / GRE or coming up with that perfectly-crafted essay / SOP or following up with recommenders, they have enough on their plate.

Coming up with an impressive application would definitely be a priority at this stage, however give a thought to how you intend to manage the financial aspects as well.

Compare this with an entrepreneur with ambitious plans for a five star hotel, but clueless on how to finance such a mega project!

A post-graduate masters degree from an international location, especially an MBA, can be a very expensive proposition, so explore the various funding options for higher education and chalk out a financial roadmap well in advance.

Scholarships are a great way to reduce your financial burden though not every applicant would be lucky enough to bag one. If you do fall in that list, you may find yourself in one of these 3 situations by the time you have got the application results from all the business schools you’ve applied to.

What’s your admissions / scholarship status?


1. Admit with full scholarship

The best possible scenario would be to get a free ride. Read about the lucky ones who’ve managed to get an entire tuition waiver.

In this case, there’s no point in negotiating with the admissions office to give you more. However, note that these are normally tuition waivers, which means that the living expenses and other associated costs would not be covered.

Read about how much an MBA costs to get an idea of the other MBA expenses that you need to plan for.

2. Partial scholarship offer(s)

The scholarship amount may vary ranging from a few thousand dollars to covering a substantial part of the tuition.

Read some of the experiences shared by candidates who’ve got partial scholarships:

The partial scholarship offer may evoke a mixed reaction. Some may feel ecstatic about being considered for a scholarship.

However, there may be others who’d hold a grudge as they feel that they deserved more.  If that’s the case, you need to be assured that there is definitely scope for discussions. Though you cannot be sure your efforts would pay off, you can surely make an attempt to increase the amount of scholarship awarded.

3. Multiple admits with or without scholarships

An even more tricky situation is when you receive admits from more than one school. Read some applicants who’ve done that:

Some of the schools may have offered a generous scholarship, while perhaps your dream school may not have done so. How do you handle such a situation?

On the one hand, you feel the urge to approach your dream school and negotiate with them for more financial aid, however you’re concerned that this approach may not be appreciated by the school.

There have been instances where some schools have increased the scholarship amount to match it with that of a competition school as each school is on the lookout for the best possible candidates. Each school would handle this situation differently. Some may be more flexible and open to discussions than the others.

How to ask the college for more scholarship and financial aid

Here are a few basic tips and guidelines that can help you during the scholarship negotiation process.

1. Work on your negotiation pitch

If you’re asking for additional scholarship, you need to be able to justify your claim. Give yourself enough time to structure your thought-process.

Scholarship may be merit-based or need-based. If your profile is in the top 20-25 percentile of the incoming class, the school too has an incentive as it’s in their interest to make their class profile look impressive.

You should be able to highlight anything that sets you apart from the rest. If you can justify how you can add value to their program, you may have a chance of bagging additional scholarship based on your profile strength. However, you need to be very clear about how you would go about it and be well-prepared before you begin the process.

If you approach the school for need-based scholarships, you need to provide facts and data to back your claim for additional funding. Convey your dedication and enthusiasm. Let the school know that you’re very keen to be a part of their program.

Discuss your financial situation and point out the problem areas and how additional funding could make a huge difference, help bridge the gap and allow you to be part of their program.

2. Adopt the right attitude

You need to be aware that your request for additional funding would not be the only one the school receives. There would be other highly qualified and well-deserving admitted candidates waiting to hear back from them. So, always be very courteous during your interactions. You could begin with a polite email from your side.

Always maintain your humility. Be professional and respectful in your approach. Any arrogance on your part and you’re very likely to offend them. A lot depends on your tone, attitude and approach and how your handle the discussions.

3. Follow up

Make it a point to follow-up, if you haven’t heard back from them in a reasonable time-frame. But don’t overdo on this aspect by continuously nagging them for additional funding.

A gentle reminder would be good enough to keep you on their radar. The college would have its own reserve for scholarships. If there are admitted candidates who’ve not accepted their offers, you may be lucky enough to receive some additional funding.

4. Apply early

Applying in the earlier round can always improve your chances of getting a scholarship or negotiating the scholarship amount rather than applying late when several scholarships are already given away.

5. Use diversity and differentiation to your advantage

A lot of MBA programs have been inclined towards promoting diversity by increasing the number of incoming women students as they form the under-represented group. They have an advantage in terms of scholarships too as there are scholarships reserved for women candidates. Read what business schools are doing to attract women applicants.

Other scholarships reserved for the under-represented groups are based on ethnicity, residency or natives of a particular country. There are few scholarships for those pursuing their studies or career in certain specific fields.

If you’ve had no luck increasing the scholarship amount through your school, you may look out for scholarships available through independent external sources. Have a thorough research done to explore all avenues so that any opportunity is not missed out and the applications are made on time.

For your reference, we’ve put together this list of MBA scholarships.

Candidates may also look out for assistantship opportunities on campus which can ease the financial load to some extent.

How to increase your chances of getting a scholarship

Here’s the not-so-good news. When you find yourself in a situation where you have to negotiate a better financial deal, the odds are less likely to be in your favour. Think about why the school would want to backtrack on their original decision after putting in all that effort earlier.

A more effective way to get bigger and better scholarship offers is to start working on it before you submit your application. Here’s what you can do.

  • Adopt a well-though-of application strategy to improve your chances of being awarded a scholarship. Give yourself enough time to build your application.
  • In case your GMAT/GRE score was not as expected, check out the possibility of re-appearing if time permits.
  • If you think your profile is impressive, the essays/SOPs need to reflect that and highlight the various traits including leadership, teamwork as well as your personal, academic, professional achievements or community involvement. 
  • Let the essays be as concise as possible. Some school essays may include a scholarship essay as well. Be well-prepared for the interview.

Do your best and keep your fingers crossed!

At MBA Crystal Ball, our MBA consultants have helped a large number of applicants convert their dream of attending top schools around the world. Send us an email if you’d like some help with business school selection and application reviews.

Here are some more articles where applicants talk about strategies that got them scholarships:
Scholarship Success Stories

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MBA Crystal Ball provides professional Admissions Consulting services. Hire us to improve your chances of getting into the top international universities. Email: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

Swati //
After working for over a decade in technical and managerial roles in the corporate world, Swati now works as a freelancer and writes on a variety of topics including education, career guidance and self-improvement.

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