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Applying to MBA Programs as a Sponsored Candidate

If you are interested in attending a top MBA program, you are probably tangentially aware of what a sponsored candidate is. But, for the sake of clarity let’s discuss it briefly.

A sponsored candidate is one whose employer has offered to pay for a portion of the candidate’s tuition should they be accepted to business school.

This article will cover what you should know as a potential sponsored candidate: the advantages of being one, making the best use of your sponsorship in your application, and how to ask your employer to be sponsored. Let’s get started.

The Advantages of Being A Sponsored MBA Candidate

You are probably already aware of one of the main advantages of being a sponsored candidate: financial relief. Obviously, if your company is partly or fully funding your MBA you won’t have to take out loans or dip into your personal finances to attend.

In the most extreme cases, employers may even continue to pay a sponsored candidate their salary during their MBA. But there are other important advantages that you should also be aware of.

  • Job Security. Sponsored candidates have a guaranteed option to return to the sponsoring company with a promotion. This can boost the employment report of the MBA program, and thus, may make you a more desirable candidate.
  • Employer Advocacy. Think about it: if your employer is sponsoring you for an MBA, it means that you have performed exceedingly well for them. Any employer can write a nice recommendation letter, because talk is cheap. But by sponsoring you they have “put their money where their mouth is” and signaled that you really are important to them.
  • Financial Safety. It is appealing to the school that they could admit you and they know that you could attend without any financial burden even if they do not give you a financial aid award. Now, some of our sponsored applicants have received up to full tuition scholarships, so a school who badly wants you to enroll can still make a big scholarship offer. But if you’re on the margin and they worry that you might fail to enroll without a big scholarship offer, the sponsorship takes that issue off the table.


How Should Your MBA Application Reflect Your Sponsorship?

Being sponsored is certainly an advantage, but to get full value from it, you need to use your sponsorship effectively in your application.

The simplest way to do that is to make your sponsorship the center of your application. The majority of MBA applicants focus their application on their post-MBA job and both why they aspire to it and how they plan to obtain it.

If you are a sponsored candidate, it’s a given that you’ll return to your pre-MBA employer. In this case your career-goal focus has to be a bit more granular. You will want to craft a good story about the effect that your return to your company will have.

It might be useful to think about some of the following questions when writing your essays:

  • What do you specifically plan to do to improve your company post-MBA?
  • What are the projects you want to work on?
  • What office do you want to return to?
  • What specialization do you want to have?
  • How will the MBA give benefit and value back to the company?
  • What benefit could be gained from connecting your employer with the school?

All in all, you are attempting to play to the school’s precise needs: you can become an influential and well-regarded employee at a company that they hope will recruit many of their graduates in the future. If you can do that, you’ll be highlighting your sponsorship in a way that tells a significant and unique story.


Tips for applying as a sponsored candidate (Video)



How to Ask Your Employer for MBA Sponsorship

For the majority of sponsored candidates, employers have a clear sponsorship channel or system already in place. Many of them come from management consulting firms that have standard arrangements where you commit to return to the firm for two years after returning from business school.

There is almost always an application form for such arrangements and you would need to follow the established procedures. But, in the case that you do not work for such a firm, how do you ask your employer for an MBA sponsorship?

The answer, as with most aspects of MBA applications, is to demonstrate your value. You might consider the following possibilities in order to demonstrate the ROI of sponsoring your MBA:

  • Leadership. An MBA is designed to prepare you for a leadership role. How could you be a more effective leader at your company with the right skills?
  • Networking. Top MBA programs have vast alumni networks that you can tap into. Especially if you are at a smaller company, the promise of bringing new clients and connections into the fold is persuasive.

In essence, it is important to sell your employer on the financial value of what you will gain with an MBA. In the case of smaller employers, it is quite possible that they had not considered the ability to sponsor an employee. Those are the situations where a solid and thoughtful sales pitch is necessary.

In the case of larger companies and firms that do not have a system in place for sponsoring employees, the real difficulty is going to be self-awareness. If your employer has a policy of not sponsoring employees, why are you the outstanding case for whom they should make an exception?

Finally, you should be clear on what the stipulations of your sponsorship are. An MBA might provide you with better opportunities than your current employer, but most employers will have a contract in place that would require you to pay back the sponsorship if you do not return.

Your employer may also expect you to work on small projects for the company while attending your MBA program, such as helping them to evaluate your classmates as potential post-MBA hires. These are all questions to research as you figure out whether or not you can be a sponsored candidate.
About the author: Yaron Dahan is an Expert Consultant & Director (BD) at Menlo Coaching. In his 12-year long stint as an admissions consultant, he has helped hundreds of applicants get into the toughest business schools like Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and many more. He is also a filmmaker and writer.

This article is part of CrystalConnect, an outreach initiative by MBA Crystal Ball.

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