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  • Writer's pictureNoa Epstein Tennenhaus

MBA On Full Scholarship

Doing a top MBA program is a serious investment. Aim high and keep calm.

For many it will mean taking big loans and coughing up at least $150,000. Of course there is the promise of a significant salary increase post graduation, but that will depend on your industry, your professional track record and the position you land. As with any significant investment, the costs and benefits are personal and should be analyzed in a case-specific way.

My message here is really that a top MBA is not outside the reach of those who cannot afford to pay for it. I was privileged to win a full Gates Scholarship to do The Cambridge MBA in 2010 and there are some insights I’d like to share with you:

1. How much does a top MBA cost?

The total cost of an MBA program will vary depending on the school’s location and the program’s duration. European MBA programs are typically one year long, compared to two year programs in the US. allows you to compare costs and other parameters of up to 4 MBA programs at a time. Here is a useful cost comparison sample for reference:

Source: and School websites.

On top of the costs listed above you need to add approximately 30,000–50,000 USD per year for living expenses and associated costs.

2. Are there top MBA programs on full scholarship?

Full scholarships for MBA programs do exist. Do your research well! Coming from the not-for-profit sector, there was no way I could afford to pay for a top MBA, and given that my career plans involved doing business beyond profit, taking over-sized bank loans was really not an option. So, when researching MBA programs, financial aid and specifically full scholarships was a major criterion.

There are two main kinds of scholarships: merit based and needs based. There also scholarships specific to your nationality, gender, ethnicity and leadership qualities.

Most of the top programs offer some partial scholarships and most of them are merit based. While US programs usually automatically consider candidates for merit based scholarships, as part of the application process, you need to be pro-active about your scholarship search and find university or country-specific scholarships that match your profile.

3. How to search for MBA scholarships?

Searching for scholarships takes time and requires expertise. I recommend prioritizing the search as follows:

- The business school’s website — usually there are lists of scholarships

- Pro actively contact the admissions office to inquire about scholarships that suit your profile (yes, even before you apply for the MBA program)

- A dedicated Google search (contact me for specific advice on search terms)

- Embassy search: contact the local embassy of the country in which your school is based. There are often Master’s degree scholarships available

4. Top MBA programs that have offered full scholarships

The following schools (partial list) have have offered full scholarships to approximately 5% of admitted MBA applicants: Cambridge, Oxford, LBS, Chicago, Cornell, Columbia, Stanford and Yale.

5. When to start?

The scholarship search and application process should happen in parallel to your MBA application process, as often these are separate tracks. Application deadlines for full scholarships are typically earlier, around December, so start the process as early as possible - ideally in late spring. Bear in mind you will need to make time for the standardized test prep (GMAT, TOEFL) - check out Avi Yulzari's site for excellent tips and practice materials: Avi is a test prep guru with a tailored approach to help you ace those barriers to entry. Say you reached him through Application Shine.

I was privileged to win the Gates Cambridge full scholarship to do MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School and would be happy to advise you on your particular search and application process. Contact me via

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