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Frugal MBA Financing Strategy #2—Don’t Pay Sticker

The total amount you have to pay back after graduation can be minimized by paying less for your receipt (duh). There are lots of ways to do this, including taking on a teaching assistant gig while in school (more on that in a later post). But, after you have been accepted to one or more schools, there is a key opportunity to ask to pay less, otherwise known as getting a scholarship. However, unlike some PhD programs where tuition is often covered, discounts are hard to come by when it comes to MBA programs. How can a prospective frugal MBA avoid paying cover?

Try getting one of your target schools’ peer institutions to give you money. Your target schools likely consider peer institutions to be comparably ranked programs, or anyone they lose fights over accepted candidates to year in and year out. MBA programs won’t be swayed by schools they don’t consider similar—try telling Harvard Business School that your Southwest New Mexico State full ride should get you some Cambridge coin… Easier said than done you say—I’m just trying to get into one program! Of course, but consider these two insights.

First, some of the schools your target program considers peers will have much higher acceptance rates (as an example, among top programs UChicago has an acceptance rate of 23%, nearly twice that of Berkeley’s 13%). If you can be a top student at a peer school apply and see if they sweeten the pie. Then go back to your target schools and see if they’ll match. Even if it is a few thousand dollars, on a per hour basis it may be well worth your while.

Second, do any of your peer schools have scholarships that are targeted a smaller group of people that includes you? I’m a Teach For America alumnus and received funding from several schools for that credential. Are there scholarships that you qualify for at non-target schools? If so, apply for them, get them, and then start negotiating. This strategy took 50% off the sticker price of my MBA (and several years of annoying loan payments)—hopefully it can work similar magic for you.


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