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  • Malvika Patil

How to Write a MBA Scholarship Essay 2024

An MBA comes with a hefty price tag – $100k+. Now factor in the missed income from taking a one or two year off work to pursue your MBA, and the financial burden becomes even more daunting, particularly if you’re an international applicant, from a low-income background, if you have dependents, or if you have financial obligations like mortgage payments. That’s why it’s important to maximize your chances of securing funding through a scholarship.

It’s a major part of our role as admissions consultants. Last year, 65% of our overall admitted clients received scholarship offers, sharing $2,509,000 of scholarships between them (averaging $125,450 each). 8 of them received full-ride scholarships to their target schools.

In this blog, we’ll explore the different types of MBA scholarships you can apply for, and how to craft an outstanding essay to improve your chances of getting a scholarship.

Why Business Schools Offer Scholarships

Just like companies recruiting in a hot job market, business schools are in competition for the best talent. What do we mean by “best” talent? Putting it bluntly, they are looking for MBA candidates that will help them rise in the rankings.

For some rankings, that means increasing the school’s GMAT or GPA average. Other rankings are more focused on the diversity of the program, so business schools will use scholarships to attract diversity talent. For example, Wharton made a splash in 2023 for attracting a cohort that was over 50% women. From our experience with clients that year, it seems like they reached that impressive milestone by competing aggressively for female talent by offering generous scholarships.

So, it really comes down to this: If the admissions committee really wants you to join their program, they’ll find ways to justify giving you scholarship money. Give yourself a fighting chance by applying for all the scholarships you qualify for, like the ones outlined below.

Types of MBA Scholarships and How to Apply for Them

Business schools offer a variety of scholarships for applicants:

1. Merit-based scholarships 

The bulk of funding that business schools allot to students is through merit-based scholarships. To apply for these scholarships, applicants typically write an additional scholarship essay as part of their MBA application. This essay is submitted with the rest of their written application. The scholarship committee of the school offers the scholarship to exceptional applicants whose applications stand out, largely to sweeten the deal and make sure that they accept.

Often, there’s scope to negotiate these scholarships. Applicants should write an email to the admissions team to reiterate how the school is a top choice for them, and that a higher scholarship amount would ease their financial liabilities so that they can afford to attend. They can also mention if they have a competing scholarship offer from a different school. In several cases, the school would like to persuade you to accept their offer over other schools, so they’ll bump up the scholarship amount. 

2.  Need-based Scholarships 

Several schools like Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business offer need-based scholarships to make the MBA application process more inclusive for applicants from lower income backgrounds. To apply for these scholarships, you will need to prove your financial status to the school by sharing previous financial records. When it comes to need-based scholarships, your GMAT score or GPA isn’t as relevant. You may be eligible to receive financial aid as long as you are admitted into the program and have proved financial need. 

3. Minority Scholarships 

Business schools strive to cultivate a diverse cohort. They partner with organizations to offer scholarships aimed at encouraging applicants from underrepresented minorities to pursue an MBA. These scholarships help increase the number of minority students in the student cohort and promote diversity and inclusion in higher education. Each of these scholarships has unique criteria and often requires applicants to complete a separate application to be eligible. Some of the organizations that offer these scholarships include National Black MBA Association, The Consortium, Toigo Foundation Fellowship, Military MBA Scholarships, and Prospanica

4. External MBA Scholarships


External scholarships are scholarships that MBA candidates can apply for once they receive an admit from a business school. As the name suggests, these are offered by benefactors or external organizations who aim to sponsor applicants in their industry or interest area. These could be independent external scholarships such as Laid Law Scholars, or in collaboration with a business school such as Stanford GSB’s Knight-Hessey Scholars

How to draft an MBA Scholarship essay

Just like the rest of the MBA application process, your scholarship application is viewed holistically in conjunction with the rest of your profile. Looking at all our clients who won scholarships in the last few years, there’s no single trait that connects them. However, they all had strong profiles overall, and they made an effort to put themselves forward for scholarships. Usually, that involves writing additional scholarship essays.

Here’s how to write a compelling scholarship essay: 

1. Your personal story

Precise scholarship essay prompts vary, but usually your scholarship essay should tell a personal story that explains your background, identity, or what makes you unique. This story should not be exactly the same as the ones you used in your application essays. Some personal topics our previous clients have written about include: 

  • Facing discrimination in an underrepresented community, ethnicity or tribe. 

  • Overcoming challenges in an underserved community 

  • Financial challenges such as family being evicted

  • Growing up in a single-parent household 

  • LGBTQ+ identity and discrimination

  • Allyship and advocating for rights of others

  • Identifying with people from a war torn region

  • Experiencing tragedy or witnessing a loved one experience tragedy

Your personal story should provide context to your professional achievements and purpose, which will help the committee better understand what you’ve overcome or experienced to become who you are today. 

2. Your professional background

Now that you have discussed your personal background, you can explain how this has motivated your career decisions - especially if you have an unconventional career trajectory or come from a non-traditional background. This is where you’ll put your professional achievements, initiatives, and career purpose into context. Try to keep this clear; the reader should be able to easily understand the scope of growth in your role, industry, and geography.

3. Your mission and goals

Carefully read the scholarship statement to see what values, goals, and mission the scholarship focuses on, and explain how your career goals and purpose align with those values. For example, the Forté Fellowship is aimed at helping women leaders advance in business. You should demonstrate how your career decisions and goals align with this mission and how you plan to use your skills to help advance it in the future.

4. Your extracurricular engagements   

Candidates often tend to focus only on their professional achievements in their essays. But business schools evaluate MBA applications holistically and look for candidates who are actively engaged with their communities. If you are an active advocate for a social cause, hold a leadership position in an extracurricular, or have started something of your own that aligns with the scholarship’s values, you could include it here. For example, a client from last year wrote about their passion for animal rescue and how he has served this cause over the years. He received a full ride scholarship from a T30 program.

5. How you will add value to the school

Finally, write about how you will use your MBA to create a positive impact. Business schools want to see that their scholarship money is being well invested, so demonstrate how you will add value to the class and campus. This may be through active participation in a student club, association, extracurricular activity, school team, project, or international experience. Reach out to current students, alumni, and staff to learn more about opportunities to contribute.

In our experience, applicants who thoroughly research the specific areas they can contribute to, align them with their strengths and goals, and clearly outline these plans in their scholarship essay are more likely to get funding from the school. 

Negotiating Scholarships

If you receive multiple offers of admission, you may be able to negotiate with schools to increase their scholarship offers. This process varies by school. For some schools, it’s done by email. Other schools have more structured processes. For example, Duke Fuqua asks admitted candidates to complete a scholarship reconsideration form online.

This blog article explains in detail how you can negotiate a life changing scholarship:

Scholarship Questions 

Merit-based Scholarships

UNC Kenan Flagler

Drawing upon your personal insights, explain how participation in the Steve and Debbie Vetter Dean’s Fellows Program would contribute to your growth as a future leader in your chosen field. Similarly, explain how your personal insights and experiences would contribute to the Vetter Dean’s Fellows Program. (500 words maximum)


How do you plan to finance your MBA and why do you think you deserve a scholarship? (500 words)


What makes you a stand-out candidate for a scholarship? (250 words)

If awarded a scholarship, how would you contribute to and engage with the Bayes community? (250 words)


The scholarship essay should be no longer than 500 words and should specifically address the questions outlined below. Please feel free to copy and paste from other parts of your Ivey MBA application as this portion is seen by the Financial Aid Office only.

Paragraph 1: Outline your intended career goal after completing the Ivey MBA Program. Be as specific as possible indicating industry as well.

Paragraph 2: Please provide examples of demonstrated leadership within the community, either now or during your undergrad.

Paragraph 3: Please outline any additional community involvement you have had.

Paragraph 4: Please outline how you plan to finance the Ivey MBA Program based on the figures you have submitted above. This can take the form of total financing through private loans, government loans, savings, parental or partner support, or a combination of these. Please make sure to budget for additional living expenses, possible travel expenses, etc


The Skoll Scholarship is meant to support entrepreneurs who have spent preferably at least 3 years driving change through entrepreneurial approaches.

For example, they could have:

Started or grown a social venture;

OR led the expansion of a social impact initiative within an organisation;

OR been tackling a specific social/environmental issue, through a core thread that unites your work.

Respond to the following in your answer:

  • Indicate the category or categories above that best describe  what you’ve done;; Describe the work you have done and the outcomes/impact you have created as a result of your work; And, outline your future goals and how the Scholarship will help you achieve them. [800 words maximum] 

  • When did you begin to understand or experience the problem you are seeking to address? Since that time, how has your understanding of the problem changed and what caused the change(s)? [500 words maximum]

Need-based Scholarships

Harvard Business School

HBS offers domestic and international students need-based scholarships amounting to approximately $46,000 per year. 

The financial aid team determines financial need based on the following factors:

  • Gross income from prior three years

  • Assets

  • Socioeconomic background

  • Undergraduate debt


To assess a student's eligibility for need-based aid, the School takes into consideration all possible resources (including cash, savings, investments, money market, IRA and retirement accounts, CDs, trust funds, real estate equity, GI and Social Security benefits, income of student and spouse, other familial resources, income tax refunds, sponsorships from companies, as well as prior educational debt levels). We also take into account merit-based awards made possible by the Admissions office.  Additional information might be requested to best assess a candidate's ability to pay and late applications are subject to a different process.

Minority Scholarships

HEC Paris

Forte Foundation Scholarship For Women Candidates: Please explain in 1,500 words why you should be the Forté Scholar at the HEC

Paris MBA.


Ivey is proud to partner with several organizations to offer scholarships and fellowships to those with specific passions and interests. If you would like to apply for one of these scholarships or fellowships, please read the criteria carefully. Then, outline for us in no more than 500 words, your interest in this area(s) and/or any previous experiences that will demonstrate your fit for this award.

Forté Fellowship (Up to 8 Fellowships per year):

As a partner school of the Forté Foundation, Ivey is able to offer a limited number of fellowships valued at a minimum of $40,000. The mission of the Forté Foundation is to Launch women into fulfilling, significant careers through access to business education, professional development, and a community of successful women.


Reaching out MBA LGBTQ+ Fellowships:

In no more than 500 words per question, please answer the following questions:  

  • How have you contributed to LGBTQ+ causes and impacted the community? 

  • How do you plan to use the ROMBA Fellowship to impact your time at Oxford and in your future career? 

Oxford Black Leaders Scholarships:

In no more than the word limit outlined below, please answer the following questions:  

  • What have you done or are currently doing to promote diversity, inclusion, and equality either personally, in your community, or in your career/ sector? (maximum 250 words).

  • How do you plan to use the scholarship to impact your time at Oxford and how will the scholarship enable you to continue your work more effectively in the future, either in your career or community? (maximum 500 words).

External Scholarships


Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Scholarships and Leadership Programme:

Please answer the following questions in no more than 200 words per question:

  • Why do you want to participate in the Weidenfeld Hoffmann Trust Leadership Programme? What value do you see in our Moral Philosophy Programme and Enterprise Challenge and other activities?

  • How can one individual make a difference?

  • Have you ever mobilized a group to achieve a common goal? How?

  • What is the challenge facing your country that you want to help resolve?

  • Outline your ideal career path over the next 5-10 years.

HEC Paris

Laidlaw Scholars Program:

You must submit required essays with the rest of your application to the program. Please provide answers to the following two essay questions:  

  • Describe what becoming a Laidlaw Scholar would mean to you (200 words)  

  • As a future Laidlaw Scholar, how will you contribute to helping develop a new generation of leaders? (200 words) 

L’Oreal Scholarship:

Applicants will be required to submit a 1,500-word essay discussing the style of leadership they think maximizes creativity and innovation.


Struggling with the MBA scholarship essay? We’re here to help. Book a free chat with one of our experienced consultants.


About Us

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Hi, I'm Sam.  I'm the founder of Sam Weeks Consulting. Our clients get admitted to top MBA and EMBA programs.

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