Scholarships for International MBA Students

Published June 8, 2022 | OnlineMBA.com Staff

Scholarships for International MBA Students

Are you ready to discover your MBA program?

Earning a master of business administration (MBA) can accelerate your career and boost your earning potential. However, pursuing an MBA can be expensive. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average MBA graduate in 2016 held $66,300 in student loan debt.

Open Doors reports that almost a million international students attended U.S. institutions during the 2020-2021 school year, with over 145,000 enrolled in business and management programs. A full-time MBA program may make it hard for students to work at the same time, and international students are not eligible for federal aid.

MBA international student scholarships and other financial aid options can help ease the strain of paying for your degree. In this guide, we explore financial aid for international MBA students. Read on to learn more about scholarships, grants, and other funding sources.

Paying for Your MBA

Financing an MBA can often be challenging. Graduate students can take advantage of several financial aid options to help cover program costs. Many options benefit students with financial need. Others focus on academic merit. Some resources may also be available to minority applicants. Students can combine multiple financial aid options to lower upfront expenses.

Looking for an affordable MBA? Start here.

Financial Aid and Employer Assistance for MBAs

MBA students can apply for financial aid like scholarships, grants, loans, and employer assistance. Below we look into various types of financial aid options for pursuing an MBA.

  • Grants: Like scholarships, grants do not need to be repaid. While scholarships can be merit-based or need-based, grants typically benefit recipients with financial need.
  • Federal Loans: MBA students can apply for federal loans with flexible repayment options and fixed interest rates. However, most foreign citizens do not qualify for federal student loans.
  • Private Loans: Unlike federal loans, private loans come from third-party lenders. They often lack the flexibility of federal loans. However, private loans may be easier to access for international MBA students.
  • Work Study: Certain business schools allow learners to work on campus in return for payment. The payment usually goes toward covering the program cost and fees.
  • Employer Assistance: Some companies may fully or partially fund an employee's MBA program. Eligibility criteria vary by employer.

Scholarships for MBAs

Scholarships are financial awards that do not have to be repaid. They can help MBA students take on less debt. Award amounts vary widely. Larger scholarships may offer over $10,000, while smaller awards may offer only $1,000. Scholarship money usually covers tuition, books, and other fees, but some scholarships may also pay for housing and transportation.

Every scholarship application sets different requirements. Before collecting application materials, students should look into the scholarships that they qualify for to avoid wasting time on opportunities that don't fit their qualifications.

Because scholarships are free, competition can be tough. Students should not ignore smaller scholarships. Because they tend to draw fewer applicants, smaller awards may offer better chances of acceptance. Some scholarships are also renewable, which means that instead of a single payment, these scholarships give out money on a recurring basis.

Tips for Finding and Applying for MBA Scholarships

Before applying for scholarships, make sure that they fit your qualifications and that your application contains all materials to help you stand apart from the competition.

  • Finding MBA Scholarships:
  • MBA scholarship boards: MBA students can scour online boards to find financial awards such as scholarships and grants.
  • Demographics: Some scholarships award funds based on factors like ethnicity, gender, and race.
  • Smaller scholarships: Consider scholarships that offer smaller amounts. Adding up a few of these awards can help cover some of your tuition and fees.
  • Local scholarships: Contact local organizations in your city to find lesser-known scholarships. These awards may offer less competition than larger, more renowned scholarships.
  • Your MBA Scholarship Application:
  • Keep track of deadlines: Each scholarship may set a different deadline. Many scholarships accept applications before you start your MBA program, while others require applicants to be current students. Ensure that you know and meet the deadlines for all applications.
  • Collect and review required materials: Scholarships may ask for college transcripts, letters of recommendation, and resumes. Collect these documents before you start the application to save time.
  • Ask for letters of recommendation: You can boost your scholarship application with strong recommendation letters. Professional references are people who have worked with you and can endorse your qualifications.
  • Add work experience to your application: Work and volunteer experience can strengthen your scholarship application. Make sure to add required details, such as position held and duties involved, on the application.

Featured Scholarships for International MBA Students

Scholarships are of several types. Some awards only welcome applicants from certain backgrounds or those with exceptional academic merit. Others favor applicants from a specific field of study. Many scholarships fall under more than one category. The following opportunities may provide a good starting point for your scholarship search.

  • FulBright Specialist Program: This U.S. State Department program accepts applications from professionals and academics. Recipients take part in one- to six-week opportunities at host institutions around the world. The program includes roundtrip airfare, travel expenses, meals, and lodging. Participants also receive health benefits and a daily stipend.
  • American Association of University Women International Fellowships: This award benefits master's and doctoral candidates planning to launch a professional career in their home countries. Candidates must identify as women and may not be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Funding ranges from $18,000–$30,000. AAUW looks for applicants with strong academic records and a commitment to women and girls.
  • Willamette University Global Reach Scholarship: Oregon-based Willamette University offers renewable, merit-based scholarships to international MBA students. Scholarships cover 10%-100% of tuition. Award criteria include GMAT or GRE scores, undergraduate GPA, and work experience.
  • Student Finance England Master's Loan: Students pursuing an MBA in England can apply for a postgraduate master's loan to cover the course fee and living cost. This interest-bearing loan must be repaid when the student's income reaches the threshold amount. Only U.K. and EU nationals may qualify for this government loan.
  • INSEAD Scholarships: French business school Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires offers over 140 MBA scholarships. Specific awards focus on factors like diversity, gender, social impact, and location. Criteria combine financial need and merit, including distinctions, professional and academic achievements, and scholarship essays.
  • Esade Excellence Awards: Full-time MBA students at Esade Ramon Llull University in Spain can apply for the Esade Excellence Awards. The evaluation process considers the candidate's academic, professional, and personal achievements. Application materials include essays, GMAT or GRE scores, university transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Scholarships cover 10%-50% of tuition.
  • IES Abroad Scholarships: IES Abroad offers over 130 study abroad and internship programs for undergraduate and graduate students. The organization also provides financial aid, including scholarships. Scholarships apply to semester or yearlong programs and focus on factors like diversity, specific location, and field of study. Students can apply to all scholarships they are eligible for with one application.
  • Harvard Business School External Funding for International Students: Harvard Business School partners with external organizations to offer scholarships, grants, and fellowships for international students. Scholarship criteria and amounts vary by award.
  • University of Pennsylvania International Student Financial Aid: International students at Penn can apply for need-based financial aid during the admission process. Institutional funding includes grants and work study. The school commits to meeting 100% of students' demonstrated need.
  • IMD MBA Scholarships: The International Institute for Management Development, a Swiss business school, awards need-based and merit-based MBA scholarships. Scholarship amounts range from 30,000-50,000 Swiss francs. Individual scholarships focus on categories like diversity, professional background, and geographic region.
  • Forté Foundation MBA Fellowships: Forté supports women pursuing business careers. The foundation's MBA fellowship programs benefit students at its partner schools. Students from all nationalities can apply. To qualify, candidates need strong leadership skills, a diverse academic and professional background, and a commitment to the foundation's mission.
  • UGL Global Masters Scholarship: University College London offers this £15,000 scholarship for master's candidates in all fields of study. The one-year scholarship accepts applications from international students from low-income backgrounds. The university awards up to 70 Global Masters scholarships a year.

Common Questions about Scholarships for International MBA Students

Can international students get scholarships for an MBA?

Yes. Many business schools in the U.S. and worldwide offer need-based and merit-based scholarships to qualifying candidates.

How can an international student get a full scholarship?

Scholarships are either need-based or merit-based. Candidates with strong academic records and proven financial need may qualify for a full scholarship to fund their MBA program.

How do international students finance an MBA degree?

Financial aid for international MBA students may include loans, grants, work study, and scholarships. Some students may qualify for employer assistance. Others use personal savings to fund their MBA program.

Which scholarship is best for international students?

International MBA students should look for scholarship opportunities that fit their backgrounds and qualifications. University financial aid offices can help applicants find potential resources.


Featured Image: millann / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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