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Four Ways MBA Applicants Can Stand Out for Scholarships

Jan 7, 2022
Director of MBA Recruiting and Associate Dean of MBA Operations highlight ways MBA candidates can stand out when applying for merit-based scholarships

By Arial Starks

One of the most important things to consider when applying to MBA programs is how to finance the degree. Most MBA programs in the U.S. offer merit-based scholarship opportunities for students that can cover some or all of the cost of attendance. Sue Oldham, Associate Dean of MBA Operations at Vanderbilt, and Amanda Fend, Director of MBA Recruiting, highlight a few ways to stand out in your application to increase your chances of earning scholarships. 

Create an application checklist

Most MBA programs automatically consider students for merit-based scholarship opportunities during the application process, so it is vital that candidates ensure they have completed all parts of the application to the best of their ability. At Vanderbilt, candidates have access to recruiting managers who assist them through every step of the application process.

Who makes a good MBA student?

Sue Oldham

Every piece and part of the application counts.  It’s not just one item of the application (e.g. test scores, transcripts, grades, resume, essays) that stands on its own.  We look for an upward trajectory both on the transcript and on the resume.  Every person has a story that is unique to that person; we encourage you to spend some time looking at all of your unique pieces to pull together the story that is truly you,” says Oldham. 

Craft your story

There are many different moving parts to the application process for MBA programs, including sharing your story with the admissions team on and off paper. Fend encourages students to take time crafting their story of why they feel an MBA is right for them, as well as what they will bring to the program. Being prepared to showcase your strengths and explain how you want to continue to improve your leadership skills could set you apart from other candidates and in turn earn you more scholarship money.

“From a recruiting perspective, being able to clearly and articulately share your story is vital because it can directly affect how your candidacy is evaluated and in turn, how you are evaluated for scholarships. Even thinking long-term, candidates will not only need to have their story down for the application process, but will have to continuously share it once they are accepted into the program as they participate in things like corporate recruiting and networking events,” says Fend.

Amanda Fend

Take advantage of essays

Essays are a great opportunity for candidates to stand out from other applicants, because it is one of the only parts of the process that students can control in the present. Most applications require things that reflect a candidate’s past such as resumes, transcripts and test scores, while the essays give them the opportunity to really show the admissions team how their mind works.

“Things like your resume and transcripts are pretty final. You can’t change your grades or where you have worked, but you can use your essay to showcase personality and come alive on paper. I always encourage students to spend a good amount of time on essays,” Oldham says. 

Oldham also points to the opportunity for students to do additional essays if their desired program offers them. 

Do your research

As soon as someone is considering pursuing an MBA, they should also be thinking about how they will fund the degree. There is readily available information about merit-based scholarship opportunities for most MBA programs, so it is important for candidates to do their research in finding out how much their desired program costs as well as how much scholarship funding is available to students. 

“At Vanderbilt Business, typically 70-80 percent of the incoming class is awarded merit-based scholarships averaging around thirty-thousand dollars which is very generous. The stats are out there for other programs as well, so I encourage students to consider those numbers when choosing a program,” said Oldham. 

To learn more about financing an MBA at Vanderbilt, click here.

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