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Merit-based aid: A second win for new MBA admits

December 5 2017 By The MBA Exchange
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Guest post by Jessica Burlingame, Master Consultant, The MBA Exchange

At The MBA Exchange, we love to celebrate our clients’ admission to the world’s top MBA programs. Over the years, we’ve had many additional opportunities to celebrate a second type of victory: offers of significant, merit-based financial aid from leading schools – in some cases up to the full cost of tuition.

There’s been a significant shift in the MBA-financing landscape. For many years, most admits at top programs had to finance their educations without merit-based aid from the schools – via a combination of personal and family resources, employer support, third-party fellowships, and (of course) student loans. If admitted to one of their top-choice schools, they’d just grit their teeth, hope for the best, and matriculate. Or, sadly, realize that their dream education was simply out of reach and have to forego this golden opportunity.

Today, with merit-based aid increasingly available from more top MBA programs, applicants offered admission without aid have cause to reach out and request such support before they enroll. Furthermore, applicants admitted to multiple schools face an increasingly complex decision about which school to attend. Say your first-choice school offers you a spot in the class with little or no financial aid – but a comparable school offers you admission and a five-figure scholarship. Can and should you ask your first-choice school to reconsider and, essentially, match or beat the other school’s offer?

Beyond a school’s admissions decisions, their merit-based aid decisions are even more complex and subjective. The competition among admits for aid can be even fiercer than the competition for admission, since schools can offer such aid to only a limited subset of admitted students. In advising our clients who have effectively negotiated and received significant, merit-based aid, The MBA Exchange has focused on two primary areas:

• Communication: Pursuing merit-based aid requires careful communication by the admitted applicant with representatives of each school to confirm their willingness to consider granting or increasing aid, without antagonizing or alienating them. It’s essential to open the inquiry respectfully and diplomatically, emphasizing that you’re honored to have been offered admission, and excited at the prospect of becoming a student at the school. Based on our years of experience with queries at this stage, The MBA Exchange consulting team is highly skilled in supporting you in this delicate, school-specific outreach.• Differentiation: Once you’ve established that a school is open to re-evaluating your merit-based aid status, you’ll need to strengthen your candidacy – conveying the unique value you’ll bring to that school’s incoming class, and future alumni community, that other admitted students competing for the same aid dollars can’t match. At this stage, an experienced consultant can help you uncover “hidden gems” in your background and/or future plans that may have been deemphasized or omitted in your initial application, but could motivate the school to reassess your potential contribution to the class, and thus your initial aid offer. Our thorough review of your complete application and supplemental data, and ongoing support of your communications with the school until a final aid offer is determined, can maximize your chances of securing an optimal aid package.

The bottom line? Seeking merit-based aid from top MBA programs can add a layer of complexity – and yes, anxiety! – once you’ve already won the prize of admission. However, an expertly-guided campaign with The MBA Exchange could yield even stronger reasons to celebrate your admission success and launch your MBA campaign with greater peace of mind. We’d love to help you win, so email us today!