There’s no denying business school in the US is expensive. The average graduate leaves an MBA program more than $US65,000 in debt, and many hit the six-figure mark.
While you can offset the cost of tuition with scholarships awarded for stellar GMAT scores, a high GPA, or impressive work experience, there’s a chance you’ll still come up short.
The next best strategy? Negotiate.
“Other than the GMAT, scholarship negotiations may be applicants’ most dreaded part of the MBA-admissions process,” Brian Precious writes in his book “Get In, Get Connected, Get Hired: Lessons from an MBA Insider.”
For seven years, Precious worked in MBA admissions, recruiting, and alumni relations at Purdue University, Oregon State University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned an MBA. Last year he left his post at OSU to pursue independent consulting.
“Despite what some students tell me, it doesn’t have to be adversarial or stressful, and it can actually enhance your relationship with the MBA program director or admissions director,” he wrote. “The key is to know whether and when to negotiate and to approach the negotiation with the right expectations and the right attitude.”
In fact, Precious told Business Insider, showing any signs of unprofessionalism or immaturity — including complaining, negativity, or rudeness — is the worst mistake a student can make.
MBA programs often track student’s interactions throughout the scholarship process, he says, whether they’re emailing with a student ambassador, calling the receptionist, or meeting with an admissions director, and they expect the student to be positive and professional at every turn.
And if you’re putting in the work to negotiate your tuition, the team expects you to show enthusiastic interest in the program. An attitude of indifference won’t bode well, he says.
At the end of the day, MBA program directors are given a fixed pool of money to allocate among students as they see fit, Precious said, so not everyone will get a slice of the pie.
“My goal is to give the students who I believe are going to be most successful in the program that money,” he said. And if it turns out that isn’t you, “don’t burn any bridges.”
“Even if the scholarship negotiation does not go well, remain cordial and professional with the admissions director,” he writes in his book. “A few years ago, I worked with a student whom I really liked, but I wasn’t able to meet her scholarship requirements. Even though she attended another institution, we stayed in touch and connected on LinkedIn. Last year, she emailed me to see if I could introduce her to one of my connections. That introduction led to a full-time job opportunity for her.”