Can you Negotiate with a Top Business School?

The short answer is “it never hurts to ask”. Over the years, many of our clients have gotten the amazing news that they have been selected for a scholarship from at least one of their desired MBA programs. Sometimes, however, the money comes from a second or third choice instead of that coveted first choice school. So, the question we often get is “can I leverage one scholarship offer to get others?”

The scholarship process overall is fairly opaque and generally more of a black box than the rest of the MBA application process. It’s often a tool used by the schools as a way to entice candidates who they feel especially strongly about for one reason or another.

Since it’s hard to know exactly where you stand on that highly-subjective spectrum, we always recommend going for it: there’s no harm in telling a particular school that you have a scholarship offer from another program and see if they’re willing to match it. No, they will not rescind your offer just because you ask and express that you’ve been admitted to another school. In fact, negotiating and being savvy about this process is demonstrative of maturity and real consideration of this huge decision!

More often than not, your request will result in a polite “no but thanks for asking” from the schools. However, there are ample examples to prove that it’s worth your time to try. Take Andy, a client I worked with last year who had his heart set on Fuqua but also applied to several other programs to hedge his bets. Andy ended-up being admitted to almost all of the schools that he applied to, including Fuqua as well as Ross. However, Ross offered him a very significant scholarship, stating that they were offering him the money because they wanted more entrepreneurs and felt like their program could help him launch his idea after graduation. Though Andy liked Ross’s program and felt he could do well there, his gut was telling him that Fuqua was still the better choice for him.

As such, Andy decided to talk to Fuqua about his conundrum. He sent an email to admissions explaining that he’d been offered a significant scholarship from Ross but that Fuqua remained his top choice. He then asked if Fuqua would match Ross’s offer. Fuqua’s response was to request that Andy simply write a quick paragraph on why, based on merit, he should be awarded a scholarship. As such, he described advancements he’d made in his start-up launch plan and fundraising; and of course he also reiterated the level of the Ross scholarship.

This tactic led Fuqua to not only match Ross’s offer for Andy, but also increase it by a small amount!

The moral of the story once again is that it doesn’t hurt to ask. We recommend reaching out directly to the admissions teams for the schools you’re negotiating with and having a discussion about the best way to submit this request. Every school is different and frequently these situations are approached on a case-by-case basis. Best of luck!

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