Attending business school is a big investment of your time, your energy, and especially your money. You'll probably have to depend on a variety of graduate financial aid to pay for business school — loans, scholarships, work-study, even money from your family, if they're willing. As with most things, good preparation will ensure that you get the money you need and won't go broke paying it back.
Consider costs of paying for graduate school
Before you sign on the dotted line at any school, be sure you are well-informed about all the costs involved with attending. Take into account not only the tuition charged by the program, but also any fees the school charges, the cost of living in the area where you'll be attending the program, and a vast assortment of extras, including insurance, medical expenses, transportation, and entertainment.
Unless money is no object, the total cost of attending should be one of the most important criteria you consider when looking at schools. Some students find that it's worth their while to spend big bucks to attend the most selective programs; others don't. When you're evaluating schools and their costs, calculate how rapidly you'll get a return on your investment.
Sources of graduate financial aid
Start exploring sources of graduate school financial aid as soon as you begin thinking about business school. Gather information about specific schools and always request information about financial aid. Narrow down your choices of programs to those to which you'd like to apply and then contact their financial aid offices to schedule an appointment with a financial aid officer. Investigate each and every source of aid that the school and the program offer.
Find out about school- and program-specific graduate financial aid (grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans) before you begin looking at outside sources. We also encourage you to search online, at your local bookstore, at your company's human resources office, or at your local library. A vast amount of materials are available to help you.
The Internet is also an excellent source to locate financial aid for graduate school. Begin with the Web sites of the schools to which you're applying. From there, you can search for information on private loans, government loans and grants, scholarships, internships, and more. You can download applications for aid from most private lenders' Web sites or submit requests for aid to them directly online. However, beware of any site that asks you to send them a fee to process your request for any type of aid, especially scholarships. If you wisely go about your search for financial aid, you shouldn't have to pay money to get money.
Applying for graduate school financial aid
The first step towards obtaining financial aid for graduate school is to complete and submit all of the required applications. Procedures vary from school to school, so above all else, make sure that you check with the financial aid office at each program about specific deadlines and guidelines. In all likelihood, you will have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form is required for all students who wish to receive federal and state financial aid.
Even if you're not applying for federal aid, most programs will have you fill out the FAFSA anyway, as it provides them with information they need to process aid awards from their school. You can obtain a copy of the FAFSA from the program's financial aid office, or fill it out at the Department of Education's Web site.
A program may also require you to complete additional school-specific applications to determine whether you're eligible for funds from the institution. Remember, some of the best sources of aid that you may find will be from the schools and programs themselves, so be sure to fill in all the information requested and to submit the forms by the deadlines. When it comes to graduate school financial aid, deadlines are crucial — practically every student applies for financial aid, so you don't be disqualified because you didn't hand in your forms on time.
Process takes effort and time
Getting money for graduate school isn't always quick, and it's certainly not easy. You'll spend a lot of time filling out forms and stressing over deadlines, so the more prepared you are when you begin, the better off you'll be.
Determine what is needed for each aid application as soon as you can, and meet all deadlines. Sometimes, you'll need to demonstrate a certain GPA or financial need, or will need to submit essays or letters of recommendation. Make several copies of all supporting materials at the beginning of your application process and keep them handy. You may be able to use them again if you're applying to more than one school.
Once your forms are received and reviewed by the schools' financial aid offices, your eligibility for assistance will be determined. Award eligibility notices will be sent to you, and will include all awards you've qualified for, both from the government and from the school. Make sure that you respond to these letters as instructed by the school. If you are advised to apply for loans, be sure to complete those applications, sign any promissory notes, and return your application to the lender.
Familiar financial aid routine
If you're pursuing your MBA, then it stands to reason you went through school as an undergraduate at some point. If you applied for financial aid to obtain your bachelor's degree, then this routine probably sounds pretty familiar. The structure and process of paying for graduate school really isn't all that different — but what's available to you is. So start early and be the first in line to get a piece of the financial aid pie!