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External Financial Aid – Part 1

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External financial aid is the financial assistance that a student can receive from sources other than the school or the university. It primarily comes from the numerous charitable organizations that provide scholarships or loans to students going for higher studies. Many times such a financial assistance is not related to the one received from the school, if awarded. However, in some cases the students have to notify the school of any external award/grant they receive and the amount awarded externally is then adjusted to the amount received from the school.

An external financial aid can be in various forms:

Gift Award: An outright grant by an organizations based on your application strength or need. There is no contest to be won in order to receive such an award. This is awarded many times by NGOs that do numerous types of charities including but not limited to helping people in attaining higher level of education. Such awards are mainly given on a need-cum-merit basis.

Loan Scholarship: A loan with either no or very low interest rate. This is also awarded most of the times by NGOs that do numerous types of charities including but not limited to helping people in attaining higher level of education. The amount received can vary from being small part of the tution to full tuition. These are normally the most sought after scholarships due to the possibility of getting an interest free full-tuition loan.

Loan-cum-gift: These are a mix of the above two categories where-in a part of the aid is given as gift and the rest of the amount has to be returned to the awarding organization at a later date.

Competition bases awards: These are in the form of essay competitions or some other form of contests. Some of these awards are open to all through out the academic circles but some are available only at the schools or universities with whom the awarding organization has a relationship. Sometimes these are not awarded by charities but by corporates who are trying to identify potential high performing employees.

Finally: Any other form that I do not know yet 🙂

In most cases every awarding organization has its own set of rules and eligibility criteria. Like your business school applications, these applications are also time-consuming and require a lot of effort. Most of them ask for a Statement of Purpose (similar to your career goals essay), recommendations, academic record and financial background information. In case of aid distributed by charity organizations, the amount is small but its available to many applicants. Sometimes only your travel expenses are covered, sometimes only a part of the tuition fees is covered and sometimes the entire tuition fees is covered (with some conditions). However, just as every drop of water constitutes to overall ocean, every small grant is helpful to the students.

The most important aspect here is to identify the numerous organizations that distribute such financial assistance. An important source of information for this is the school or university website. The financial aid section of each b-school website lists numerous sources of financial aid for all students – domestic and international. Here are some of the example links:

http://www.olin.wustl.edu/academicprograms/MBA/TuitionFinancialAid/Pages/Scholarships.aspx

http://www.london.edu/programmes/mba/scholarships.html

http://scholarz.info.googlepages.com/scholarship_guide.pdf

An important thing to remember here is that in many cases these lists are indicative and the students have to get in touch with the concerned organizations themselves. Each organization has its own deadline to apply and also its own set of eligibility criteria. Non-indian candidates can follow the links in the financial aid section of numerous b-schools or universities to identify the organizations where they can apply.

After an intensive search for the available options for Indian applicants, I was able to make a list of about 78 organizations that provide financial assistance for higher studies. The information available on the internet (or via any other source) was usually incomplete and I had personally get in touch with each organization to understand if I was an eligible candidate or not. It took me more than six weeks to identify the final 12 organizations where I was eligible to apply. The information received was not up-to-date or complete. Many of the organizations have now stopped providing any financial assistance, some do not exist any more, some provide assistance only to people following a particular religion or belonging to a particular community and so on.

My list was down to 12 as I was eligible to apply only the most generic scholarships that are open to everyone from India. The competition for such open category (as we refer to the people who do not belong to any reserved section of the society) is highly intense as people from both open and reserved category are eligible to apply. People from India will understand what I am trying to say here. As a result of this intense competition, the chances of getting any award are very low. Like the admission process, it all again drills down to your past academic record (read GPA), past awards received, recommendations, undergraduate school reputation, your current financial standing vis-a-vis that of other applicants, post graduation (not just post MBA 🙂 ) goals, etc.

I will soon post a list of all legitimate organizations that still provided financial assistance for higher studies to Indian citizens. As far as my current standing is concerned, my application was rejected by 4 organization, I have interviews scheduled with 2 of them, I am waiting for the results from 4 organizations and I received an award from 2 organizations :). The overall amount is minute when compared to my total expenses for the two-year MBA program at Olin, but when it comes to filling up the ocean I guess every little drop of water counts.

Written by abeautifulmind1

July 9, 2010 at 6:17 pm

The unexpected.

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February 16 was the day Johnson (Cornell) GSM released its decisions for R2. That was the day I saw the unexpected. I got my first wait-list. This MBA journey has been an interesting one with almost everything coming into picture. I got dings, one admit and now one wait-list.

Johnson (Cornell) is definitely my top choice and I would just love to spend two years in Ithaca. This wait-list is another opportunity now to testify that I am really interested in joining Johnson. So it is time for a little more leg work towards converting this wait-list into an admit. I now need to get back to Johnson adcom and start identifying potential areas to improve my candidacy.

An important thing here will be the process followed at Johnson (Cornell) for the wait-listed candidates. Johnson follows a rolling process here and they can take anytime to take me off the wait-list. I am an international candidate and there are many things that I will need to cover up before moving to US. I should receive a decision on my Johnson application hopefully by May in order to complete my VISA application in a smooth manner. I understand that there is a lot of time for that but looking at the Johnson wait-list chat at Accepted.com for last year, it appears that it can take an unpredictable amount of time to come off from the wait-list. However, the Johnson AdCom is good at taking into consideration such situations. Moreover, the picture will be more clear after March 10, 2010 which is the deposit deadline for R2 admitted candidates.

My blog readers: Any advice is welcome.

Written by abeautifulmind1

February 17, 2010 at 10:17 am

Identifying schools to apply

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This post is intended for those who are thinking about applying for an admission to an MBA program for Fall 2011. This might seem a little early for this but I believe this is the best time to start preparing for GMAT (if you haven’t already done so) and research schools. When I started my school search, I started after I gave GMAT and as a result I was a little pressured on time. Researching schools requires patience and involves more than just compiling the average of all the rankings available on the internet. Here are some of the steps that one can (or rather should) begin with:

Identify your target post-MBA field: If you are interested in a particular field of work then start by identifying the reasons behind it. Many times, and as was the case when I started, the information available is huge and many things appear to be related to our target career. If you are an engineer and interested in consulting then Strategy (Management) Consulting, IT Consulting – Implementation, IT Consulting – Strategy, Product Management, Organization Development and Restructuring, or more; almost everything will seem to be interesting and worth to pursue post MBA. If you are interested in moving into Financial Services but have limited exposure to it, understand the difference between Investment Banking, Investment Management, Corporate Finance, etc.

An important thing in choosing the post MBA target field is the ability to connect it with your interest and what you have done till date. If you cannot link your post MBA goals with what have you done till date, it will be difficult to convince the AdCom that you are serious about your target field. It also reflects your efforts at achieving your target goal and in this difficult market, it is a necessary thing to do. This way the AdCom will be comfortable in reading your application as you will have a lot less difficulty in securing a job post your MBA. If a student cannot find a job in 3-6 months post MBA, it is a negative mark on the school’s career development office and hence affects the school’s rankings and marketability.

Research school related to your target field: Sticking to the schools that are relevant to your target field of work is another important thing. Some schools are very good for finance, some for technology management and some for strategy consulting. Identifying the correct set of schools is very important as sometimes a higher ranked school need not be the one where you will gain most benefit to take your career further. Many times school location plays in important role here. For example, NYU (Stern) and Columbia are amazing when it comes to Finance. Being in NYC, both schools enjoy an unlimited access to Wall Street firms and majority of the students get jobs there. Similar argument holds for UC Berkeley (Haas) for a career in Technology. Sticking to schools relevant to your career goals will give you access to a big alumni network relevant to you.

Research the school Curriculum, Faculty and Infrastructure: This is another very important aspect of b school research. A school with strong and wide curriculum in Finance will be more relevant for someone interested in Finance and less for someone interested in Strategy Consulting or Marketing. Look for prominent faculty members at each school. Having prominent faculty members who are well-known for their research and corporate involvement adds to the strength of the school’s ability to market its students to the industry. Also, look for the infrastructure at each school. If the school has made good investment in its infrastructure, you will benefit from it. For example, look for how much a school spends on access to real-time data and software for trading if you are interested in Financial Sales & Trading. This will help you in gaining practical experience. You can visit the school to see the classes in action and the infrastructure in place. Or may be even the support for your partner if you are married.

A good resource for identifying relevant schools is a ClearAdmit Career Guide to your target field. For example, the ClearAdmit career guide for Consulting is helpful in identifying the best schools for Consulting. It is not a full fledge guide for developing a career in Consulting. It’s purely a guide to b schools for Consulting. It covers some of the best known business schools for Consulting. The main pros of this guide is the details on each school. It has details on the curriculum structure, core and elective courses relevant to Consulting (more specifically Management Consulting, but also has more), list of prominent faculty members at each school and more.

You can gain an understanding of what exactly the school is known for in the market, the most recent class composition, placement statistics, Consulting companies that visit the school and whether the most sought after companies visit the school or not. It also has the details of relevant courses, organization of these courses (like when exactly  can a student, during his/her  two years take these) and the level of flexibility offered by the school. Some details on the relevant student clubs and events sponsored by the school are also mentioned in the guide.

All in all, it is a good source of information for identifying the correct school for your target field. However, these guides cover only the top schools in each field. As you know, getting in at a top school is not an easy task and sometimes even luck is important here. Moreover, these guides do not carry any information that you will not be able to find on the internet or using other sources. But, these are a good source to begin with. You can start researching on the schools not covered in these guides by looking for the same information (and more if you know any) as mentioned in these guides.

Identify your reach: Identifying the school within your reach is another equally important factor. A reach school is the school where your statics (GMAT, GPA, exp, etc) are competitive with that of the most recent class profile. This way your application will not be at any disadvantage when compared with that of the rest of the applicants and you will have a good chance of making it. Applying only to dream, but out of reach, schools is a bad strategy as you might not get any admit. Identify 2-3 reach schools to apply to and also identify 1-2 safe schools. Also, keep one or two dream (out of reach) schools in your list as business school application process also involves a little bit of luck. You never know when exactly she smiles on you.

Connect with the students: Another important aspect of the research is networking with the current and former students of each of your target schools. Current schools will give you an idea of the current situation at the school. Like the latest curriculum developments, career scope post MBA, current placement scene, etc. Also, get feedback from the school alumni on how are they finding their education/time at the school useful in their career. This will be useful in understand the amount of effort you will need to put-in in each area once you begin your MBA.

Financing your MBA: The last but equally important factor. This is more relevant for internationals than domestic applicants but I hope everyone finds some useful information here. Domestic applicants usually have many options to fund the MBA. There are many loan schemes available in almost each country. Some are backed by government (and hence low-interest rate) and some are available privately (and hence easily available). Do a research on the estimated expenses for your study and your ability to repay the expenses in a reasonable duration. You don’t want to pay instalments for 20 years of your life, do you?

Also, for international students, many time loans without co-signer are not available. However, some schools have special programs where the school acts as a co-signer for you. In this case, the rate of interest might be high but you will still have access to funds. Before applying to a particular school, check if you can manage to pay its fees. I had to remove/change two schools from my “Reach” list because the schools didn’t have such loans in place and I do not know anyone who can act as a co-signer for me in US.

In some cases, you can try to apply at a lower ranked school (lower not in the rankings list but in your preference) and where your application will be strong, to secure some funding. This way your expenses will be less and you might just manage to fund your MBA easily.

 

Like I mentioned before, this is the correct time to start as you will have enough time to cover everything. I hope you have managed to read this long post completely.

Written by abeautifulmind1

February 15, 2010 at 12:28 pm