Welcome to my advice column! Today’s topic is MBA scholarship negotiations. My name is Karen Marks, and I am the Founder and President of North Star Admissions Consulting. I have been helping people get into their dream schools since 2012, and prior to that I was the Associate Director of Admissions at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. In both roles, my goal is to give people the accurate, insider information that they need in order to succeed and make good decisions.

Towards that end, I am thrilled to be joined by my friend and former Colleague Amy Mitson, who is the Director of Admissions, Recruitment & Marketing at Tuck. Amy has seen both the student experience through her years in student services and now the admissions process as a member of the Tuck Admissions committee for the last 15 years. Amy shares my commitment to transparency, and together we will give you the real answers to your burning admissions questions, from both sides of the desk.  Questions and answers may appear in Poets and Quants. Ask away, no topic is off limits!

This week, we will address one of the most common questions that we both field, as people who were admitted to multiple schools weigh their options.

Dear P&Q – Last week, I was admitted to three top 10 business schools. I am trying to figure out which offer to accept, partially because I have a big scholarship at one of my options. How can I negotiate, and how can I decide?


Amy: First of all, congratulations on your admittances! For those admitted to Tuck, the Round 1 applicant pool was competitive, and it was competitive on top of that to be awarded a scholarship. Our team spends months (sometimes longer!) getting to know you, hosting events, scheduling interviews, and reading your recommendations and essays. We are genuinely excited to celebrate your admission. Please take a moment to enjoy the news and reflect on the opportunity.

Personally, if you are offered admissions and then immediately meet that excitement with disappointment regarding your scholarship offer, I am totally deflated. I thought I gave you great news?! If you do want to request scholarship reconsideration from the committee, pause to reflect on how you can do so with humility and awareness.

Karen: It can be very easy for applicants to forget that this is a personal process for the admissions officers, too! The officer you’re talking to likely fought for you in the committee process, and is probably invested in your decision. Once admitted, an outcome that should never be taken for granted, as schools can fill their classes many times over with exceptional applicants, it’s also easy for students to lose sight of the fact that even getting a seat in the class is no small accomplishment.

If you do decide to ask for scholarship reconsideration (which is ok to do), its critical to approach the conversation respectfully. I would not assume that the school is even open to taking another look – not all schools are. Furthermore, please don’t equate your exact scholarship (or the lack thereof), with the school’s level of interest in yielding you. If you have gotten in, they really, truly hope that you will attend! If they aren’t able to offer you money (which is the case more often than not), it doesn’t mean that they don’t want you to come. There is limited funding, and institutional priorities led them to allocate resources elsewhere.

Amy: It is called the art of negotiation for a reasonNegotiation is an art( and spoiler alert: it will also be one of our favorite elective classes at Tuck!) and not an anonymous transaction. Through reading your application, essays, interview evaluation, and recommendations, we feel like we know you! If you got to know Tuck during the application process, you know we are always open to conversation.

Karen: Ok, so building on the incredibly useful clues that Amy is helpfully providing here, there are definitely correct and incorrect ways to ask for (more) scholarship money. Do not assume that you are entitled to anything. Do not ask the admissions officers to sell you on why you should choose their school. Do not become a totally different person than the one you purported to be throughout the application process; arrogance and aggression will NOT get you what you want. Displaying those qualities might well make a bad impression on the community that you are hoping to join, however.

Amy: We have a specific process that allows admitted students to request scholarship reconsideration. We weigh admissions decisions thoughtfully as a committee and the same is true for scholarship awards and scholarship reconsideration. Do not expect an immediate offer and sometimes additional scholarship does not line up with the deposit deadline. We thoughtfully consider all requests, and this will take time.

Karen: Tuck does a fantastic job of being transparent and straightforward. They tell you that you won’t hear right away, and Amy is letting you peek behind the curtain by sharing that this is a committee decision. It’s complicated, and the schools take the responsibility for allocating limited scholarship dollars very seriously. (Just like they do when deciding who to admit.) It’s all a big deal, both getting in and getting money. Therefore, assume that you will need to make a deposit decision before hearing back about any reconsideration requests. Also, it’s bad form to initiate this request unless you really want to attend – committees are aware that admitted students are sometimes just trying to leverage scholarship offers to extract more money from other schools. This practice hurts everyone.

Bottom line: It’s totally ok to ask for scholarship reconsideration, as long as you do so honestly and respectfully. Also, if a school tells you exactly how they view these conversations, like Amy has today, please pay attention to what they’re sharing. This level of transparency is a gift!

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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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