Since 2012, North Star’s MBA clients have been offered more than 10 million dollars in scholarships, including full tuition to Tuck, Haas, UCLA, Darden, Ross, Yale, Cornell, UNC, Emory, and Rice and at least half tuition at Harvard, Wharton, MIT, Booth, Kellogg, Duke and more.

Before I founded North Star I made decisions about who received scholarships at Tuck, and I also served as the Chair of the Consortium’s Executive Committee, where I participated in the annual Consortium Fellowship draft.  I know why candidates get business school scholarships, and I have leveraged this knowledge to help my clients. Here are some guidelines to maximize your chances of getting a full tuition MBA scholarship:

Focus on crafting the strongest possible application.

Before you can even be considered for a scholarship you need to get in. You also need to stand out in the pool, so that you are one of the school’s top candidates. Take the time to submit truly outstanding applications.

Understand your position in the pool and convey your strengths.

Schools use scholarships strategically.  They will offer you money in order to yield you if you represent a demographic or have specific experience or credentials (including high numbers) that they need to round out the class. You are more likely to get a scholarship at a school that is looking for what you, personally, bring, but that they have trouble finding.  If you are a highly qualified woman, for example, apply to schools with lower percentages of female students.  They may well offer you a financial incentive to attend.

Apply to schools that offer targeted fellowships.

Take the time to research which schools offer relevant fellowships.  Do you have a military background?  Look for schools that participate in the yellow ribbon program, and that have military endowments.  If you are an underrepresented minority you should consider applying through the Consortium.  If you have great leadership experience you might look at schools like Darden and Johnson, which offer full tuition fellowships to candidates with exceptional leadership skills.  Are you an international student from Latin America or Europe?  Apply to schools with endowments to recruit students from your country.

Paint a vivid picture of how you will enhance the community.

Although each program is different, I awarded scholarships to dynamic people, with the desire and ability to make an impact. Passive individuals with high numbers but lackluster personal qualities were less likely to get fellowships.  For some schools, it can help to establish connections with the admissions officers so that they understand your enthusiasm and potential.  In other cases, you will have to demonstrate your desire to participate through your written application and in your interview.

 Aim high.                 

Don’t assume that elite schools don’t offer scholarships.  They do, but in order to get them you have to rise to the top of the applicant pool.  Start early, make sure that you have a coherent story and polish every part of your application. Invest the time and resources now to craft your candidacy and you could wind up with a huge return on your investment.