Three questions to ask about financing your MBA

The prospect of financing an MBA can be a source of stress for many business school hopefuls. First, the best MBA programs don’t come cheap, and then there’s all the extra costs to think about: travel, accommodation, study materials… It all adds up. That said, it’s best to think about financing your MBA as a smart business investment on which you can expect excellent returns.

If you’re still in the early stages of working out how you’re going about financing your MBA, it’s common to feel a little overwhelmed. Asking the three questions below is a good way to get a little clarity on the subject and work out exactly where you stand.

1. How much will financing your MBA cost you in total?

It’s essential to get a realistic idea of the total cost of pursuing an MBA upfront to avoid any surprise later on. Always ask about any extra fees and levies you may be liable for over and above your basic MBA tuition fees. For example,  some schools require students to pay a student government association fee or other pre-term fees relating to the use of campus facilities.

In general, the list below should cover the main costs of your MBA:

  • MBA tuition cost;

  • Extra fees such as student government association fees;

  • Books and other study materials or equipment;

  • Accommodation and living expenses;

  • Daily travel expenses;

  • Field trips, possibly including international travel;

  • Health and liability insurance;

  • A laptop if you don’t already own one;

If you’re trying to keep costs down, there are a number of ways to save money on categories like entertainment, housing and transport, even in the most expensive cities around the world.

2. How long will it take you to make back what you’ve spent?

Whether you’re going to dip into your savings or take out a loan to finance your MBA, it’s useful to know how long it will take you to earn back the total cost of your MBA. Do some research into what kind of salary bump you can expect after graduation, as this will vary depending on your particular industry or field. However, surveys show that the majority of MBA graduates are able to pay off their loans within three to five years.

3. Are you eligible for any scholarships, grants, or other funding options?

Part of working out how you’re going about financing your MBA includes looking into all funding options that might be available to you. Start with your chosen business school’s website, as most schools offer a range of scholarships and grants, either independently or in partnership with corporate partners. If you’re a star candidate that boasts stellar GMAT scores, an impressive academic record and demonstrable leadership qualities, you may be able to snag a scholarship that helps you either partially or fully pay for your MBA.

In contrast, grants are generally awarded based on a financial need basis. Employer sponsorship might be another avenue worth investigating, provided you’re prepared to continue working for your current employer for an agreed number of years after graduation. If employer sponsorship appeals to you, approach your employer ready to convince them why and how investing in your MBA will benefit the company.

If you are going to invest in an MBA, you’d better ensure you’re getting the best value for your money. The ESSEC Global MBA is an intensive 12-month program with an international focus geared towards promising professionals looking to accelerate their careers. Find out more about the ESSEC Global MBA here.

Still searching for the ideal MBA program? Our free guide, How to find the perfect MBA, takes you through the key considerations you need to take into account when choosing an MBA. Download the guide.

How to finance your MBA

If you’re considering pursuing an MBA, you’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about how you should finance it. Yes, these programmes can be pricey, but right off the bat, it’s important to realise that an MBA is not an expense: it’s an investment. Generally the amount paid to  finance an MBA pales in comparison to what  is earned in the years after graduation. In fact, because an MBA enables you to bag a better position and earn a higher salary, you can expect to make up the cost of your MBA within just five years.

How you finance your MBA will, of course, depend on many factors, such as your current financial situation, whether you plan to study abroad or closer to home, and whether you’re signing up for part-time or full-time study. You may choose to use multiple sources of funding, or perhaps you can cover your costs through just one funding option. Whatever your particular situation, here’s an overview of the various ways you can finance your MBA.

  • Finance your MBA through scholarships, bursaries, or grants.

Just as promising students compete for a place at the best business schools in the world, so business schools compete for the privilege of teaching the most promising students in the world. One way to attract top talent is through school-funded scholarships, bursaries, and grants. Check out your chosen school’s website for advice and information on available funding options. Some business schools will also advertise scholarships offered by their corporate and strategic partners. In general, scholarships are awarded based on student performance and leadership potential, while bursaries or grants are reserved for those in financial need or of a specific demographic, for example. Remember to check whether a scholarship carries any extra commitments or performance requirements. For example, some scholarships may require you to give presentations at a conference or keep your grades above a specified threshold.

Don’t limit your research to your chosen business school’s website. Investigate any and all grants, scholarships, and bursaries offered by independent organisations. It’s really worth putting as much time aside as possible for researching which scholarships or grants you might be eligible for. Funding applications requires hard work, so give yourself ample time to put together a convincing application by the required dates. In fact, it’s a good idea to start researching your funding options from the moment you start researching business schools.

  • Finance your MBA by taking out a student loan.

Many MBA candidates are required to take out some kind of loan to either partially or fully finance their MBAs. Some banks, governmental institutions, and independent organisations offer student loans specifically tailored to MBA candidates, so look out for these when doing your research. Always take interest rates and repayment periods into account when assessing student loan options.

  • Finance your MBA through employer sponsorship.

Some employers could partially or fully fund your MBA studies, provided you agree to stay on at the company for a predetermined time period once you’ve graduated. While this can seem like a relatively risk-free and attractive financing option, it’s essential to ensure that an employment agreement of this nature doesn’t contradict your future career goals. If the reason you’re pursuing an MBA is to change careers, for example, a sponsorship deal with your current employer might not be the best option for you.

  • Finance your MBA by means of self-financing.

Some MBA candidates are able to self-finance their MBA programmes. This usually means using savings or an inheritance, working part-time while studying, or relying on a partner, spouse, or family member to fund your studies.

The ESSEC Global MBA is a 12-month intensive MBA programme designed to accelerate your career and give you cutting-edge business acumen in an international arena. Check out our financing page to find out more about the various funding options and scholarships available for the ESSEC Global MBA.

Need guidance choosing the best MBA programme for your specific needs and goals? Download our free guide, How to find the perfect MBA.

How to stay calm and focused when you’re doing an MBA abroad

Doing an MBA abroad can be a wonderful and enriching experience you’ll never forget. It’s a heady mix of new places, people, skills and experiences, not to mention new job prospects at the end of it all. Of course, it’s not all glitz and glamour. You’ll come up against new challenges and obstacles on a daily basis, both relating to your studies and to life in a foreign country, so it’s wise to safeguard against getting stressed out and overwhelmed. To help you do just that, we’ve rounded up our top tips for staying calm, focused and sane during your MBA abroad.

  • Keep your goals in mind.

Business school has a lot of offer – networking events, seminars, company visits, mock interviews, student clubs, and more – but you can’t do it all. Keeping your goals at the forefront of your mind will help you prioritise competing tasks and events. If you’re feeling overcommitted, stop to check in with the bigger picture of why you’re doing your MBA in the first place. Then, reshuffle your commitments and schedule to better serve your end goals. Streamlining your schedule will help you get more out of each activity you engage in.

  • Prioritise rest.

As a driven, ambitious businessperson, maintaining a healthy work/life balance is probably already a challenge for you. But you need to accept that you aren’t a machine; you can’t work and study 24/7 without risking burn out. Scheduling downtime for socialising and resting is just as important as scheduling time for job interviews, study groups, and field trips. Force yourself to take the time to unwind and recharge, whether that means going out for a festive dinner with classmates, taking a yoga class, practicing your favorite sport, meditating or just spending an afternoon in bed with a cup of tea and a novel. You’ll come back to your studies with renewed focus and vigour.

  • Form strong relationships with your classmates.

One of the benefits of doing an MBA abroad is that you’ll grow a diverse network of international business contacts. But there’s another reason to work hard at making lasting connections with your classmates: they’re one of your biggest support structures when you’re doing an MBA abroad. Try not to view your classmates as competitors, but rather as friends and allies. After all, they’re in same boat as you, dealing with the same deadlines, decisions, anxieties, and doubts. Whether you’re struggling with the workload, a particular assignment, homesickness, or language barriers, turning to your classmates for support can mean the difference between staying the course and heading home early.

  • Enjoy your surroundings.

If you’re doing your MBA abroad,  it would be criminal not to take advantage of the awesome travel opportunities at your feet. Soak up some culture, try the local delicacies, and take a day trip to see the sights. Doing an MBA abroad isn’t supposed to be torture, after all; it’s supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience you’ll remember forever. Making an effort to enjoy your surroundings will help you stay sane during your studies.

  • Look after your health.

You might think that pursuing an MBA abroad requires a strong mind, and nothing else. Wrong. A sharp mind is no good if it’s trapped in an ailing body. Eat a healthy diet and make sure you exercise for at least 30 minutes a few times a week. You can’t focus on a complicated spreadsheet if your backache is killing you, and you can’t charm a potential employer if you’re sleep-deprived with bloodshot eyes.

  • Reach out to a student advisor.

If you’re really struggling to manage the pressures and challenges of doing an MBA abroad, reach out to your school’s student advisor or mentor. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, and most business schools have resources in place to support students who need help. An honest conversation with someone who’s been through it all before, or a few sessions with a counsellor, can help put things back into perspective.

If you’re considering pursuing an MBA abroad, but haven’t found the right programme yet, check out our guide, How to find the perfect MBA.

Alternatively, download the ESSEC Global MBA brochure. The ESSEC Global MBA is a 12-month intensive programme with a focus on international markets and campuses in Paris and Singapore.

How to ace your MBA application

So, you’ve decided to make a massive investment in your career by pursuing an MBA – brilliant! A world of new ideas, experiences, and connections is at your feet… Almost. First, you need to ace your application to bag a spot on your chosen MBA program. What’s more, the pressure is on: you’ve picked one of the top MBA programs in the world. (And rightly so, why get your MBA at all if you aren’t going to aim high?) The competition is fierce, so you need to write the kind of application that’s guaranteed to make you stand out from the crowd.

MBA admissions committees want to see well-rounded applications that show off each candidate’s various skills, abilities, and attributes. Your academic track record, professional experience, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and personal story all count towards the ultimate application, so make sure each aspect is covered.

  1. Make your GMAT score count.

Most MBA programs require applicants to submit their GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) score with their application. As set out by the Graduate Management Admissions Council here, the GMAT “assesses analytical writing and problem-solving abilities, along with the data sufficiency, logic, and critical reasoning skills that are vital to real-world business and management success.” Both your GMAT score and undergraduate academic record are taken into account in the MBA application process. Prepare as much as possible for the GMAT to ensure a good score, since this can make the difference between being accepted or not.

2. Outline your career goals.

Admissions committees like to see candidates who have a clear idea of what they want to get out of the MBA program, and how they plan to use it to advance their career post-graduation. Make sure that you clearly articulate realistic career goals in the short, medium and long term. Here, it’s up to you to do your research on the school and program you’re applying to. Make sure that the MBA in question is indeed a good fit for your specific career goals. Then be sure to communicate why you’re a good fit for the school in your application essay.

3. Think carefully about who you ask to submit references.

Try not to rely on academic references, as business schools are more interested in the professional skills you’ve earned through on-the-job learning.Your professional references are an important part of your MBA application. Choose your references carefully and have a long, honest chat with them about why you’re getting your MBA. If they aren’t as excited about the prospect of you going to business school as you are, they’re probably not the best choice; you need someone who’s 100% behind you. References should have worked closely enough with you in the past to be able to supply specific, honest examples of your outstanding work ethic and unerring performance. Try not to rely on academic references, as business schools are more interested in the professional skills you’ve earned through on-the-job learning.

4. Focus on what makes you memorable.

This can be a tall order, but it’s worth spending some time thinking about what makes you unique. Do you have an inspirational personal story about how you’ve overcome adversity? Have you done something out of the ordinary, like climbed Kilimanjaro or lived and worked in every continent on the planet? Are you passionate about humanitarian causes? Try to build your ‘personal brand’ and convey that in your application essay. Remember, the admissions committee likely has to sift through hundreds of applications so make yours stand out!

Now you know why getting your MBA application together is no small task. Acing the written application process requires really understanding what you want out of your MBA experience and being able to articulate what makes you different to all the other candidates vying for the same spot.

5. Illustrate your leadership potential

Have you ever managed a team? If so, be sure to include this in your application. MBA admissions committee are always on the lookout for leadership potential. Never miss an opportunity to point out instances where you’ve demonstrated leadership skills or qualities, whether in the workplace or through sports, volunteer organisations, or musical groups.

6. Show your ability to work well in a team.

MBA programs typically involve a lot of group projects, so demonstrating your ability to work well in a team is essential. Highlight examples of great teamwork in your career thus far, and be sure to mention any instances where you’ve had to practice values like  patience, humility, or intercultural sensitivity. Remember, teamwork lessons learnt on the sports field count too, so don’t leave these out.

7. Include any international experience in your application.

This is particularly important if you’re applying to an MBA program with an international focus. If you hold multiple nationalities, have travelled, studied, or worked internationally, or if you are able to speak multiple languages, let the admissions committee know.

8. Highlight any volunteer work you’ve done.

If you’re passionate about any philanthropic activities or if you’re involved in any humanitarian organisations, outline your efforts in your application.

Check out the ESSEC Global MBA brochure or more info on our prestigious 12-month intensive international MBA program. Alternatively, head over to the ESSEC Global MBA admissions page to see if you might be a good fit for the school.

If you’re still undecided on which business school you should apply to, How to find the perfect MBA. In it, we unpack four key considerations to help you choose an MBA program guaranteed to help you thrive in your professional life.

Will an MBA make you a better entrepreneur?

The entrepreneurial spirit takes many different shapes and forms. Whether you’re an aspiring company founder with a revolutionary idea itching to launch your very own start-up, or whether you just want to bring a dose of leadership chutzpah and think-outside-the-box brilliance to your existing organisation, the bottom line is that you’re an innovator at heart.
But like all astute innovators and business leaders, you know that a good idea and guts aren’t quite enough. To really get to grips with growing a business, developing innovations, or starting your own company, you need a little guidance, a bucket of inspiration, and, of course, business smarts. Can an MBA at one of the top business schools in the world really give you the skills and experience you need to feed your budding entrepreneurial spirit? The short answer is yes (provided you choose the correct MBA program, that is).
So, why do MBA graduates often go on to skillfully grow existing organisations or start lucrative, prosperous businesses of their own? Below, we unpack the various ways in which the right MBA can prepare you to become a better business leader.
Entrepreneurship specialisations are specifically designed to give you the skills you need to start your own company.
If it’s entrepreneurial skills you’re after, it makes sense to choose an MBA program that offers a entrepreneurship and innovation major. These specialised MBA programs are unique in that they include a focus on creative business skills like design thinking and ideation. Not only will the MBA help you develop the ability to come up with innovative products and solutions, it will also show you how to profitably manage these innovations. You’ll have the opportunity to explore and understand various business models, including modern digital business models.
MBA programs teach you teamwork and leadership skills.
Why do MBA programs include so many group projects? Whether you’re starting your own business or working within a bigger organisation, you won’t succeed unless you understand the importance of teamwork and leadership. The top business schools in the world understand this, which is why collaboration and group work are such a big feature of any good MBA program. Even better, MBAs with an international focus force you to collaborate with people from a wide range of backgrounds, thereby giving you the kind of cultural sensitivity that enables you to do business with anyone, anywhere. If you want to take your business global one day – and why wouldn’t you? – take advantage of the diversity of an international MBA student body.

Your MBA network will serve you throughout your career as an entrepreneur and innovator.
The excellent network you build during your MBA program will continue to benefit you for years to come. Between your classmates, the wider alumni network, your lecturers, and the various connections you’ll make on company visits and field trips, you’ll form a wide support network of driven, like-minded individuals. MBA graduates find investors, employees, business partners, and mentors within their network, making it an invaluable resource for the budding entrepreneur or innovator.
The MBA provides a safe place for experimentation.
Why do an MBA if you’re not going to push the boundaries and experiment with new ideas and unorthodox business models? Another reason why MBAs produce confident, skilled innovators is because the course creates a space where it’s okay – beneficial, even – to try new things, even if it means risking failure. Trial and error is an inevitable part of any entrepreneur’s journey, so the sooner you learn to see your mistakes and ‘failures’ as learning opportunities, the better.
Company visits provide valuable insights into the inner workings of successful organisations.
Field trips and company visits allow MBA candidates to forge connections with prosperous companies and the school’s strategic partners. They’re also a great opportunity to pick the brains of key personnel and to find out how the gears turn in global corporations.
Whether or not an MBA will help you become a better business leader and innovator depends in large part on which MBA you decide to pursue. As mentioned earlier, finding an MBA that specialises in entrepreneurship and innovation at one of the top business schools in the world is a good place to start.

Need help selecting the right MBA for you? Download our guide, How to find the perfect MBA, for advice on choosing the right program.

Should you do an online MBA?

Why get your MBA at a bricks and mortar business school when you can get the same value through an online course? After all, in today’s digital world, everything is done online, right? In reality, it’s not as simple as that. It’s not necessarily true that online MBA programs offer the same value as traditional on-campus MBAs.

Online MBA programs are convenient and affordable.

Of course, there are some upsides to opting to do your MBA online. The biggest benefit is probably the cost, which usually works out to be much lower than that of a traditional MBA program. In addition, online MBAs offer a great level of flexibility and convenience, making it easier to fit your MBA classes around your existing schedule and lifestyle, no matter where in the world you live.

But as many MBA graduates will tell you, the value of an MBA goes far beyond the academics. The entire experience – from campus life, to company trips, to group projects, to networking events – contributes to each candidate’s overall learning experience.

Online MBAs don’t allow for travel opportunities.

If the toss up is between doing an online MBA or doing an MBA abroad, opting to go the online route means you’ll be missing out on some unforgettable travel opportunities. The top MBA programs include field trips to a range of diverse countries. In fact, some MBA programs at the top business schools in the world see students spending time in up to six different countries in just one year. Try squeezing that much juice out of an online learning experience! Not only is travel an enriching experience in and of itself, but it’s also an essential part of getting to grips with international business practices. International MBAs are designed to help students grasp the importance of cultural awareness when doing business across borders.

Company visits don’t feature in online MBA curriculums.

Alongside international field trips, prestigious MBA curriculums include organised company visits and study trips. These are invaluable opportunities for getting hands-on experience in a real-world setting, as well as an insider’s perspective on the day-to-day operations of highly successful multinational companies. Online curriculums also don’t include conferences, recruitment events and professional speakers. This hands-on elements are the reasons why getting your MBA in a more traditional setting might be a better idea.

Networking is much efficient in a face-to-face setting.

It’s well known that one of the biggest reasons why getting your MBA is such a huge career investment is because the program allows you to grow your network of professional connections. Although online courses do encourage student interaction via online forums, ‘meeting’ online just doesn’t leave the same impression as a face-to-face interaction. Connections made via an online course just don’t compare to the kind of network an MBA graduate nurtures through a traditional MBA program.

Online MBAs don’t encourage teamwork or instil leadership qualities to the same extent.

Similarly, group work will be less rewarding and stimulating on an online course. Sure, online MBAs have forums where classmates can live chat and collaborate on projects. But if you’ve ever held a brainstorming session over Skype, you’ll know that it’s nothing like brainstorming together in the same room, whiteboard covered in scrawled ideas and coffee cups steaming. Just as teamwork is difficult to encourage online, so leadership qualities are less likely to emerge in a distance-learning setting. This begs the question: why get your MBA at all if you’re going to miss out on all the benefits offered by being physically present?

Some employers may not value an online MBA as highly.

The stigma around online MBAs is no longer as strong as it once was. These days, so long as the business school is accredited and respected, whether you earned your MBA online or on-campus probably won’t matter to potential employers. That said, there are still some employers and companies who may not put as much stock in your MBA should they discover you earned it online. While this isn’t always the case, it is something to bear in mind when making your decision.

The ESSEC Global MBA is a 12-month intensive MBA that promises students all of the benefits of traditional brick and mortar MBA programs outlined above. With campuses in Paris and Singapore, a diverse student body, and a focus on international business, the ESSEC Global MBA curriculum includes international field trips, company visits, leadership training, and more. For more information on the ESSEC Global MBA program, download our brochure.

Still not sure what kind of MBA program is best suited to your needs? Download our guide for expert advice on what to consider when choosing an MBA program.

How to set career goals (and achieve them)

There are many possible answers to the question, ‘Why do MBA graduates go on to enjoy professional success?’ Cutting-edge business know-how, leadership skills, an excellent network, and one-on-one career coaching all contribute to MBA graduates’ professional prowess. Another reason MBA graduates go on to be accomplished individuals, however, is because MBA programs help candidates fine-tune their career goals and map out clear, effective action plans for achieving those goals. How you approach career goal setting has a profound impact on how likely you are to end up actually achieving those goals.

Keep the following guidelines in mind when setting your own career goals:

Set SMART goals.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the first step to achieving any goal is clarifying exactly what that goal is. The SMART acronym is a handy tool for setting clear, measurable goals:

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-sensitive

‘I want to run my own company’ isn’t a SMART goal. ‘I want to launch my own luxury brand based in Paris within three years, and be profitable within four’ is more like it.

Plan your attack step by step.

Once you’ve got your SMART goal in your sights, it’s time to painstakingly plan your journey there. There’s no such things as too much detail, so get specific. Need a new skill set? Do your research and decide exactly when, how, and where you’ll pick those skills up. Need to network with key players in a particular company? Find a way to connect with them, whether it’s by attending a conference they’re speaking at or reaching out to them through an online business network like LinkedIn. Breaking down your long-term plan into smaller steps also allows you to focus fully on completing one step or task at a time. This approach is much more manageable than trying to achieve multiple goals simultaneously.

Check in with your plan regularly.

No one else is going to hold you accountable, so it’s up to you to make sure you stick to your career plan. Set mini deadlines and check in regularly to make sure your progress is on track. Review your plan regularly, too; fresh perspectives and new information might mean it makes more sense to adapt and update your plan as you go.

Find a mentor.

If you already have a career mentor, thank your lucky stars. Being able to bounce ideas off of someone who’s walked your path before and has years of hard-earned experience in your field really is a godsend. If you don’t have someone like this to look to in times of crisis, however, finding a mentor can be difficult. In fact, the opportunity to connect with industry heavyweights and would-be career mentors is another reason why doing an MBA is a good idea. You’ll be exposed to a clutch of veritable business gurus who might just change your perspective – and career – for the better.

Don’t give up.

‘I was going to start my own business/write a book/change my career...but then life happened.’ We all know someone who blames ‘life’ for wrecking their dreams and ambitions. If you think the world will stop turning while you set out to achieve your career goals, you’re kidding yourself. The truth is, life is going to throw you numerous curveballs that threaten to derail your plans. Maybe you’ll suffer a personal tragedy just when you’re gearing up to devote all your time to starting a business. Maybe your work visa will be denied just when you get the opportunity to build a new life and career in the country you’ve always wanted to live in. Or maybe you’ll be offered a too-good-to-refuse promotion in a role you never planned to take. Achieving your career goals requires patience, persistence, and focus. Instead of throwing your plans out the window at the first sign of trouble, sit down and adjust them to make the most of your new circumstances. Whatever you do, don’t give up.

Why do an MBA? If an MBA features in your plans for achieving your career goals, pursuing the degree really is one of the best career investments you can ever make. The best MBA programs include career-boosting extras like one-on-one career coaching, networking events, and mock interview training, which is why getting your MBA is still a smart career move today.

That said, why get your MBA at all if you aren’t going to make sure the program you pick is perfect for you? Download our guide, How to find the perfect MBA, for expert advice on choosing an MBA program.