Getting Scholarships to Pay for Your Green MBA is Not as Hard as You Think – Part 1

scholarships for green mbaMany people would love to obtain a green MBA, but are put off by the high costs.  This is the second in a series of post that explain how to get financial aid  for attending a green MBA program. This post tells readers where to look for scholarships, fellowships, and other types of financial aid, as well as how to create a strategy that will dramatically increase their chances of success at winning not just one source of financial aid, but multiple sources.  The first post, I Want a Green MBA, But How Do I Pay for It?, includes information on how to start cutting costs before you attend; how to get organized for the coming onslaught of admissions and financial aid activity; and  working with financial aid offices at the schools you are thinking about attending.

by Tracey de Morsella, Green Economy Post

An increasing number of business professionals who are seriously considering getting a green MBA to green their credentials, often dismiss it as a viable career alternative because the exorbitant costs involved.  In these tumultuous times, with banks not doing so well on the credibility front, some are afraid to take on thousands of dollars worth of loans with interest rates that often are not so favorable.  Surprisingly, the option of getting scholarships, fellowships or some other type of aid that is does not require the money be paid back, is often dismissed because most people do not think the aid is available.  The truth is, the money is out there, but you have to know where to look, how to get organized and how to create a comprehensive approach to getting it.

If you are going to be successful of at identifying, applying for, and winning the money you need to obtain your green MBA, you need rid yourself of any erroneous perceptions you might have about financial aid.  You also need to get organized, know where to look, and create a financial aid application plan.

Most people have the false believe that there is very little financial aid available for people to seeking any type of MBA, much less for those working to obtain a green MBA.  What they do not realize is that there are a variety of types of aid that is available to help them finance their green MBA.

Let’s Take a Look at Some Other Types of Financial Aid That are Available to People Pursuing a Green MBA

In-School Scholarships. Business schools with green MBA programs sometimes have a specific number of scholarships they mark as full tuition. They often received them from donors who have very specific requirements as to whom those scholarships should be granted. There are also schools that offer partial scholarships that vary anywhere from half-tuition to one-quarter tuition. A number of business schools with green MBA programs offer need-based and/or merit-based scholarships or fellowships. Merit scholarships are typically awarded on the basis of academic merit along with special interests. While rewarding talent to the primary objective, some merit scholarships also consider financial need.

Here are a few examples. Marlboro College has the Harold Grinspoon Scholarship, which is awarded to an MBA program student who has best demonstrated his or her potential as a leader in for-profit entrepreneurship prior to joining the MBA program, and has a demonstrated need for financial assistance for program costs.  University of Michigan offers the Renewable Energy Scholars Award, which is a merit-based grant for Erb Institute MBA/MS students who are interested in (a) pursuing a business idea in the field of renewable energy, energy efficiency, or carbon mitigation; or, (b) writing an essay suitable for broad publication that addresses any aspect of renewable energy, energy efficiency and carbon mitigation including but not limited to energy policy, energy security, technology innovation, water issues in the energy sector, agriculture and energy interface, etc.

Fellowships. You should also look into fellowships,which sometimes requires a student to give back something in return for receiving scholarship money. They are usually intended to help support students do research or work on a project in their chosen field.   For example, some green MBA graduates from Cornell University received the Park Leadership Fellows Program which pays tuition and a $5,000 stipend. As part of the fellowship obligation, each Park Leadership Fellow makes a significant public service contribution to the Johnson School, the university, or the surrounding community. The projects are structured to focus on service improvements and program enhancements either for-profit start-ups that stimulate economic development or non-profit organizations. Cornell also has a loan forgiveness program for MBA alumni who are engaged in a viable entrepreneurial endeavor.

Paid Internships – Many people overlook the paid internship as a source for financing in part, their green MBA.  Some schools, like Argosy UniversityUniversity of Pennsylvania, Yale University and University of Michigan incorporate paid summer internships into their green MBA program.  Students often make anywhere from $5- to $30- or $40,000 in that internship.

Assistantships – An assistantship is similar to a scholarship. The difference is that, when you are awarded an assistantship, you are required to work for the assistantship provider, while when you are awarded a scholarship, you get the money for free.   In most cases, the provider of the assistantship is the department in which you enroll. Through this path, you can receive discounted tuition, which can have a huge impact on your financial situation. Talk to key contacts in the sustainability or related department to find out if assistantships are offered and what the application process entails. You should apply for assistantships when you send in your application for admission to that School. A good example of an MBA assistantship program is the graduate assistantship program at  the Portland State University School of Business Administration for student applicants to the full-time MBA program. They  makes these offers available at the time of admission based on academic qualifications. Graduate Assistants receive 9 or 12 hours tuition remission fall, winter and spring as well as a monthly stipend.  Another example is The Erb Institute for Global Sustainability at the University of Michigan.  They periodically fund graduate student research assistant or graduate student instructor positions in response to faculty requests for assistance.

Contest Scholarships – Another way you can obtain money to attend a green MBA program is by entering contests.  Many companies, non-profits and other types of groups hold contests that provide cash rewards to student winners.

Some Online Green MBA Programs Offer Scholarships
Many professionals are increasingly considering online programs as a serious continuing education option.   There are a number of distance learning programs for getting a green MBA. People often are deterred from exploring these options because they think that there is no financial aid available.  This is changing.  A number of online university programs have begun to offer scholarships.  They are usually based on academic achievement or potential success.   While some online programs offer all-inclusive scholarships which cover the full cost of tuition, books, fees, and basic living expenses, the vast majority of their scholarship offerings are meant to be supplemental.   Walden University offers the $2,500 Commitment to Social Change Scholarship for students in their MBA programMarylhurst University also offers scholarships for participants of their green MBA programs.  Also, if your distance learning green MBA program is part of a physical university, you may be eligible to apply to the scholarships of that affiliated university.

Where to Find Financial Aid for Your Green MBA
While there are admittedly fewer avenues to turn to for aid, the money is out there.  That makes it all the more important to know where to look.

University Financial Aid Departments – One of the best ways to find financial aid for your green MBA is to connect with the financial aid departments of the schools that have accepted you.  Most universities have scholarship, fellowship and grant advisors that have a wealth of information regarding fellowships offered by the university, as well as outside opportunities.  These people can offer application strategy tips, mock interviews, writing workshops, and connections with past fellowship winners. Financial aid offices also know where the money is, so it is important to connect with them as well.    Some schools even have special financial aid offices set up specifically for their mba programs.  Many, like Portland State Uuniversity, provide lists of scholarships that are available to their MBA students on the school’s web site.

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Free Scholarship Search Web Sites – Another very effective way to identify financial aid opportunities for your green MBA, is to search for them using free scholarship search sites.

They provide information on hundreds of thousands of sources for financial aid.  Two good examples are: – The database is for US and international students planning to study in the U.S.  The free service provides a customized list of scholarships that match your hobbies, interests and academic background.

FastWeb -FastWeb is a free scholarship database that contains over 600,000 scholarships.  This database is particularly thorough about listing small local awards, which often are less competitive.

Scholarship and Fellowship Directories - Scholarship and fellowship directories  can also be excellent tools for finding  aid.  You can buy them, or access them in area university career centers, and local public and university library reference sections.

When researching scholarships and other awards, many times the information collected by third-party sources, like directories and databases is dated with inaccurate criteria and deadline information. Despite that, these resources are still incredibly valuable as they are useful in identifying hard-to-find financial aid opportunities.  You will get the most from these resources if you use them to identify scholarship opportunities and then contact the sponsoring organizations to obtain accurate information about each award that you are investigating.

If you really want to cut your green MBA costs down, it is crucial that you not rely on only a few sources for finding financial aid.  Consider use any and even all of the following additional resources:

1. Green MBA program admissions contacts. Key contacts in the departments in your area of focus (E.g., sustainability, cleantech, organic agriculture, social responsibility, etc.)to identify fellowships and assistantships.

2. Contacts within university research institutes specifically focused on sustainability, cleantech, the environments and other green specialty areas at the schools you are targeting.

3. Google and other search engines – Use general MBA search terms, as well as key words  and related to your interests and skills sets to identify the right key words and key words phrases

4. Foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups

5. Green  professional associations

6. Your employer

7. Look at what sustainable consulting firms, companies with high profile public sustainability programs, and oil companies with alternative oil divisions might be offering.

8. Ask the librarian at your local university or city library for fellowship listings. Most institutions granting fellowships send formal notices or update library databases frequently, so a library can be a great resource for up-to-date information on fellowship opportunities.

Get On The Path To Winning Financial Aid for Your Green MBA by Being Prepared, Informed and Organized

Being organized is critical, because you can never miss a deadline and award sponsors tend to be exacting when it comes to having their instructions followed correctly.    By anticipating and preparing for the type of information that will be required, you will save time and be more likely to submit a more competitive application that could ultimately lead you to winning more scholarships, fellowships and other types of awards for your green MBA.   The following tips will help you get on the right path.

1. Every scholarship or fellowship has its own application form. However, selection committees generally ask for two or more letters of recommendation; a personal statement; and a transcript and extracurricular record.   Some more competitive programs also require an interview project and a proposal or plan of study.  Knowing this, you can have much of the materials ready and prepare for events that you know are coming down the pike.

2. A great way to stay organized is to keep a financial aid file folder for each school, as well as each scholarship, award, fellowship, and other types of aid that you are applying for.    You may want to put the deadlines on the title tags next to the names as a way back up to keep you alerted to important dates.

3. Closely monitor the deadlines to ensure that you meet each one. Deadlines occur throughout the year.  While most are due between January and March, some are due as early as late December.  You can keep track of the deadlines by creating a chart or calendar that contains the following. scholarship name; address, phone number and/or email; Key contact(s); date application must be received by scholarship committee; date you requested/ or downloaded the application; date you received the application; date application with above package was mailed; and the date you contacted the scholarship organization to verify they received your application package.

4. If you use Microsoft Outlook or some other type of calendar software, you might want to note the deadlines in your calendar and set it up so that you are notified of pending deadlines at least four weeks in advance.  You can also use this to keep track of appointments and meetings you might have with scholarship sponsors.

5. Identify who you will be using for recommendations ahead of time and make sure they are on board.

6. If an application consists of several loose pages, label and number each page,  use a paper clip to keep them together and in order, assign each aid program its own folder.  This will prevent you from submitting an incomplete application.

7. Things will go smoother if you anticipate the requirements and needs of most of the scholarships you will be applying for ahead of time and then go about having those materials prepared and ready to submit to the various scholarship committees.

8. While an increasing number of scholarship programs accept scholarship applications via the Internet. Many still require that the application be mailed in.  If the your deadline is based on the date the application is received, and not the date it is postmarked, you should work to get your application in mail at least two weeks ahead of the deadline as some mail takes seven days to get its destination in some parts of the country.

9. To be notified when your applications has been received, send the application by certified mail, return receipt requested, and slip it into the award’s file folder in case your application submission date is called into question.

10. Scholarship sponsors never provide extensions on deadlines for submissions, no matter what the reason, so it is important to never miss the deadlines of your targeted scholarships.

For more on getting organized for your green MBA financial aid search, check out my post, I Want a Green MBA, But How Do I Pay for It? -  It includes information on calculating the costs to attend; how to start cutting costs before you attend; how to get organized for the coming onslaught of admissions and financial aid activity; filling out the appropriate financial aid forms; and working with financial aid offices at the schools you are thinking about attending,

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Tactics Designed To Help You Obtain the Most Financial Aid

1. Widen Your Search to Include a Wide Variety of Types of Awards. Unfortunately, with regard to green MBA’s there are not yet many scholarships offered by outside organizations.  I think that will change.  However there are a few.  A good example is the Sustainable MBA Fund.     The Sustainable MBA Fund is an educational fund designed to benefit individual students who are positioned to have a considerable positive impact on the further integration of socially responsible business practices, and in particular dealing with the environment and people.

2. Do not limit your search to just awards for green MBAs. When seeking out scholarships are other types of awards, do not limit your search to just awards for Green MBA.  You might consider applying for scholarships like the’s Business Administration Degrees Graduate Level Academic Award, which provides funds to all types of MBA students.

3. You should also search for aid that is not even just for MBAs, but include those that are more generic. Look for awards for graduate students of all types.  Also widen your search to include scholarships and other types of awards like those targeting social entrepreneurship, conservation, social responsibility.  You should also consider essay contests and one-off scholarship awards that are not targeting MBAs, but general education.  There are also awards for almost every special interest you can imagine including the obvious like academic performance of course, and the not so obvious like alumni affiliation, club memberships, employers, where you live, career specialties, professional associations, religious affiliation, social groups, sororities, local businesses, fraternities, service organizations, special talents,  special interests.   These types of aid usually do not have to be paid back, but do often have GPA and community service requirements.

4. Research the fellowships for which you are applying well in advance of sending your application.

5. Go after local scholarships. You can increase your odds of winning by applying for less competitive scholarships, such as local awards. But don’t neglect the more competitive awards, since these also tend to be more lucrative.

6. Tailor your application to the criteria of the specific scholarship. Most scholarship sponsors have a set of criteria they use to select the winners from among the qualified applicants. A major key to winning MBA scholarships is to identify the sponsor’s criteria and tailor your application to those criteria.

7. Apply early. Don’t wait to be accepted to a school to inquire about aid.  Often the money is available on the first come, first served basis.  So, get your application forms in as soon as possible. They also tend to be reviewed as they arrive.  If your application is sent in early,  it is likely to receive more consideration early in the process when there are fewer applications to review.  Most people send their applications close to the deadline, so if your application is among those applications, it will most likely get less attention.

8. Apply for as many scholarships and other types of awards the you meet the criteria of as possible. Do not rely on winning one award to significantly reduce or even eliminate the costs association with obtain your green MBA.  You will be most successful if your strategy is to obtain financial aid from multiple sources.  Do not over look or discount the value of the small awards. Several small awards can add up to a significant amount of aid. Apply for as many scholarships as you find you are qualified for to increase your chances of winning and so you end up with several awards knocking down and maybe even eliminating the amount your need to come up with funds for your education.

9. Never pay to apply for scholarships. In most instances, these are likely scams .  At best, these “scholarships” are simply having the student pay for the awards, by recirculation the fees to the students; in the worst instances, no money is ever awarded to students.  For more information on how to avoid applying for scholarships scam, read my post, How to Avoid Scholarship Scams. It provides a list of the signs to be on the alert for to avoid a scholarship scam and resources for additional information.

10. Be on be on the look out for academic scholarships from second and third tier schools. Many second and third tier schools use academic scholarships to attract talented students, so be on the look out for those.

11. Seek out low profile, less competitive, and less lucrative scholarships. One the most effective strategies for winning scholarships is to seek out low profile, less competitive, and less lucrative scholarships. Looking for local awards is one way to approach it.   I once got $2,000 a year to attend Cornell.  The only requirement was that I was from Philadelphia and that I had been accepted to Cornell.  There were nine other recipients, but I later found out that there was enough funds for additional students. I’m assuming, since you are interested in getting a green MBA that you are interested in the environment.  If that is the case, you should also be on the look out for scholarships for people interested in conservation, because there are a lot of them.

12. Ask the adviser from your department of study. If you have been accepted into a green mba program, ask the adviser from your department of study, at your college or university, which fellowships are available, as they should have information regarding both university and outside fellowship opportunities.

13. Offer a convincing composite picture of your strengths. In a strong application, the separate components of the application fit together well, and offer a convincing composite picture of your strengths.

14. Work offline first when completing online applications. When completing an online application, working on the answers off of the web site checking them for accuracy and thoroughness, then paste the answers into the online form when they are complete.

In Getting Scholarships to Pay for Your Green MBA is Not as Hard as You Think – Part II, I will discuss how to gain the competitive edge with essays and personal statements; common scholarship and fellowship application mistakes to avoid; how to get nominated for scholarships and fellowships; getting the most out of letters of recommendation and references; acing the interview; and the importance of financial aid networking.

© 2010, Tracey de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.


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Author: Tracey de Morsella (323 Articles)

Tracey de Morsella started her career working as an editor for US Technology Magazine. She used that experience to launch Delaware Valley Network, a publication for professionals in the Greater Philadelphia area. Years later, she used the contacts and resources she acquired to work in executive search specializing in technical and diversity recruitment. She has conducted recruitment training seminars for Wachovia Bank, the Department of Interior and the US Postal Service. During this time, she also created a diversity portal called The Multicultural Advantage and published the Diversity Recruitment Advertising Toolkit, a directory of recruiting resources for human resources professionals. Her career and recruitment articles have appeared in numerous publications and web portals including Woman Engineer Magazine,, Job Search Channel, Workplace Diversity Magazine, Society for Human Resource Management web site, NSBE Engineering Magazine,, and Human Resource Consultants Association Newsletter. Her work with technology professionals drew her to pursuing training and work in web development, which led to a stint at Merrill Lynch as an Intranet Manager. In March, she decided to combine her technical and career management expertise with her passion for the environment, and with her husband, launched The Green Economy Post, a blog providing green career information and covering the impact of the environment, sustainable building, cleantech and renewable energy on the US economy. Her sustainability articles have appeared on Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Chem.Info,FastCompany and CleanTechies.

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  • Rick Bunch

    Thanks, Tracey, for this helpful article. Because the dual degree (MBA/MS) program that The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise (University of Michigan) offers requires three years of enrollment, versus two years for a single-degree “Green MBA”, we have indeed found it necessary to offer generous and varied scholarship opportunities to our students.

    Your article did not mention the most important (in terms of financial value) scholarships we offer — third-year tuition support. We cover up to half of the tuition for students in the third year of our program. These scholarships reach many more students and are much more valuable than the Renewable Energy Scholarships.

    We also provide stipends to our students who take internships with qualifying non-profits, government organizations and start-up social ventures.

    More detail about scholarships and financial aid available to Erb MBA/MS students can be found at

    Rick Bunch
    Managing Director
    The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise
    University of Michigan

    • Tracey de Morsella

      Hi Rick:

      Thanks for providing information about your financial aid programs to our readers. The article was not intended to provide a listing of all the programs available, but to provide a look at some of the different types of aid available that may be overlooked by prospective students. While there may be scores of each type of award I only listed one or two examples of each type.

      • Steve Frenkel

        Tracy, do you know if the Sustainable MBA Fund is still active? It’s not clear how to contact them.