You’ve heard that an MBA is an investment dozens of times. And after you’ve got those letters in hand, you will say the same. It’s not a cliché; it’s just truth.
But, it is a steep investment for many students.
Figuring out how you afford a degree in your home country is often tough enough, and that’s when you know the financial institutions and your tuition is payable in the currency you earn. Even if you move cities, it’s not difficult to get a solid grasp on the expenses you’ll face in addition to the standard costs you’ll need to pay. Perhaps you’re even lucky enough to live in a country, such as the United States or Australia that facilitate educational loans.
And then, some students want an incredible education and international experience and need to fly across oceans to get it. A strong MBA budget is critical for these applicants. It’s not just a matter of finding the funding; MBA budgets are all tied up with visas and campus experiences.
You need a budget before you can get a visa
As an international student, you’ll need to obtain a visa to study. While you’re sweating through GMAT prep and rewriting the same sentence time and time again, your study permit may not seem like a challenge, but you’ll jump through hoops to get it. One of those challenges is proving financial ability. And, to do that, you’ll need to have a budget to hand.
At first, making a budget will seem relatively easy.
Universities want to make it easy for their students and provide an estimate of costs (indeed, it’s a legal requirement in the US to do so). Harvard’s 2018 MBA cost summary page provides an example of costs, broken down into line items. You’ll see lines for tuition, healthcare, and programme materials fees. There’s also a line item that sums up board, personal, and other expenses – and, being the second-highest amount listed, seems like it should cover everything you need.
But, it may not cover as much as you think. On Wharton’s Budget and Tuition page, you’ll find a similar breakdown, but the business school is careful to point out that summer living expenses, apartment security deposits, furniture, and entertainment, amongst other expenses are simply not included.
And, even that may not do it. There is a Global Experience Requirement for MBAs attending Stanford, and the amount you’ll need to pay towards that varies according to the way you choose to fulfill it. They estimate a spend anywhere between $2200 and $4000. While it may not seem like a high figure next to the $66,540 yearly tuition fee, it’s still enough to concern international students worried about currency strength and fluctuations.
In order to obtain a visa to enter the United States to study at any of these (or countless other) universities, you’ll need a visa. Before you can apply, however, you’ll need to obtain an I-20 form from your school that outlines the cost of attendance – and your ability to meet it.
On the plus side, the cost of attendance included on the I-20 form is provided by the school – and you only need to prove enough funds to meet those line items. On the downside, you don’t want to take the school’s cost of attendance as the final figure.
Budgets go beyond university cost of attendance
As the cost of attendance information from Wharton and Stanford should suggest, an MBA isn’t the same as pursuing an undergraduate degree. It’s not even the same as other grad-level degrees where travel is far more optional. With networking and international experience at the core of many MBA programs, an MBA budget must include socializing, club memberships, study treks abroad, and competition entries.
These figures aren’t often included in the cost of attendance provided by the school. At the very least, they’re unlikely to be as accurate you would like.
And this makes a difference.
If you pursue financing that meets the cost of attendance provided by the university, it’s enough to secure a visa (provided, of course, that you’ve met all the other requirements laid out by the Department of Homeland Security), you’re doing yourself a disservice.
If you’ve sunk a little too much into your apartment security deposit, needed to buy a new laptop, paid more for your travel than expected, couldn’t find accommodation fast enough, or just can’t let that career trek pass you by, you may just find yourself short of cash for essentials (like food and electricity).
By the time you’ve gotten to that point, you may find your credit is over extended, or you can’t get a loan without being in another country. Finding financing, like obtaining a visa, and just getting a seat at a prestigious business school isn’t easy. A far better option is to pursue the financing you need according to your budget rather than the school’s cost of attendance.
After all, you won’t want to negotiate your experience; it’s part of the MBA investment – and something you truly don’t want to miss.
Katie studied human rights and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Kent State University while working with NGOs in Geneva, Switzerland. Although she has since settled in South Africa, with work towards a Masters in Forced Migration through the University of the Witswatersrand, nothing stops her from being a proud American. Although writing is often solitary work, Katie has been part of the Prodigy Finance Team as the Content Specialist since 2013. She also loves rugby, sloppy Mexican food and Tudor history which means you could find her in any section of a bookstore.
* This blog post is sponsored by our friends at Prodigy Finance