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I Applied to Top MBA Programs for Free and You Can Too.

Avoid paying $250+ per application with this no-nonsense guide to the application fee waivers available at Harvard, Berkeley Hass, Duke Fuqua, London Business School, INSEAD, Yale, MIT Sloan, Chicago Booth, and hundreds of other top business schools.

It’s no secret, applying to business school is expensive.

With school regularly charging $250 or more for the opportunity to apply and the average candidate applying to 4–6 schools, most candidates are looking at budgeting around $1500 for application fees alone for the 2018–2019 application cycle. That doesn’t even take into account the cost of traveling for interviews and campus visits!

Application Fee Revenue at the Top 15 MBA Program in 2016

However, business schools have started to realize the very high cost of application fees deters the very candidates they want to apply, namely:

  • Government/non-profit / education sector employees (including Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Teach For America Alumni)
  • Candidates with Military experience
  • Female Candidates
  • Candidates identifying as LGBTQ
  • Hispanic/Latino, African American, and Native American Candidates

Therefore, every single top MBA program in the United States has begun to offer some form of application fee waivers. However, they do not advertise this fact and less than 10% of applicants actually take advantage of these savings.

Luckily, you have stumbled upon the ultimate guide to saving money and applying to Berkeley Hass, Duke Fuqua, London Business School, INSEAD, Yale, MIT Sloan, Chicago Booth, and hundreds of other top MBA programs for free or at a reduced fee!

First, a little about me:

I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, Los Angeles and $250 per program was not something I could fit into my budget. I was a female candidate from the non-profit sector and was looking for ways to save money on application fees in October 2017. That is when I stumbled upon the Forte Foundation’s MBA Launch program.

The10 month program for female MBA candidates was chock-full of in-person events, happy hours, webinars, chats with admissions officers, free calls with admissions consultants, and support. Not only do I reckon it was essential to my acceptance at top MBA programs, but it also provided application fee waivers at a large percentage of their sponsor schools. This allowed me to submit all of my applications for free.

For my fellow female candidates, I’ve included more information about the Forte MBA Launch program below. However, I have also tried to include information on how to obtain application fee waivers even if you are from an overrepresented group.

Read on to learn how you too can apply to top business schools for free.


The 9 Most Common Ways You Can Secure An Application Fee Waiver

Duke’s Fuqua School of Business (Photo by Alex Boerner)

1. Visit Campus

Many schools want you to visit campus and will reward you with an application fee waiver for doing so.

Although some, like Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, will allow anyone who attends a class visit to be granted a waiver, other schools require you to attend their on-campus Diversity Weekends (typically geared towards minorities, female, LGBTQ, and military candidates). For instance, Cornell’s Johnson School of Business grants open interviews and application fee waivers to all who attend their Johnson Women in Business and Johnson Means Business diversity events in the fall.

Schools That Offer This Application Fee Waiver: Duke Fuqua, Cornell Johnson (Diversity Events Only), Georgestown McDonough (Reduced Fee), MIT Sloan (Diversity Events Only), University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business, Washington Foster, etc.
ESMT MBA Webinar

2. Attend Webinars

Although less common, perhaps the easiest way to receive an application fee waiver is to register and attend one of the school’s online admissions webinars. These webinars are great ways to learn about the school from the mouths of the AdComs, current students, and alumni. The information is so valuable that Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and several other schools offer you an application fee waiver just for signing on.

Schools That Offer This Application Fee Waiver: Duke Fuqua, University of Virginia Darden, George Washington University School of Business, etc.
MBA Fair (Photo by Forte Foundation)

3. MBA Fairs

If you get lucky, you may walk away from an MBA Fair with some application fee waivers to your target schools. This is rarely advertised and you really have to get lucky. In my experience, the MBA fairs most likely to result in fee waivers are The MBA Tour, Forté Forums, and Multi-School Events.

HINT: Sign up on Touch MBA for monthly email alerts of when top business schools visit your city.

I have personally seen the following schools offer application fee waivers to those who visit their table or information session at MBA Fairs: University of Southern California Marshall, Rice Johnson, Indiana Kelley, William & Mary, UNC Kenan-Flagler, Georgia Tech, Michigan State University, etc.
Forté Foundation’s MBA Launch Program

4. Forté Foundation’s MBA Launch (Female Candidates)

The Forté Foundation’s MBALaunch program is designed for women interested in applying to an MBA program. You apply to the program in the fall prior to applying to business school. For example, if you wanted to apply to business school next year you would apply this October.

The program is open to candidates who can travel to a host city to participate in a kick-off event, dedicate 10 months to the online program, and meet monthly with your group in-person or via Skype and Google Hangouts. Candidates do not need to live in a MBALaunch event city to participate. More information on eligibility.

The program costs $550 + $25 application fee. It includes 10 months of GMAT Prep webinars, admissions webinars, a dedicated support group, a peer advisor, free calls with admissions consultants, and application fee waivers. It also may or may not increase your chances to securing Forte Fellowship funding during your MBA.

Deadline to apply for 2019: October 31, 2018

Schools That Offered This Application Fee Waiver (in 2018): Arizona W. P. Carey, Babson College, Carnegie Mellon Tepper, Cornell Johnson, Dartmouth Tuck, Duke Fuqua, Emory Goizueta, George Washington, Georgetown McDonough, Georgia Tech Scheller, HEC Paris, IE, IESE, Imperial College, Indiana Kelley, INSEAD, London Business School, MIT Sloan, Michigan State, NYU Stern, Oxford Saïd, Rice Jones, SMU Cox, Ohio State Fisher, Chicago Booth, Illinois Gies, Maryland Smith, Minnesota Carlson, UNC Kenan-Flagler, Notre Dame Mendoza, Rochester Simon, USC Marshall, Texas McCombs, Toronto Rotman, Virginia Darden, Vanderbilt Owen, Washington Olin, Western Ivey, Yale, York Schulich
Consortium MBA Fellows

5. The Consortium / Management Leadership for Tomorrow

I grouped these two organizations together as their programs are geared towards the same candidates — primarily African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans. However, these programs do accept other races/ethnicities that are committed in some way to increasing the representation of these groups (i.e. professionally, past experience, or by way of their extracurriculars).

The Consortium (Reduced Fee + Scholarship Opportunities)

  • The Consortium is a ‘common application’ of sorts geared towards those that demonstrate a commitment to The Consortium’s mission of helping to reduce the serious underrepresentation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in both their 20 member schools’ enrollments and the ranks of management.
  • Application Fees: A single application with The Consortium allows you to apply to up to six Consortium schools. This saves time, of course — but also money. Application fees are tiered based on how many member schools you apply for and range from $150 (1–2 schools) to $300 (6 schools). This can save an applicant more than $1,000. Candidates are also eligible for full tuition scholarships.
  • Learn more about The Consortium and their application.
  • Final deadline: January 5, 2019.
The Consortium Member Schools (in 2018): Berkeley Haas, UCLA Anderson School of Management, Carnegie Mellon Tepper, Cornell Johnson, Dartmouth Tuck, Emory Goizueta, Georgetown McDonough, Indiana Kelley, Michigan Ross School of Business, NYU Stern, UNC Kenan-Flagler, Rice Jones, Rochester Simon, USC Marshall, Texas McCombs, Virginia Darden, Washington Foster, Washington Olin, Wisconsin, Yale

Management Leadership for Tomorrow (Application Fee Waivers)

  • MLT’s MBA Prep programs provide African American, Latino, and Native American professionals with personalized guidance and effective tools to successfully navigate the business school application process, and optimize their MBA experience. MBA Prep includes personalized coaching, three seminars, and a network of peers.
  • Final deadline: November 15, 2018. More information on eligibility.
Schools Offering Application Fee Waivers to MLT Fellows: Yale, Cornell Johnson, Michigan State Broad, Rice Johnson, Georgetown McDonough, Virginia Darden, etc.
Military Graduates of the Whitman MBA

6. US Military Experience

The only way to waive the application fee at Harvard Business School is to be an active duty military applicant.

In fact, it is a designation that will get you a waived fee at many business schools in the US. However, many schools, like Georgestown McDonough, don’t require you to be on active duty. At Georgestown, you are eligible for a fee waiver if you are qualify as a “active duty, reservist, or veteran of the United States military.”

Schools That Offer This Application Fee Waiver: Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Duke Fuqua, Berkeley Hass, Cornell Johnson, UCLA Anderson, MIT Sloan, Texas McCombs, Dartmouth Tuck, Georgestown McDonough, etc.
Peace Corps MBAs at Duke Fuqua

7. Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Teach For America Active Participants or Alumni

Business schools want people that desire to get involved and make an impact in their communities and the world. Therefore, it is no surprise that many schools reward former and current Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and Teach For America active participants or alumni with application fee waivers.

However, make sure to check the requirements of each school carefully. Some schools will state that you must apply within a few years of your service to be eligible for a fee waiver.

Note: Yale SOM and some other US schools also accept Teach for China or Teach for India as eligible for a waiver.

Schools That Offer This Application Fee Waiver: Duke Fuqua, Chicago Booth (Teach for America Only), Berkeley Hass (Peace Corps, AmeriCorps only), Cornell Johnson (Peace Corps Only), Texas McCombs, Yale SOM, MIT Sloan, Georgestown McDonough, etc.

8. High GMAT Score

If you are lucky enough to score a high GMAT score AND you opted in to have GMAT share your score with partner institutions, you may just get some application fee waivers in your email.

Note: These are available by invitation only.

Schools That Have Offered This Application Fee Waiver in the past: Texas McCombs, Rochester Simon, UNC Kenan-Flagler, Rice Jones, etc.

9. ‘Severe economic hardship’

Yale SOM actually uses a sliding-scale application fee structure. Their standard application fee is $250. For applicants earning less than $20,000 a year, the application fee is $175. For applicants earning less than $10,000 a year, it is $125.

A select few schools invite you to contact admissions if you have experienced ‘severe economic hardship’ and if you make your case the fee may be waived. You typically must submit your request a least a week prior to the application deadline.

Schools That Offer This Application Fee Waiver: Duke Fuqua, Berkeley Hass, etc. Most schools list if they can accommodate requests for fee waivers on the ‘requirements’ page of their website.

I hope this article saved you some $$ when applying to your top MBA programs this year. Thank you for reading and good luck!