A scholarship can make or break a student’s business degree dreams, especially for students who are coming from less traditional business backgrounds, such as women or people from emerging economies.
While the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reported last year that most graduate business programs around the world were experiencing growth in the number of applications from women, this hasn’t always translated into diversity in the classroom.
In 2017, the Financial Times found that across MBA programs on its annual ranking, the average proportion of female students was just 35%. It’s clear that more needs to be done to encourage women into the MBA classroom, and this starts with business schools.
At EMLYON Business School in Lyon, France, they’re using guaranteed scholarships to increase diversity on their International MBA program. The scheme secures a 20% scholarship to all female applicants, totalling almost $8000 off the MBA tuition fees of $38,500.
But it’s not just women who make up diversity in the MBA classroom, as EMLYON also offer a 20% scholarship to students who are the first of their nationality to apply. This seems to be working—in the 2017-18 cohort, there were 22 nationalities represented on the close-knit program, and 90% of students came from outside France.
The impact of a scholarship
If you want to know how a scholarship can impact someone’s dreams to enter business education, just ask Elena Yushchenko (pictured).
Originally from Russia, Elena had been thinking of applying to business school when suddenly her country’s currency lost 50% of its value, and the prospect of getting a student loan seemed impossible.
“I was not sure anymore that I’d be able to afford an MBA,” Elena explains. “I can’t describe my emotions when I learned that I got admitted and got a scholarship!”
Elena had been working as an analyst for international FMCG companies, and while she enjoyed her work, there was something missing. “I wanted to be responsible for my own marketing projects—first within a company, and then hopefully one day in my own startup,” Elena says.
Ultimately, it was the offer of EMLYON’s 20% scholarships that made her dreams a reality—after graduating in 2016, she landed a job as a social ads consultant for a firm in Paris and is now a manager at the same company. But she says it was the experience of working in such a diverse class that really built the skills she’s using today.
“Our class came from all over the world, and I definitely developed the ability to work in international teams,” she explains. “I was happy to be a part of our cohort, and it was an amazing journey to learn with them and from them.
“In the end, the scholarship from EMLYON Business School meant I could follow my dream.”
The value of an MBA
Nathalie François (pictured) had been working as a lawyer in Brussels when she made the decision to move to France, and it was a realization of the career-enhancing power of an MBA that made her take the leap to business school.
“I had started to reflect on how you can move from being an expert in law to something broader,” she recalls. “The MBA was the opportunity to broaden my resume and gain knowledge and experience in other fields.”
When it came to choosing a school in France, Nathalie says EMLYON appealed to her for its atypical approach to MBA teaching. “The way they promote the MBA is really different to other business schools,” she explains.
“Other schools want to teach you to be the best manager in the world,” she adds, “but the International MBA program at EMLYON Business School was much more about being responsible, and taking part in the change you will see in the world.”
In line with this social approach to business, Nathalie also received a 20% scholarship to the MBA at EMLYON Business School, and she says it was this scholarship that made her understand her value to the business program, as a student from a more unconventional business background. “It was a way for EMLYON to say, ‘we are really excited to have you in our program,’” she says.
Despite the power of a scholarship, Nathalie advises candidates not to underestimate the hard work needed to gain an MBA.
“In financial terms, an MBA is something that’s still difficult to get,” she muses. “Ultimately, it’s really down to what you do with your MBA—if you take part in many things you can get so much out of the program.
“At EMLYON, you have the freedom and the help if you want to make something from the program. I’d say that if you really want to do an MBA, EMLYON is the place to do it.”