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Planning for your MBA investment

Whether you're just starting to research MBA programs, or you're already a confirmed student for the fall 2013 semester - cost is likely a consideration at the top of your mind. When planning for an MBA, the financial commitment involved is a strong consideration, one not to be taken lightly. Consider these tips to help you become as informed, prepared and comfortable with your MBA investment as possible:

Understand the real cost
Look beyond the sticker price of tuition, and be sure you are considering additional costs that will vary from program to program. Fees, travel to conferences, professional clothes, relocation to program and/or for internships, study abroad trips, professional memberships, cost of living, etc. Dig deep and start to visualize what your life as an MBA student may look like. Talk with current students to compare notes, and ask them what their biggest expenditures or financial surprises outside of tuition were.

Opportunity cost should also factor into your planning. What are you giving up financially by pursuing your MBA, and what do you anticipate your outcome to be? Understanding this is essential to determining if an MBA is the right path for you. Leaving your current career and income can be intimidating, but if staying where you are in your career is scarier than leaving, you are likely on the right path. Call up Admissions and start this conversation.

Know your resources
The logistics of how each person pays for their MBA can vary drastically. Be realistic about what your personal financial situation looks like, and come up with a plan that you can sleep with at night. Evaluate your current debts, calculate your anticipated real cost, and be realistic about your intended outcomes. In the end, your options are likely some equation involving personal savings and financial aid, and if you're one of the fortunate few, admissions scholarships, external scholarships and employer sponsorships may be in the mix.

Choose your school wisely
Though programs may appear to be very similar, no two MBA programs are alike. Resist the urge to let your eyes glaze over the next time you hear about program fit - this is a crucial factor in what your MBA experience and outcome will ultimately be like. There is a perfect program out there for you, but it will take work on your end to confidently come to that conclusion. Study up on your schools, visit campus, attend events, interact with staff and network with current students and alumni as much as you can. Figure out what your must-haves are, and don't compromise them for anything. Once you determine which programs best fit you, you can then start to calculate where your best investment may be financially.

An MBA student's life is likely quite different than the one you are living now. Keep in mind that you are about to become a student again, and you may need some time to transition to that mindset. Set your student life budget now and begin practicing living on it. Start saving, think through ways that you can start to reduce your current debt pre-MBA, and dedicate time to explore external scholarships. Anything you can do now to become more financially prepared is likely to pay off.

Tips from our Students

Connect with them!

"Make sure you take into account extra fees associated with MBA programs; study abroad, student organization fees, insurance, etc. They add up, and you want to make sure you know everything that is expected of you beforehand. Then...budget your life and live on your budget". - Morgan H., Carlson Full-Time MBA, Class of 2014

"Plan ahead. It is important to outline a budget of expenses to realize just how much money you will need. This will help you save before going to school and also keep you honest on your spending if your receive loans at the start of each semester. Be sure to exhaust every option for scholarships, fellowships and other grants before taking on debt." - Ben B., Carlson Full-Time MBA, Class of 2014

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