Friday, September 13, 2013

Notes from the Q&A on Financing the IMD MBA

This morning I listened in on the IMD live chat about how to finance the MBA. It was a useful session - there were some good insights on strategies that students can use to make sure they will be able to pay for the program costs and live comfortably in Lausanne.

In addition to Janet Shaner, IMD's MBA Program Delivery Director, the session included the participation of two students as well: Stefan and Shweta. They shared a little bit about how they went about financing their MBA, and and answered questions from the audience.

Below are some of the themes and key advice I took away from the session:

  • IMD offers 11 scholarships. The merit scholarship is awarded by the admissions committee, based on the strength of the applicant's profile, interview and application. It is communicated to the winners at the same time as the offer of admission. The remaining scholarships are open for applications and the deadline is September 30th, i.e. around three months the program begins. A few of the scholarships have restrictions or give strong preference to students of a certain background or from a certain geography, but many are open for all students to apply.

  • IMD offers loans up to CHF 65,000. According to the students in the session, these loans offer pretty favorable terms and are a good, straight-forward way to cover any remaining gaps for financing the MBA. They are awarded on according need-based approach. It is in IMD's best interest to make sure the students have the means to be fully committed to the program. Because of this, Janet reiterated that it is strongly advisable for students to be as detailed and transparent about their needs as possible in their application, so IMD can have a clear understanding of their needs and assist them accordingly.

  • Interestingly, Janet specifically mentioned that IMD likes the students to have "skin in the game," i.e. they want to see the students explore all their alternatives and come up with as much of the financing on their own as they can. According to Janet, it is a good motivator for students, as well as a good indication of how seriously the students take the investment they are making on themselves.

  • Stefan and Shweta explained their approach to financing their MBAs. The theme for both of them is that the best approach seems to be combining a variety of methods. Some of the ones they mentioned: Personal savings, help from friends and family, sale of properties, re-financing or renegotiating existing debts, regional (non-IMD) scholarships, IMD loans, outside personal/student loans, working spouse.

  • Stefan and Shweta also explained it is important to get a good sense of the expenses that will come up at certain times during the year, and plan accordingly. It is especially important to plan for the early months, considering the initial cost of getting set up in Switzerland can be high. Some of the up-front expenses are: security deposit for apartments (typically three months' worth of rent!), a variety of Swiss taxes including the dreaded Billag, and insurance (health as well as property).

  • Making sure there is enough funding to get through the first few months is paramount for those relying on IMD loans, since the proceeds are not disbursed until a couple months into the program (i.e. around March).

  • Both Shweta and Stefan mentioned they did not encounter too many "surprise" costs for the program, which helped with their budgets. They suggested many of the costs throughout the year are not necessarily fixed, i.e. the student has the power to control and reduce some of the costs. They gave a couple of examples: flat-sharing, group cell phone plans.


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