I am psyching myself up. I am finding my motivation. I am getting my mind right. Friends, I am going back into essay writing mode. Too soon? Yeah, that's what I thought too. Then I looked at Booth's (under)estimated student budget and realized that scholarship money does not make the cost of a full-time MBA affordable, it simply makes it less unaffordable. Even though my tuition is taken care of I still need to pay for books ($2,100), random fees (~$2,400), health insurance (~$2,400), transportation (~$1,300), a place to live (~13,500), food to eat (~$5400), and personal expenses ($3,000). That is roughly $30,000 of expenses and I haven't even factored in the cost of moving to Chicago or a security deposit. Add in a Random Walk, the ski trip, and a trek or two and the price tag can rise to nearly $50,000. While I do have a good amount of money saved it's not enough to cover everything and I am not too keen on blowing away my savings anyways. The back of the envelope budgetary calculations have left me with the sobering reality that in spite of Booth's generous award I could end up with nearly $100,000 of debt. No bueno.
Although I am doing my best to save money where I can (roommate, no new computer, and recruiting for food), I could still use a lot of help to bring costs down to an amount that I am comfortable borrowing. They say the best money is free money and in the immortal words of Jay-Z, "There's money to be had." On the "How in the Hell Am I Supposed to Afford This?" page of every admitted student's site that I've seen (I've seen K, B, and W's) there is a link right below each schools' statement of "We have some money to give, but don't hold your breath," that directs incoming students to external funding sources. While scholarship and fellowship funding for graduate students is far less prolific than it is for undergraduates, it is out there to be pursued. And like any resourceful person would, I'm going after it. $1,000 here, $5,000 there and all of a sudden books and insurance are covered. All that's required of me is to buckle down and write an essay about my afro and another on the value of an MBA. I can do that. The problem is that I'm still burnt out from the application season and I just don't feel like cramming my thoughts into 500-750 words again.
I could tell myself that I shouldn't even bother. Is $1,000 really worth the effort involved in filling out more applications, asking for additional recommendations, and once again living on Microsoft Word? Maybe. Some of the scholarships I've found look rather obscure so I don't think there is much competition for them. Then again, some of them look so obscure that taking the time to complete and submit an application might be an effort sink into a black hole. But I look at that student budget again and think about everything that I want to do during my MBA and know that the extra funds can only help. They would be especially beneficial if they went straight to me instead of directly to Booth (fellowship awards are reduced if outside scholarships bring your award over the cost of tuition).
Even though I would love to relax and not use my brain until September my debt aversion does not grant me that luxury. Alas, it is time for me to get my second wind. It appears extremely daunting, but I know I can do this. At this time last year I had no clue how I would ever take the GMAT, get recommendations, and write God knows how many iterations of essays; but I did do it. I did it all. So I will apply for the Science of Black Hair scholarship and the National Black MBA scholarship too. I will search fast web for $1,000 here and $5,000 there. I may do all that work just to come up empty, but I know for a fact I won't get a dime if I don't even try.