Giving Back and Getting In

Most people don’t realize that a large percentage of higher education budgets are driven by philanthropic gifts from alumni and other donors.  It is also widely unknown that MBA programs check up on applicant giving records when available---are you prepared to stand behind what you have given back?

In addition to the high tuition payments made by students, MBA programs are also the recipients of billions of dollars each year from endowed and expendable gifts.  These proceeds from this generosity is spent to support faculty, students and innovative programming.  Without philanthropic support, in fact, MBA programs would cease to exist—period.  For this reason, MBA programs are serious about keeping the coffers full, and their focus begins even before students matriculate.  It’s in their best interest to admit students who will carry the proverbial torch and give back just as the students who came before them have done.

The easiest way for MBA programs to ascertain whether or not you are a giver or a taker is when you were also an undergrad at the same institution. 

When you apply for an MBA at the same school where you graduated college, they have open access to your giving record and will check it.  If you didn’t go to undergrad where you are applying for your MBA, they will often try to figure out if you supported your undergrad institution on their own.  How?  They ask you. 

A common question in the MBA interview process is, “how are you involved with your undergrad institution as an alumna/alumnus?” 

While this question does not directly inquire about financial support, it’s a great idea to be able to tell them that you do so.  Of course it’s great to be involved with your undergrad institution with your time and talent, also supporting your school with your treasure is highly beneficial when demonstrating to an MBA program that you will make a good alum. 

Once you get in, MBA programs almost immediately begin planting the seeds of future support by bringing in alumni to talk about their own giving and also communicating class giving opportunities to the student body.  Before you graduate, rest assured your class will be approached by the staff and/or faculty and encouraged to select a class gift which you and your classmates can use to leave a legacy for the school after you’re done. 

But it doesn’t stop there. 

It’s widely known in graduate school world that alumni giving rates are highest amongst MBA alumni.  Some schools even boast alumni giving participation rates as high as 50%.  Baking philanthropic encouragement into the curriculum and spiking the kool-aid as well pays off for MBA programs.  This is why HBS has a four billion dollar endowment. 

If you’re applying to a top MBA program, do yourself a favor and go make a gift to your undergrad school.  You’ll feel relieved if it comes up in your interview!

To find out more about your options and how we can guide your business school application process, email us at or contact us via