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Hidden Costs To Consider Before Getting An MBA

Written by CB Community

Going to graduate school to earn your MBA is an expensive, worthwhile investment for your career.

However, on top of the cost of your tuition, you also have to consider the additional expenses you will have while attending and preparing for graduate school.

Things like books, campus visits, and exams can add up and make your bill much higher than you anticipated.

Here are some hidden costs you should consider before getting an MBA:

Taking The GMAT

One of the biggest hidden expenses of earning your MBA is the cost of taking and preparing for the GMAT exam. The score you earn on your GMAT exam determines your eligibility for the top graduate schools.

The GMAT alone costs around $250, but that number grows when you consider the additional expenses of taking the test.

Because the score you earn on the GMAT is so important for graduate school, many test-takers enroll in online prep courses that can help them improve their final score.

While prep courses can help greatly improve your score, they are an additional expense that you should consider while budgeting for graduate school.

GMAT prep courses from the likes of Kaplan and Princeton Review can easily run into the thousands; however, there are budget prep options available. For example, the GMAT prep course from Magoosh costs less than $250.

To minimize your overall expense on the GMAT exam, make sure you spend plenty of time preparing so that you only need to take it once.

Taking the exam more than once can be a huge drain on your time and money. Instead, start studying early so that you can stay on track to get into the MBA program of your dreams.

The Application Process

Graduate school will start costing you money before you even get accepted. Most graduate schools charge an application fee that can cost more than $200 — you will need to pay an application fee for each program you apply to.

Further, if you hire the help of an admissions consultant, you will wind up paying hundreds more than you expected before you even set foot on campus.

Many of the top graduate schools also require prospective students to attend an interview to determine their eligibility with admissions staff. Travel expenses for the interview come entirely out of your own pocket, and you may need to spend money on things like new clothes or thank-you cards for your interviewers.

The best way to mitigate your expenses during the application process is to study hard and be prepared. Make sure you can pass your GMAT in one attempt and try to apply to only a few programs where you have a good chance of being accepted.

Better yet, research the best ways to prepare for the grad school application process to skip the need for a consultant entirely.

Another way to minimize your expenses during the application process is to weigh your financial aid options and look for colleges that offer application fee waivers.

Some colleges are willing to give their students tens of thousands of dollars in financial aid money that can help make earning your MBA much more affordable.

Visits Before Making A Final Decision

One considerable expense to remember while earning your MBA is the cost of campus visits before you make your final decision.

Depending on the number of campuses you want to visit, you are looking at spending thousands of dollars on travel, food, and gas.

You also have to consider the number of times you will need to visit your to-be college. Many colleges host optional events for prospective students to help them adjust to campus life and learn about the programs they offer.

Even though these events are sponsored by the college, each trip you take will lead to accumulating travel expenses.

Purchasing the Necessary Supplies

Purchasing necessary supplies is a major expense that many graduate students overlook when considering the costs of their MBA.

School shopping can be expensive — even little things like the cost of notebooks, pens, and pencils can add up when you consider that you will be going to school for at least a few years.

On top of the cost of necessary school supplies, you will also need to buy expensive books that can sometimes cost students thousands each semester.

You will also need a laptop or computer that is compatible with all of the software your college uses. If you have an old or outdated computer, purchasing a new one can be a major, unexpected expense on top of the other costs of earning an MBA.

To help cut costs on your school supplies, avoid shopping at the campus school supply store. Colleges tend to overcharge their students on basic things like writing utensils and paper, so your best bet for affordable school supplies is an online retailer like Amazon.

You can also find digital copies of your textbooks online that are much cheaper than the copies sold by your campus bookstore.

Networking and Making Friends

A major hidden expense of earning an MBA is networking and making friends on campus. Going out to eat with your friends and stopping for Starbucks on the way to class adds up over the time you are at graduate school.

While you might think those are frivolous things to spend your money on, they are an essential part of your professional experience at graduate school.

Going out and making friends is vital for building a network to take advantage of later on in your career. You never know which one of your friends will “make it” and become a huge success.

If you play your cards right by building a network of like-minded people in your industry, then there is a good chance that you will be successful.

The costs of networking can vary greatly depending on where you go to school. If you go to school in a rural or suburban setting, networking will likely be much cheaper than if you live in a major city.


Earning your MBA is a significant expense that can have plenty of benefits for the future of your career. There are many hidden costs to earning your MBA that make the process much more expensive than it first appears.

The most important thing is to do your research and be prepared to avoid paying too much extra for graduate school.

About the author

CB Community

Passionate members of the College Basics community that include students, essay writers, consultants and beyond. Please note, while community content has passed our editorial guidelines, we do not endorse any product or service contained in these articles which may also include links for which College Basics is compensated.