On the afternoon of 23rd November 2014, when the phone rang with a +33 code, I rushed to pick it up, knowing fully well that life as I knew it could be different at the end of this call. As I heard the golden word “Congratulations”, I was already two feet above the ground, jumping with joy at the anticipation of what lay ahead—a sea of endless possibilities, where I get to see a different side of the world, learn from people so unimaginably diverse, and explore my potential to a degree that was beyond my own realm of thinking.

The big picture

Once done with the call and as I rushed to disclose the news to all my dear ones, it suddenly dawned on me how much was needed to be done before I could get started with the course. To start with, I needed to figure out my finances. Finances would include the tuition fee of course, plus the living expenses during the 10-month period. Add to that my plan to explore Europe and we were looking at an additional 5,000 to 7,000 euros for the course period, even as a backpacker. I had saved over the years for this dream of mine, which meant my living expenses would be covered by my savings. The rest was to be covered by educational loans. The first thing I did was to check on the next deadline for scholarships, because a good scholarship would mean I would be able to reduce my education loan liability

Scholarships

INSEAD suggests that the number of scholarship applications be restricted to no more than five; so I started by shortlisting what those five applications should be. I decided to restrict myself to four, and try and do a thorough job in those. I picked up the ones which gave me a chance to demonstrate my differentiation through elements of my past work, or through relevant ideas that I could bring to the table. I was shortlisted for two scholarships, and finally awarded the L’Oreal Scholarship of 20,000 Euros, which gave my financial planning a big boost.

Loans

In parallel, I was pursuing my loan application with Prodigy, where an early start ensured that I had my loan approvals well in place to avoid any last-minute financing anxiety. With the scholarship results, I requested for a reduction in the loan amount, and finished the process several months before the start of the program.

Hidden costs

When you reach town for your MBA, you discover costs that you would have never budgeted for. For example, if you come along with your partner, you spend approximately 300 Euros on the residence permit for France. You may want a bike even if you live close to campus, because going to the bank or a bigger supermarket may need some form of transport. I had accounted for a portion of these,  but I later realized that it would always be good to have a small separate budget parked for the unforeseen.

Financing is a very important part of the MBA program, and in my case, it really helped to have the calculations and procedures worked out well in time. As the time for the start of the course approached, and there were a million other things to sort out, I was glad financing wasn’t one of them!