Across the globe, many students dream of studying abroad, as going to study in a new country is not only academically advantageous but it also helps to broaden a person’s horizon on a cultural level. However, going abroad to study is not easy for everyone, primarily because of the high costs of education in different countries.
In this scenario, most students look for scholarship programs to finance their studies. To facilitate deserving students from around the world, different governments, non-governmental organizations and universities run various scholarship schemes. Some of these programs are fully funded while others offer partial funding to students. Since there are a massive number of students who aspire to study abroad on a scholarship, the competition is extremely fierce.
Scholarships are awarded to students on the basis of a student’s overall profile and it is true that a student’s academic background plays a crucial role in getting a scholarship. However, many students who have excellent profiles sometimes fail to get selected. The reasons for failure range from missed deadlines, incomplete documentation to poor preparation. Although there is nothing that could guarantee to win a scholarship, knowing how to apply properly could greatly enhance a candidate’s chances. Here is a simple guide to applying for (and possibly winning) scholarships abroad.
- Start searching
If you have decided to apply for a scholarship but you are unsure where to start, the first step is to start searching for different scholarship schemes. The best way to do it is to use Google which would return thousands of results. Make sure to be relevant during your search to save time. For instance, if you are a Sociology student looking for a graduate scholarship, use keywords like “Sociology, graduate, scholarships”, to get relevant results. After that, sort out how many scholarship schemes offer partial funding and which ones are fully funded and filter your choice accordingly.
Another important medium is Facebook. There are various pages and groups on Facebook that are solely dedicated to scholarships. The good thing about Facebook groups is that you can also find fellow students from different countries who are applying for similar scholarships, so you could get a lot of information from these groups.
- Sort out and collect all the necessary information
Once you use Google or Facebook groups to search for scholarships and filter the most relevant ones for yourself, start looking for individual requirements of each scholarship program. Every program has different prerequisites so read about them carefully. Next, note down the deadlines and see which documents are required. Some scholarship programs also have age and geographical limits, so be careful about that too.
- Start preparing your application
Once you have decided which scholarship you want to apply to, you now have to start assembling all the required documents. This process is not only important but can be very tedious and time-consuming. Many times, candidates are unable to supply the required documents on time and, as a result, they end up receiving a rejection. In general, most scholarships require the following documents:
- Diploma or degree obtained through your last education;
- Language test scores (IELTS, TOEFL, etc);
- Other tests (GRE or GMAT, etc);
- Recommendation letters from your university or college professors/ work supervisors;
- Proposed research topic;
- Proof of employment;
- Work samples or list of published work (if any);
- Conditional admission letter from a university (some programs require it); and
- Motivation letter (also called letter of intent or statement of purpose). This is the most important part of the application as it makes you stand out from other candidates. Ideally, you should take several weeks to write this letter and keep revising it for perfection. You can refer to available samples on Google but never copy another candidate’s motivation letter. This can greatly reduce your chances of being selected. Plagiarism, even a small paragraph or a few sentences, is definitely not tolerated.
Remember that the collection of these documents requires a lot of time. In particular, many students are required to get their documents attested, ask their professors/ work supervisors to write recommendation letters, appear for language and/ or other tests and wait for the results, etc. Therefore, be prepared to give several months to this process, especially if your documents are not in the required order.
If you submit a complete application that fits the eligibility criteria, you will probably be getting an email that your application has been duly received. Some programs ask the candidates to wait for several months for the results while some program conduct face-to-face or Skype interviews. If you are selected for an interview, make sure you remember what you wrote in the application and you are prepared to answer the questions. There are lots of sample interviews available on websites like YouTube, so should always watch them to get an idea about the interview.
- Waiting time
Once the application and the interviewing stage is completed, it’s time to be patient. Keep checking your emails regularly (including spam folders)!
If you’re lucky, you might be awarded a scholarship in the very first attempt. However, many successful candidates receive their first scholarships after several tries. Receiving a rejection or an admission without a scholarship could be very disappointing but what many students fail to realize is that their application might not be as good as another candidate’s. Some students are rejected because they do not fulfill the eligibility criteria, for instance, they have irrelevant academic backgrounds or they are clueless about their future plans, so they lag behind. Sometimes the application is very poorly or hastily prepared, etc. If you think you fulfill the eligibility criteria, the key to success is to keep applying. Also, don’t put all your eggs in one basket and apply to various programs to maximize your chances. With time, you learn from your mistakes and definitely submit better applications.
With good preparation, as aforementioned, your chances are greatly enhanced. So, if you are a candidate who is planning to study abroad on a scholarship, start looking up for opportunities and apply today!
About the author:
Sarah B. Haider is a freelance journalist interested in writing on women’s rights, environment, education and current affairs. She’s currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in Journalism.