05 Jan 10 TIPS ON APPLYING FOR SCHOLARSHIPS
Applying for a scholarship can be a very daunting process for many students and sometimes students miss out on scholarship opportunities due to lack of information. Are you applying for a scholarship and not sure where to start or perhaps you are looking for advice to continue on a scholarship application you have started? Then this post is just for you. We will be discussing 10 important tips every candidate should know when applying for scholarships.
TIP 1: SEARCH FOR SCHOLARSHIPS THAT YOU ARE ELIGIBLE FOR
This should be your starting point when applying for scholarships. Most scholarships have an eligibility criteria that would usually specify what nationality, grade or other criteria need to be met by applicants. You can search for scholarships on ScholarshipEye either by using the categories on the right of the scholarships page or by using the search box. Once you have found all the scholarships that you are eligible for, make a list and prioritise. How you prioritise the scholarships will depend on a lot of factors that are personal to you. For example if you have absolutely no other funds to support your studies abroad, you would want to prioritise fully funded scholarships above partial awards. Or perhaps you have a particular country you are interested on, in which case you would want to prioritise scholarships that provide funding to universities in the country of your choice
Advice: Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Spend a good amount of time shortlisting all the scholarships you are eligible for and prioritising. The more scholarships you are able to apply to, the greater your chances of getting a scholarship. You can always make a choice to accept or reject a given scholarship if you are lucky to get more than one.
TIP 2: BE CLEAR ON THE REQUIREMENT OF EACH SCHOLARSHIP
Scholarships come in their different ‘shapes’ and ‘sizes’ and have different requirements. Some scholarships do not require you to submit a separate application as you would be automatically considered once you apply to an eligible course in the university, whereas some other scholarships require that you submit a separate application which sometimes may include references. Furthermore, some may also require an English Language Test such as IELTS or TOEFL. Working in order of your priority list, understand the requirement of each scholarship on your list and begin to think about how you can fulfil those requirements.
Advice: It is easy to get overwhelmed when applying for several scholarships. Planning and organisation is key to staying calm and in control. Create a spreadsheet and document the requirements of each scholarship. If possible develop a template for your personal statements and essays which can be reused to apply for multiple scholarships
TIP 3: PLAN WELL AHEAD OF DEADLINES
Now you know the requirements of each scholarship you are eligible for, you need to take some time to plan how you are going to submit each scholarship application well ahead of the DEADLINE. I cannot overemphasis the importance of documenting and remembering the deadline for submission. If possible make a poster to remind you of this every day. Ideally the target should be to submit your application at the very least a month before the deadline. This gives you a buffer to recover from any unforeseen circumstances.
Advice: Microsoft Excel is your best friend when it comes to planning. You can easily use excel to create a plan for submitting your applications. This would help you understand which scholarships you really need to work on first and may mean you may need to reprioritise based on deadline. This can also be an excellent opportunity to trim down your list. Whilst its good to apply for many scholarships you don’t want to attempt to apply for too many scholarships and end up applying for none. Trim your list to a feasible number again based on various personal factors and deadlines.
TIP 4: DO YOUR RESEARCH
This is probably the most important step. Carry out a research on the scholarship body, their selection criteria and their interests. Read about their past scholars, do you see a common theme? Are they more interested in candidates that have done some development work in their home countries? Or perhaps they are interested in candidates that have exceptionally high academic potential? Or a mix of both? These are questions you will need to find answers to. Understanding the selection criteria of a scholarship scheme is important in enabling you draft an application that appropriately highlights your key strengths and would give you a better chance of obtaining a scholarship. If the scholarship is offered by a university, then you would want to extend your research to the university and the course you are applying to.
Advice: Get your information from the right source. Start with the official websites of the scholarship body or the university. There would usually be a lot of information to get you started. Dig deep and document all you find for each scholarship in your spreadsheet.
TIP 5: DRAFT A GOOD APPLICATION
Now you have all the information you need, start putting them together to draft a good application. Remember most scholarship bodies are looking to invest in outstanding individuals and you want to highlight all your strengths. This is not a time to be modest, elaborate on all your achievements past and present. You essentially want to give them every reason to pick you as a scholar. For scholarships that require an interview, be clear on what would be required of you in the interview and prepare adequately. Remember first appearance is important – dress smart and speak eloquently.
Advice: The importance of a good application cannot be over emphasized. Take your time to draft an excellent application that addresses the selection criteria of the scholarship body.
TIP 6: GET SOMEONE TO REVIEW YOUR APPLICATION
‘Two heads are better than one’ and indeed in this case getting someone else to review your application can help you measure how good your application is. Your reviewer should be someone who:
- has good literary skills and is academically sound
- Is able to give you constructive criticism i.e. someone that can recognise the good work you have done while highlighting areas you need to improve on. You do not want someone who would be very negative and drown your enthusiasm
In some cases, your lecturer or academic adviser may also be a good choice if none of your friends fit the above criteria
Advice: You can have more than one person review your essay but the focus should really be on getting good feedback on the contents of your essay and personal statement. Does it leave a good impression? Does it sound convincing? Ask your reviewer to summarise the top 5 points they can remember from reading your application. If you like what you hear, then you are on the right part. If not put in more work to improve on your essay.
TIP 7: GET ADVICE FROM PAST SCHOLARS IF POSSIBLE
A good way to learn is to learn from the experiences of others. If you know a past scholar do not hesitate to ask them for tips on how they got the scholarship. What can you learn from their experiences? What did they think they did right? What would they advice you do differently? Even if you don’t know a past scholar you can very easily find one on the official website of the scholarship body. Most scholarship bodies have a directory of their past scholars.
Advice: If you cannot find a past scholar in the scholarship scheme(s) you are applying for, you can seek advice from any scholar you may know. What matters here is learning from their experience and getting final tips to use in your application
TIP 8: GET GOOD SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION
This is probably as important as your application. For scholarships that ask for references you want to get very good references to support your application. For example a reference from the Deputy VC of a university or a Professor is a strong backing for your application. The higher up the career ladder your referee is, the stronger it makes your application. Furthermore, what your referee has to say about you is equally important. The more descriptive they are about your capabilities and achievements the better your application.
Advice: If your referee is from work, in addition to your direct boss giving you a reference, try to get someone in a leadership position. For academic references, as much as is possible try to get a professor to give you a reference. These little details all add up to making a strong application. Most importantly, try to let your referees know about your achievements and things about you that they could include in your reference.
TIP 9: APPLY! APPLY!! APPLY!!!
The fun part. Now you have everything you need for each scholarship. Start applying. Remember you need to target to submit your application atleast a month before the deadline.
Advice: While applying take note of word limits and make sure all your essays are below the word limits. Make sure you fill information correctly. Always save a copy of all your essays or answers to questions in your excel document.
TIP 10: KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR EMAILS
Now you have applied, make sure you keep good tabs on your emails. You don’t want to miss the email informing you about being shortlisted for an interview or better still the email informing you about being successfully shortlisted for the scholarship. Most scholarship bodies would require you to confirm within a certain timeframe that you are still able to take up the scholarship upon being shortlisted so keep an eye out.
I hope you found this post useful. We post scholarships and tips regularly. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out. All the best and GOOD LUCK!