9 Tips to Help You Earn a Scholarship to Study Abroad
Studying abroad has so many benefits, from gaining first-hand experience in another culture to making new friends from around the world. The only problem? It can be extremely expensive! That’s why earning scholarships to study abroad can be such a helpful opportunity. But how do you get one? By following these 10 tips, of course!
1) Start with your own country
Use Google Scholar, Coursera, and similar resources to find scholarships that are open to your own country’s citizens. If you have specific interest in studying abroad, look for organizations that focus on that region. Don’t forget about big names: The Gates Foundation awards multiple full-ride scholarships every year. Apply for more than one scholarship: There’s no rule that says you can only apply for one award at a time (although it may be prudent not to apply for 50). Keep in mind, though, that many scholarship applications ask if you’ve applied for any other awards and will disqualify you from consideration if they find out you lied. Do your research: Make sure what you’re applying for makes sense with your long-term career goals.
2) Choose the right program
This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many students make their applications a priority and then sign up for language classes in Argentina when they only speak English. It’s important to pick a program that complements your personal strengths and offers tangible career benefits. If you can find programs that combine work or study abroad with experiential learning (think internships, field study or thesis research), it’s possible to double your chances of getting funded. When applying for scholarships, it helps if you have at least 2-3 well thought out reasons why you should be considered; also include information on what unique contributions (what sets you apart) will bring to your host institution and community.
3) Be flexible
If your dream school is out of reach, don’t give up. Keep searching for scholarships and grants—you never know where you’ll find them. And if you get turned down, ask someone why. What criteria did they use to evaluate applications? Be honest with yourself; if your application has flaws, address them head-on and make improvements for next time. Everyone deserves an education, so start working on yours now!
4) Think about timing
There are lots of scholarship deadlines in January and February, which is great if you’re not thinking about studying abroad until April or May. Take advantage of them by planning ahead: See what your odds are and apply for as many as you can when it’s most convenient for you. Even if you miss out on some deadlines, getting started early can give you a head start on things like researching programs and figuring out how much financial aid may be available. After all, there’s no point in applying later if scholarships require essays due at 8 p.m. that night.
5) Check your eligibility
Before you apply for a scholarship, make sure you’re eligible. Scholarships often come with particular requirements and restrictions—some may only be available to students in certain countries or studying certain subjects, for example. If you’re ineligible, it could hurt your chances of being awarded one of these financial awards. However, keep in mind that some scholarships (such as those from your university) are only awarded based on need rather than academic merit; if that’s the case, it doesn’t matter if you’re eligible or not! The takeaway here is to double-check all of your eligibility requirements before applying; doing so will save you time later on.
6) Know how to write an application essay
Sure, you’ll probably have to write multiple essays when you apply for scholarships. But it’s not impossible—or even all that difficult—to write multiple stellar essays. Think of them as writing practice rounds. Once you learn how to write one great essay, writing another is easier because it builds on what you already know and know how to do well.
7) Know how to make yourself stand out from other applicants
The best way to apply for scholarships is to make yourself stand out from other applicants. The best way to do that is usually by applying for scholarships that are geared toward specific groups of people or students with specific characteristics (like being in an underrepresented group at your college, having extra-curriculars related to what you want to study or major in, or having a financial need). When you show yourself as different from everyone else and better suited for one scholarship over another, it will reflect well on you when the judges review your application. Also remember that if all of your achievements sound exactly like someone else’s, it won’t reflect positively on either of you!
8) Use additional resources you may have access to
If you’re applying for scholarships, you may have additional resources at your disposal. Maybe your school has an office that assists students with financial aid, or you might be able to talk with someone at work about using corporate connections for funding. If you’re interested in spending some time in a specific country and can go as part of an organization, it never hurts to ask whether they know anyone who might be able to help with funding. Consider getting creative—maybe even emailing your dream boss and asking if he or she knows anyone who could help. A well-crafted email can make all the difference, but don’t forget that time is limited—don’t give yourself more than one month (ideally) to find funding sources.
9) Prepare for interviews with admissions representatives at universities abroad
If you’re applying for scholarships to study abroad, you should be preparing for interviews with admissions representatives at universities abroad. If your essay(s) and résumé aren’t up to par, or if you haven’t thought about where exactly you want to go yet, don’t panic! Instead, do some preliminary research on international schools that are offering awards or grants; they will almost always require an interview. Spend time researching each school as well as each scholarship program they have in place; ask yourself what it is that makes these schools so appealing and if they align with your long-term career goals.