How to Get a Scholarship to Study Abroad

It is always the dream of most students to study in certain countries, where the standard of education and living conditions are favourable. One of the best ways to achieve this is to get a scholarship to study abroad, since the cost of funding for most of these institutions are exorbitant.

The availability of many funding opportunities have made it easier for a student to get a scholarship without facing the issue of paying tuition fees, and other living expenses. This is necessary for international students from African countries, Asian countries and some part of America where most students lacks the adequate funding sources.

Scholarship schemes are made available by government of countries who are trying to attract foreign students like Canada, USA, Sweden, non-governmental organizations like Commonwealth, and some universities.

Due to the free nature of most scholarships, they are usually very competitive, and difficult to secure. Thousands of applicants are vying for few spots.

Types of Scholarships

Though, there is misconception about scholarships being only available for students with high grades. This is not always the case, as there are other scholarships apart from academic scholarships. For instance, athletic scholarships are available for students with good athletic abilities.

Let us look at the different types of scholarships available for both domestic and international students.

Merit-based scholarships

Just as the name said, merit-based scholarships are awarded to students based on their academic excellence. Some of these schemes organize a standard test, or use the grade point average (GPA) score as criteria for selection.

Student-specific scholarships

The student-specific scholarship is a specific scholarship for special student groups such as ethnic minorities, disadvantaged women in male-dominated societies.

Subject-specific Scholarships

Subject-specific scholarships narrows down the awarding of the scholarship to a specific course of study such as engineering, medicine, public health administration.

Need-based scholarships

This type of scholarships are awarded to students who have financial constraints and dependents to help them in their academic efforts.

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To access the need-based scholarship in the US, the student will be asked to submit ‘Free Application for Federal Student Aid’ (FAFSA) to ensure they have financial need.

University-specific scholarships

Some universities offer their own scholarship schemes. The scholarship types can be any one of the above listed. These universities have scholarship portals for their students, while some consider eligible students once they are admitted.

Unusual Scholarships

Some scholarships fall under this category. The applicants can be considered after completing a specific challenge specified by the awarder. e.g. best essay on a given topic.

Best Time to Apply for Scholarships

It is important to note the best time to apply for scholarships. You should note the academic calendar of your preferred study destination. Most scholarship schemes use the academic calendars of the universities.

For studies that starts in the Autumn (September to December), you can apply until the late Summer (June to September). If your study starts in January, you can also apply till late Autumn. Always check the specified dates of application in the guide, and endeavour to apply early.

Tips for Scholarship Success

  • Always try to get current information about ongoing scholarship schemes by checking university portals, government agencies, relevant social media pages and groups.
  • Write a good essay that is relevant to that particular scholarship. We will discuss this in details shortly.
  • Seek for constructive criticism from people. They should help you proofread, correct typos and add some points.
  • Do not limit yourself. Apply as many scholarships as possible to increase your chances.
  • Read the eligibility requirement such as nationality covered, ages, as well as disciplines/courses.
  • The scholarship will not cover all your financial expenses such as travel, books, health insurance, clothing.
  • Beware of scholarship scammers. Do not pay anyone to secure scholarships for you. Avoid self-acclaimed scholarship consultants and experts.
  • Also, check the websites to ensure they are the official sites for application. (mostly .gov, .edu, .org websites). Some also come with the country specific domain extensions.
  • Always make sure you have your proof of funds to get your visa sorted out.
  • Be time conscious to avoid delays and missing the application deadline.
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How to Write a Successful Essay for Scholarship

If your scholarship scheme require essay, you have to be able to write a relevant essay that answers the topic or question asked. Make sure you highlight your academic achievements, ambitions, plans and interests.

  • Read the essay statement well, and make sure your writing answers the question, and address the key theme.
  • Read the essay guideline and understand the criteria by which the essay will be accessed, like word count, rules.
  • Make sure your essay is free from typos and grammatical errors. Give it to a second party to proofread and correct them for you.
  • Use your essay to prove to the scholarship board that you are a match for the scholarship.
  • Make sure the opening paragraph captures the reader attention.
  • Always use a separate scholarship essay for every new scholarship applications.
  • Avoid fancy fonts in your essay writing

Difference between Scholarships and Grants

Some people use the term interchangeably, but they are quite different. A scholarship involves financial incentive to a student to further their education, while a grant is funding by a government, charity organization, or a special grant-awarding body for an idea or a project that will improve the economy.

However, while scholarships financial aids are not to be repaid, some forms of grants will be repaid. The good news is that most grants are non-refundable

Most grants in the USA are from federal, state governments for students with financial needs. Just as scholarships, some colleges and universities award grants. An example of a grant is TEF.

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Difference between Scholarship and Bursary

While most Scholarships are awarded based on academic achievements since the students submit their diplomas and transcripts, bursary on the other hand can be offered to a student with financial needs hindering their education after submitting required documents.

How to Get a Scholarship Information

There are many ways you can find scholarships. Some of them are newspapers, magazines, bulletins, scholarship-niche blog, universities portals, government scholarship portals, social media pages of some institutions, non-governmental and humanitarian organizations, friends and colleagues.

You can sign up for mailing lists for scholarship listing portals. Attending workshops, seminars, conferences.

How to apply for Scholarship

If you discover a scholarship you are eligible for, the next step is to prepare your application. Make sure you read the terms of eligibility of the university, government or charity body responsible for the scholarship.

Some basic criteria you should check are the nationality covered, listed courses and subjects, academic requirements such as grades. Some scholarships are for undergraduate courses, while some are for post-graduate studies.

Most universities scholarships are open for students who are admitted into the school, while government scholarships have separate portal for domestic and international students.

Basic Documents

Before applying for a scholarship, make sure you have scanned copies (JPEG/PNG or PDF) of some documents. The basic requirements before applying for scholarships are:

  • An easily accessible and functional email
  • All educational certificates to date
  • A recent photograph
  • Scanned signature

Documents required to get a scholarship are:

  • Transcripts (certified copies of second degree/first degree)
  • Letters of recommendation (it is recommended you get it from lecturers in your school, unless non-academic references are accepted)
  • Motivation letter
  • Biography Letter (some cases)
  • Letter of Financial support (if required)
  • Language certificate (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Your past work experience(in essay form)


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