Scholarship Essay Tips & Application How-Tos from educations.com
Did you know that the #1 piece of information that prospective international students look to when going abroad is information about scholarships and funding? According to our survey of over 20,000 international students, scholarships are really important. But there isn’t as much qualified advice out there as there should be.
Because we at educations.com review thousands of scholarship applications and essays for our Study a Master’s in Europe Scholarship and Study a Bachelor’s in the USA Scholarship, we want to share insider scholarship tips with you to help you stand out from the crowd and make your study dreams come true.
Read our top ten scholarship tips below to get practical advice on how to get a scholarship. If you’re more of a beginner and are wondering how scholarships work, check out our guide to scholarships.
1. Focus on best-fit scholarships for you
Look for scholarships that you qualify for and sound like a good fit for you - there are many scholarships you can apply for and most are competitive. Make sure that you reserve time to do a great job on scholarship applications that you have the best chance of winning, and spend remaining time casting the net wider for less likely fits.
2. Speak to the values of who is awarding the scholarship
No scholarship essay tips will give you the key to the heart of the institution offering the scholarship.
You will need to convey that you’re a student who is an ambassador for the best attributes of the university, organization or company offering the scholarship. Check out their mission statements to see what they hold dearest and look for examples of how you live and breathe these values to include in your essay.
3. Share your vision for the future
There are many students for whom a scholarship will make a meaningful difference to in their personal lives, but few students are able to articulate how this scholarship will help them make meaningful differences in the world.
Whether it’s making a change in academia, NGOs, the national government, the private sector or your hometown, you need to explain your “why.” What drives you forward and how is it special? If you’re struggling to frame this, take a look at Simon Sinek’s lecture for leaders on how to start with the “why” to inspire others to get invested in your mission.
4. Carefully follow the scholarship essay prompt
At educations.com, we worked together as a team for many hours to formulate the criteria and essay prompt for our scholarships. The criteria are not random and are designed to help the right student match up with the values we want to promote in the world.
About half of our applicants ignored the essay question and were immediately disqualified, which made us sad! What if we missed an outstanding candidate who just didn’t read the prompt carefully enough?
While it can be a good strategy to reuse parts of your scholarship essays to save some time, make sure that you customize the essay meaningfully to address the essay prompt.
5. Don’t be afraid to share how challenges have shaped you, but make sure that you don’t just list hardships
Having a passionate reason to pursue your studies is fantastic and most appreciate that emotion can help drive you towards your goals.
However, sometimes in listing the difficulties you’ve faced it can be easy to forget what you’re being asked to write about. For example, in our Study a Master’s in Europe scholarship we ask “Why did you choose your study abroad country, and how will it help you grow as a globally-minded leader?”
Some of our most compelling finalists had faced personal hardship or witnessed terrible effects first-hand of issues facing their community, country, or the world. This lit a fire in them to choose a program and country where they could improve their knowledge and give back to the world by acting on it or sharing it through the public, private or non-profit sectors.
When you focus just on your hardships and not the passion and drive they have ignited in you, you’ve lost sight that the scholarship-giver is looking to positively influence the world through you.
6. A scholarship application is not a CV
Sadly, some students who absolutely fit one of our ideal candidate attributes of being “academic achievers” and “involved in extracurricular groups” used their application essay to give a chronological history of their grades, volunteer work, and career history.
They looked like great students but reading their essays we had no idea of whether they were globally-minded, wanted to change the world nor how their program and country of choice were going to make a difference. Weave your experience into a narrative that tells your application-reader who you are not just what you’ve done.
7. Follow the submission instructions to make sure your scholarship application makes it through the first round
Using the correct file format, attaching the correct documents and making sure that you’ve hit the correct word count are all important to ensuring that your scholarship application qualifies to be considered.
A few minutes of time can make sure that your application is not disqualified.
8. Mind the details for a professional-looking application
While many scholarship awarding committees will not disqualify you for a typo or misspelling (we do not include this in our rubric), it’s still a great idea to have a trusted friend, family member, classmate or mentor read over your application to give you feedback.
We also recommend choosing an easily readable font if one is not specified, and not getting too creative with images unless they are permitted and speak to the message behind your application.
For example, using stock images and word art will be distracting and irrelevant to your application while including photos of your volunteer work, or a photo with you presenting an academic project could bring your essay to life.
9. Make your scholarship essay unique
Academic scholarships are competitive with many applicants offering a good reason to be chosen. Far fewer applicants are outstanding. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd by being honest, personal, and transparent.
For example, if you’re pursuing a Master’s to further your dream of helping Mexico preserve its native bee population, don’t be shy about telling us how you got interested in the first place. Tell us about how you transformed your parents’ apartment balcony into a bee sanctuary at 13 - we would love to hear more about how your passion began and has developed over the years and sharing these kinds of details will help you stand out from the crowd.
Just in case we need to mention it, be sure that your application is honest and the words you use are your own. Most scholarship committees have access to anti-plagiarism software, and the references you provide and follow-up interviews that you do are important to confirming your honesty. Being dishonest is an easy way to completely disqualify your application.
10. Don’t miss your deadline!
Looking for information on how to get a scholarship? Make sure that you apply on time! Scholarships are typically run on firm deadlines. You may not think about it, but the administrative procedures necessary to review thousands of applications, choose finalists and ultimately a winner will mean that an application cycle will be closely choreographed.
If you’re applying for multiple scholarships, It’s important to keep track of all of the scholarships you’ve applied for and schedule in time to complete and submit applications before the deadlines. Although some scholarship awarders might be flexible and accept applications a few hours or days after the deadline, others will not be.
Thanks so much for reading our tips on how to get a scholarship! We encourage you to take a look at our Bachelor’s and Master’s scholarships and wish you the best of luck in making your study abroad dreams come true.
Want to find the right scholarship for you? Download our Study Abroad Scholarship Guide below to begin searching for scholarships that can help make your study abroad dreams a reality.