Getting a scholarship is a very good option to finance your studies and enables you to fully concentrate on getting your degree instead of worrying about money issues. This article is giving you an overview on how to succeed with that.
Start as early as possible!
The application process of many scholarships takes quite long and application deadlines finish early. As soon as you know what you are going to do you should therefore start with the preparation right ahead! You do not know yet what and where to study?
Find the right scholarship
There are thousands of scholarships out there as well as other types of funding like grants, prizes, studentships, competitions, fellowships and many others! Luckily not all of them are just dependent on your GPA. Do you come from a specific country? Do you study a specific subject? Are you member of a religious denomination? All those factors for example can qualify you for a financial support for your studies!
Before you start preparing your application make once more sure that you have chosen the right scholarship for you. Do you match all the eligibility requirements?
If you made sure you picked the right scholarship, it is time to prepare your application. Most of the times you will need to prepare the following documents:
- Certificates of your previous education
- Recommendation letters (work/academic)
- Language certificate (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS)
- Motivation letter
- Curriculum Vitae
Make sure all of the documents needed to apply for the scholarship are in order before you start to write. You wont want to go back to them after writing your letter, to discover you are missing an important document. Also and we cannot stress this enough start in time. This will give you the opportunity to make your letter stand out and not have to rush with the deadline. You also want to make sure the applications are filled out neatly and that nothing is missing. Make sure there hardcopies of every document you are sending, because if anything happens you wont want to start over.
Certificates of your previous education
Depending on your university it may take some time until you receive your transcript of records, diploma etc. Try to get it (and some certified copies of it) as soon as possible. Ask the university as well as the scholarship provider for the possibility of using preliminary documents in order to meet close deadlines.
Letters of recommendation are an important part of every scholarship application. Since your professors and employers might be busy, try to get them as early as possible. However, carefully read the requirements of the scholarship you would like to apply to. Some of them have very specific rules about the recommendation letters and do not accept general ones.
Where to go, who to ask?
The best place to go for letters of recommendation is teachers that have taught you for a while or your school guidance counsellor. They will probably know you best and can give you a strong letter of recommendation. Some scholarships may allow you to have non-academic references as well (from an employer or community leader etc.). If this is the case, and they know you well, you can ask them.
What to do?
Ask your potential recommender if they would be able to write a strong letter on your behalf. You should also give your recommender more than enough time to complete the letter. Make sure you provide your recommender with: The scholarship application information, an updated version of your resume, the most recent versions of the samples required for the application and a short paragraph on your accomplishments as well as what you would like them to highlight in their letter. Remind them as the deadline is approaching, do not assume the letter will be sent by them once they have agreed to write it and collect the letters from them personally.
If the language of the program you apply to is not your native language you are most of the times required to obtain a certificate showing your language skills. For English language TOEFL and IELTS are the most common ones which are widely accepted among scholarships and universities worldwide. Be aware that it takes some time to prepare, take the test and receive the results.
The motivation letter is a crucial part of your application. Below are some useful tips and guidelines to writing a successful scholarship application letter. They involve the process one can undergo before writing the letter, what to consider when writing, the process of checking your work and information on letters of recommendation.
Brainstorming: Why should you get the scholarship and not someone else?
Generally, there are two important questions you need to answer: Why you, and why this scholarship? It is a good idea to have a brainstorm before you start writing. Spider diagrams are great for this, as you can put the main topic in the middle and jot down supporting details and arguments as you go along. After this is done to the best of your ability, it helps to take those ideas and formulate them into an outline for your essay. Dont forget to check the scholarship website (in particular their mission). It is always a good idea to use family and friends as sounding boards. You should also think about to looking towards your extracurricular activities and strong personality traits when deciding on the topic of your letter.
Writing: Musts! Be concise, stay on topic
When writing the letter, make sure that you stay on topic! Do not get caught up in the points you are trying to make, that you do not give the reader an infinitive answer at the end. Also be aware, that most questions have an underlying question. When you are answering why you want to study in a particular field? keep in mind that the reader really wants to know why you would be the best in what it is you are going to do etc.
You also need to make sure that your body paragraphs relate to your introduction, because the introduction is what gives people an idea of what it is they should be expecting to read. Remember to be specific! You know what it is you are trying to say, but the reader doesnt know you or the way you think. Make sure your points are comprehensible and come across clearly.
Tonality is the key! Personal yet professional
You must also be aware of the tone you are writing in. Yes, the letter is personal, but the purpose is professional. It may help to think of who will be reading your letter and to write it as if you are addressing someone familiar, someone you respect, and someone you want to share your story with. This may help you to identify an audience.
What helps: Be genuine and positive
It really helps to stay original when writing. Remember that you are up against a lot of other applicants for the same scholarship and originality will help you stand out. Be genuine about what you are writing and make the reader feel your personality. It may help to share a bit of your life that is relevant, as this makes the letter a bit more personal. You can give examples of where you have demonstrated relevant skills or personality traits. When bringing in personal examples, you will want to avoid the sob stories. Scholarship committees are not interested in how hard your life has been, but rather how you have overcome the challenges that you have been faced with and what you have accomplished despite them. Make sure the reader gets a sense of your positive attitude towards life. Optimism is what makes organizations excited about giving you money to pursue your passion and possibly changing the world while doing so.
Checking your work: Proofreading is not just a spell-check!
The more people that you can convince to proofread your letter the better. They make pick up on little mistakes as well as give you new and fresh ideas. Be aware that spell check is nice, but does not catch every mistake. Ask the people reading your letter if they believe every sentence is crucial to the letter, as this should be the case. It may also be in your best interest to ask them if the topic of your letter was clear, if there are any visible clichés, what the worst part of the letter was and if they think anyone else could have written a letter just like yours. If they answer the last question with a yes, then you are missing your personality and that is a major part of a successful scholarship letter.
Revision: Give yourself a couple of days and then check again
Revision should be done carefully. You are only allowed a certain amount of words, so you want to use them wisely. Make sure you delete anything that does not relate to your main argument. Consider reordering your supporting details, and make the broader implications of your experiences clear. Important arguments need to be at the foreground of the letter. It might help to put your letter aside for some days and then check it again.