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Study abroad : Student Finances

How to write the perfect scholarship application

Securing a scholarship to study abroad is the goal for many international students. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know how to approach the scholarship application process. We can help by explaining how to write the perfect application.

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If you want to study abroad then securing funding and financial assistance may be a top priority. One way that you can do so is by securing a scholarship. Scholarships are both competitive and sought after so you need to know how to submit the best application. A scholarship application takes time and effort but it is worth it for the potential opportunity it provides. We explain how to approach scholarship application writing, the critical elements you need, and tricks to make your scholarship application stand out.


Do your research 

Dedicating time and effort to researching what scholarships are available is a crucial aspect of the process. This research should include how much the scholarship awards and what it covers, plus the key eligibility criteria and deadlines. Scholarships do vary between countries and destinations, so make sure you find a funding option that is appropriate for you.


Essential to this is ensuring that you meet the criteria and requirements for the scholarship, increasing the probability of you receiving funding. When undertaking your investigation, it’s useful to see what sort of funding is available both in the destination you have your eye on and domestically for international students. You can start your research journey by looking at some of the options on offer by using our scholarship search service.



Tell your scholarship story 

Many scholarships have a distinct history and story behind them. In some cases, they have been created in memory of a notable individual or named after the person who has donated the funding. It’s useful to find out about the history of the scholarship and the people behind it, as this can assist your application. This is especially true if there is an interview component to the application process and for compiling a strong motivation to get the scholarship.
What if the scholarship you're applying for is offered by a company or organisation? Try to find out about the company and the work that they do. This allows you to develop your application contextually and meet the expectations that they may have of candidates.
Displaying your knowledge of their work and that you have made the effort to do so goes a long way. Try to make sure that your application doesn’t only meet the minimum standards required or recommended. Putting in the effort to submit a thorough and detailed scholarship application increases your chances of receiving funding. 



Follow the scholarship application instructions

Attention to detail is an essential part of any scholarship application. There are often a number of instructions and guidelines which provide the framework for your submission. There is nothing worse than putting a lot of effort into applying for a scholarship only to realise that you haven’t taken enough time reading the eligibility requirements.


Taking time to understand what is needed and required allows you to tailor your application accordingly. Make sure that the key criteria are met and that any questions asked are adequately addressed by the application you submit. This also means that the application should be fully completed, even in cases where there is a large amount of paperwork you’ll have to spend time doing. You’ll stand a much better chance of securing funding if your submission is detailed and includes all the necessary documentation.   


Find out more about how much it costs to study abroad


Display your personality and character

Standing out from the crowd, in what is an extremely competitive process, can be the difference between getting the scholarship and not. The organisations, panels and individuals who will be looking at your application don’t know you, which means their assessment can be made solely on what you submit. That’s why personalising your application can be beneficial.


You can add one or two references to aspects of yourself or interests that you may have to allow your application to stand out. It’s all about allowing the assessors to see elements of your personality and feel that they know a bit about you apart from your academic aspirations and credentials.


One way of adding some points of interest to your application would be to include some information about your extracurricular activities, especially if they relate to the scholarship you may be applying for. What you spend your spare time doing can be of interest to those analysing your application as it gives them a sense of your character.



Write your personal statement

A central tenet of any scholarship application is the personal statement. Some have argued that it is in fact the most important ingredient to any application. It gives the person/people assessing your submission the best chance of forming a holistic opinion of your strengths and character. Writing clearly and concisely is the best approach.


This also needs to include addressing any questions that may have been asked in the application. It’s a good idea to highlight these prior to drafting your statement and create a clear outline. Make sure that you use relatable and tangible examples in your writing.


For example, instead of writing an abstract essay about volunteering in your community, write about your experiences while volunteering, what you got out of it and what came next. Don’t be hesitant to mention your achievements, but try to maintain a tone that does not denote conceit or arrogance. 


Discover how to deal with the pressure of being a scholarship student


Get a recommendation letter

While writing a strong personal statement, added to an exemplary academic record, may be enough to get you over the line, recommendation or reference letters play a very important role in adding weight to your application. Your referee stands as an independent validation and endorsement of the claims you have made in your submission.


That’s why selecting your referee very carefully is critical. It’s good to choose someone you trust and with whom you have had a good relationship, such as an ex-employer or professor. Don’t delay once you have decided who you would like to ask, request the reference well in advance so that it gives the person writing the recommendation enough time to get it done.


Take time to chat with your referees about your plans and intentions, even before the scholarship application is open for submissions. Not only does this allow them to get an idea of your ambitions, but may help to clarify some of your plans and ideas. It may also give your referee a good idea of what to include in their letter of recommendation.



Edit and proofread your scholarship application

Having written and finished your application there is only one thing left to do before you press that ‘send’ button. That’s right, check, edit and proofread to ensure it’s as perfect as possible. It’s unlikely that the first draft you complete will be free of any errors or areas for improvement.
Reviewing your draft is a simple way to ensure you remove any small mistakes that could prejudice your application. Many assessors and committees will not consider applications with errors as it suggests that you did not take significant time and care to put it together. Spelling, grammar, punctuation and presentation are essential.
If you need to address the application to a particular person, ensure you get their name and designation correct. It’s certainly worth following up on your scholarship application with a phone call or email to check it was received. It also helps to put you on the radar of the organisation, institution or donor to whom you have applied. It demonstrates both your seriousness and enthusiasm. There’s no time to waste. Start your research today and ignite your academic ambitions.

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