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The basics
Study abroad : Student Finances

Tips for writing the perfect scholarship application

If you want to secure a scholarship to study abroad, get used to completing a lot of applications. Find out how to write the perfect scholarship application with our tips below...

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For many students looking to study abroad securing financial aid and funding is a top priority. One of the main sources of student support is scholarships, which are both highly sought after and extremely competitive. Scholarships are awarded both by institutions as well as organisations, companies and foundations. In some cases, those awarded by companies/ organisations will also offer students employment opportunities post-study.


Scholarships vary in the amount they award students, which may cover tuition fees, living costs or both. In addition, there can be a number of preconditions and strict criteria for the award of a scholarship, meaning the application process isn’t always easy. It may be necessary to apply for a number of scholarship opportunities in order to increase the likelihood of receiving funding.


Although researching opportunities and putting together an application is undoubtedly hard work, the benefit of receiving funding cannot be overstated. With this in mind, we’ve put together some tips to bear in mind and consider when applying for a scholarship.



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


Essential to this is ensuring that you meet the criteria and requirements for the scholarship, which will increase 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 as well as domestically for international students. You can start your research journey by taking a look at some of the options on offer by using our search service.



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 a bit about the history of a 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 putting together a strong motivation to be awarded the scholarship.


If the scholarship you’re interested in applying for is being offered by a company or organisation, it’s always a good idea to find out as much as you can about them and the work that they do. This allows you to develop your application contextually and meet the expectations that they may have of candidates.


Being able to display 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 application makes your chances of receiving funding a lot higher.  



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.   



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.



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. 


While writing a strong personal statement in conjunction with 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 who 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 also may help to clarify some of your own plans and ideas. It may also give your referee a good idea of what to include in their letter of recommendation.


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 make sure that it’s as perfect as it can be. It’s unlikely that the first draft you complete will be free of any errors or areas that could be improved.


Reviewing your draft is a simple way of ensuring that you get rid of any small mistakes that could prejudice your application. Many assessors and committees will not consider applications that have errors as it suggests to them that you did not take significant time and care to put it together. Spelling, grammar, punctuation and presentation are absolutely essential.


If you need to address the application to a particular person, make sure that you get both their name and designation correct. It’s certainly worth following up on your scholarship application with a phone call or email to make sure that it has been 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.



You might also like to read:

References letters: Things to consider

The 5 most surprising scholarships 

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