Friday, 29 June 2012

The Hard Truth about Scholarships


One important thing you should know about scholarships is that they are not given out just to anyone  who asks, requests, or begs for it.  They are not given just because you are poor and disadvantaged.  They are not given just because you are from a developing country or just because you belong to a minority group.  The truth is scholarships are not given out, they are earned. You earn it by demonstrating your potential and establishing your qualifications.

Am I Qualified for an International Scholarship?

Although it is true that your disadvantaged situation initially qualifies you for a scholarship (that’s why there are minority scholarships, scholarships based on financial need, developing country scholarships), you will still have to satisfy other qualifications set by the scholarship provider.
Let’s look at a general overview of typical scholarship qualifications required by scholarship providers.
Minimum Scholarship Qualifications
- You must be from a country which the scholarship provider specifies
- You must be of a certain age as set by the scholarship provider. Note that this is not always the case, there are many scholarships where there is no age requirement.
- You must hold a High School Diploma when applying for a Bachelors; a Bachelor’s Degree when applying for Master’s; and a Master’s Degree when applying for PhD
- You must meet the  academic requirements of the programme you are applying to. In most cases, you have to be accepted in the progamme your are applying to before you are considered for a scholarship.
- You must have good knowledge of English language with TOEFL or IELTS scores as proof. In some cases, proof of English as medium of instruction in your university degree would suffice.
Additional Qualifications of Specific Types of Scholarships
- Entrance Scholarships: you have to meet the high school academic average set by the scholarship provider (usually 90% or above)
- Excellence Scholarships: you have to meet the GPA required by the scholarship provider (usually 3.0 or above on a 4.0 rating system)
- Leadership Scholarships: you must demonstrate leadership potential and possess leadership skills and/or experience
- Competition Scholarships: you must win the competition (i.e. essay competition)
- Development Scholarships: you must go back to your home country and show the potential to introduce and influence development in your home country
- Youth Scholarships:  you have to be young, atleast below 25

Are my Qualifications Enough?

Even if you meet the minimum qualifications of the scholarship, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a scholarship. Yes, good qualification improve your chances but still, there will be hundreds or thousands of you with the same qualifications applying for the same scholarship. Thus, scholarship providers set up scholarship criteria to filter out the best students who will get the scholarship. Here are some of the scholarship criteria used by scholarship provider:
•  The student’s academic excellence and potential in his/her proposed field of study -  applicants must be able to demonstrate a connection between their subject of study and their longer-term career objectives.
•  The student’s academic performance – as evidenced by grades, test scores, publications, letters of recommendation from his/her previous education.
•  The student’s motivation letter (or in some cases, a motivation essay)
•  The quality of the scholarship application submitted (completeness, accuracy, consistency).
•  In development scholarships in particular, students are assessed based on their potential to contribute to the development of their home country.
•  In the case of research students, students are assessed based on the merits and relevance of their research study.
Knowing these criteria, you can find ways to gain advantage over your competitors.  For example, if you don’t have very good academic grades, the personal motivation letter is your chance to show how you deserve to get the scholarship.   In another example, you can do a little extra research about the current areas of focus of the scholarship provider because sometimes,  students are chosen based on their chosen field of study or research – if it aligns with the scholarship provider’s core mission/themes.  It is also useful to know the profiles of previous scholarship recipients; it will give you an idea of the kind of student that the scholarship providers are looking for.

A Simple Test

Here’s a simple way to test your chances in getting a scholarship. Answer truthfully: have you met at least the minimum scholarship qualifications outlined above? If yes, then you have a good chance in getting a scholarship. If no, then you would have tougher chances in getting a scholarship; either you find a way to meet the qualifications set by the scholarship provider or find other scholarships that doesn’t require strict qualifications.
Hopefully, this post helped you to gain new perspective about applying for a scholarship and what it requires from you.

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