Scholarships for studying abroad
Studying abroad can be expensive. One way to finance your studies is to apply for a scholarship that can pay some of your costs. Here is our scholarship guide to help you get started.
In this article we take a look at:
- Who is most likely to get a scholarship?
- Where you can find scholarships for studying abroad?
- How to apply for a scholarship?
Who has the best chance of getting scholarships?
- PhD-students: if you are going for a PhD you have a good chance to get funded. At this point in your academic career you can be a valuable asset for your university to help them teach classes and do research. You can also get a fellowship grant where universities, companies, individuals or governments support your research. This is particularly common if you do a PhD in technical subjects that are of interests to many companies.
- Master students: as a Master student you have gained a lot of experience and can help out at your university as an assistant to a professor or to the administrative team. This usually involves about 10 work hours per week in exchange for free tuition. The exact reimbursement will vary between different universities some might even cover your living costs while others might reimburse you with an ordinary salary.
- Academically talented: students with an outstanding academic record has a better chance to get a scholarship, especially if you also score well on the required entrance exams. This is particularly true if you apply for a university that is not in the top of the rankings since attracting great students can help to improve their ranking.
- Students with a special skill: many universities especially in the US give scholarships to students that are very skilled within sports, music or similar subjects since such students can strengthen the university’s team and help to put the school on the map if they become famous.
- Poor students: one common criteria for scholarships is the economy of the student’s family. Many scholarships aim to help poor students to get a good education, while students from more well-to-do families are expected to support themselves. Many high ranking schools like Harvard have generous financial aid programs with fixed amounts that you can get based on your family’s income, where almost all of your tuition fee will be covered if you come from a low income family. The challenge here is primarily to get accepted into these schools in the first place.
- Minority students: schools like diversity. A good gender balance and nationality mix can help both their ranking and their general attractiveness. So if you are the only applicant from your country you will have a much better chance of getting a scholarship than if the school already have hundreds of students from your country.
Don’t despair if you don’t match the profiles above. There are many scholarships and quite few students that actually apply for them so you still have the chance as long as you are willing to put in the extra effort. However, you should be aware that it is very hard to get a full scholarship that also covers your living costs on undergraduate level so you usually need to have some money on your own to study abroad, unless you are a national level athlete or have some other special skill mentioned above.
Where can I find scholarships for studying abroad?
- At the school you are applying to: most schools want international students so your best chance of getting a scholarship is through the school that you are applying to. Many schools have scholarships that can help you reduce the tuition fee if you can uphold certain grades, for example Seattle Central College. To get a full scholarship you might need to fit one of the categories I mentioned above but there are exceptions. Read more on the school’s website and don’t hesitate to contact them if you have any questions. That way they might already know who you are when you apply.
- In the country where you will study: many countries offer scholarships for incoming international students. A classic example is the Fulbright commission that offers scholarships for international students who wants to study in USA, but you can find this kind of scholarships for almost any country by Googling “scholarships for international students to the US” where you exchange the US for your country of choice. Also search for variations like subject or talent+scholarship+country, for example “rugby scholarships Australia” or “psychology scholarships uk”. For example here you will find scholarships for international students who wants to study in Sweden (it is free for EU-citizens).
- In your home country: many countries offer loans and grants for their students when they study abroad. Research what you can get from your country. Often there are also organizations within your country that offer scholarships to talented and ambitious students. In the US the Fulbright commission also offer scholarships to American students who wants to study abroad.
- At your current school and hometown: talk to the guidance counselor at your current school and ask if they have any scholarship that you can apply for or if they can recommend some other suitable scholarship. Also check with your current employer, your city and union, church or other associations where you are a member. Sometimes you can find scholarships that not many people know about.
- Scholarship databases and consultants: there are a lot of different scholarship databases and scholarship consultants that can help you find scholarships online. Some are free of charge but many charge you a fee for their services. Fastweb is a good site to find scholarships for studying in the US. Otherwise I don’t have much experience with those sites but some examples are internationalstudent.com/scholarships and scholarship portal. Let me know if you have any other recommendations! Just make sure that you don’t need to pay to apply for a scholarship then it is most likely a scam.
- DreamStudies' scholarship: We also have our own scholarship of 1500-1700 Euro. Read more about our scholarship and apply here.
How do I apply for a scholarship?
- Organize, prioritize and apply on time: make sure to take notes when you research for scholarships. Write down the scholarship url (if you found it online), the amount of the scholarship, what you need to include in the application, the deadline and who it is for. Once you have finished your research you should prioritize the scholarships that you have found. Which scholarships are you most likely to get? Which is most valuable? Which has a deadline that comes up soon?
- Apply for many: the more scholarships you apply for the better are your chances to actually get one, and maybe you will get lucky and get more than one scholarship. But make sure to put in the effort for each application you make. A sloppy or incomplete application will not get rewarded so it is better to do 5 good applications than 10 bad ones.
- Apply early to your preferred school: schools are the biggest scholarship givers. Many schools let you apply for their scholarships at the same time that you submit your application to study there. They will only award scholarships to accepted students and scholarships are limited so make sure to apply early (more than six months before your course starts) to increase the chances of getting a scholarship from your school.
- What do I need to include in the application: this will vary between different scholarships so make sure to send everything that is required. The most commonly requested documents are a CV/resume, an essay, a transcript of your grades, financial aid documents and letters of recommendation. Let’s have a closer look at some of these items below.
- Essay: your essay is very important in order to secure a scholarship. Don’t just write something quickly and put it in an envelope. Work on your essay. Write it piece by piece and let the process take a couple of days. Make sure that you convince the reader why you want to study at a particular school or program and why you need this scholarship. Be passionate, personal and engaging. Maybe you can tell a story from your life to make a point. But also pay attention to what the scholarship organization is asking for and if they have a limit to the number of words you can use. Once you have written a good essay you just need to adapt it to fit each application.
- Letter of recommendation: for many scholarships you also need to enclose a letter of recommendation. This should not be written by your mother or your boyfriend or someone else who primarily have a personal relationship with you. It should be written by a teacher, employer or a coach who knows you and your talents from a professional point of view. If you plan to apply for many scholarships it can be a good idea to ask your references to give you more than one signed copy of the letter and make sure that it does not include unnecessary details like the name of the scholarship that you are applying for. Also remember to thank your references for their help.
- Make your application stand out: for competitive scholarships it is important to make your application stand out from the crowd. An excellent academic record and/or an inspiring essay is a good start. You might also want to include a photo and maybe use a colorful envelope or a special stamp without overdoing it. If you have some strong references or merits you can include them even if they are not mandatory. Maybe you even record a Youtube-presentation and include the link and a QR-code if you are comfortable in front of the camera. However what works for one scholarship application might not work for another. Sometimes it is best to stay strictly formal. Try to get a feeling for the organization that you are applying to. If you have contacted them in advance they might remember you which can be helpful.
- Submit your application: always apply before the deadline. Make sure that you have included everything that they ask for in your application. Double check your essay and CV for spelling and grammatical errors and make sure that the address and label on the envelope is correct. Don’t forget to sign the application and include your contact details. Then it is time to let it go and wish you the best of luck with your scholarship applications!