When planning to study abroad, you may quickly notice how expenses pile up and tuition fees, accommodation, living, and studying costs can become overwhelming. However, to encourage you, there are many great scholarships for studies abroad that prospective international students can choose from to ease the financial burden of studying.
In this article, we have prepared answers to all the common questions about scholarships and how to attain them. Below you will find four key topics explained in more detail:
- What is a scholarship?
- How to find a scholarship?
- How to increase your chances of getting a scholarship?
- How to apply for a scholarship?
After reading this article, you will have all the necessary scholarship insights to apply for one.
What is a scholarship?
First things first, we should define what a scholarship is. The most common way to describe the term is as a financial aid award designed to help students pay for their higher education degree. While in most cases, scholarships are a one-time monetary gift, and sometimes they can be renewable and provide payment for all the semesters or school years of the degree. Overall, scholarships are flexible and available for any student regardless of their finances or academic achievements.
How do scholarships work?
A scholarship is given for the primary purpose of covering study costs, including tuition and enrollment fees, accommodation, study materials, and other expenses. In the case of receiving a scholarship, you may get a check, or the scholarship may be paid straight to the school you will be attending. If there is a difference in tuition fee, student accommodation, or other study costs, you will either need to cover the remaining expenses or receive the excess amount.
Who gives scholarships and why?
Now, why would someone give away a large amount of money? Many private organisations, NGOs, higher education and state institutions seek to make studying abroad possible for more people. To do so, they offer monetary awards to enable students to take on a higher education venture despite any personal circumstances.
For example, we at Studyportals are committed to helping people not only find the right study programmes but also be able to attend them. Thus, we launch our International Distinction Awards each year and nominate winners with scholarships to ease their study expenses. You can check out our International Distinction Awards website and apply for the 2023 scholarships.
What you need to know when looking for a scholarship?
Sometimes scholarships can be mistaken for grants or study loans. Although all three terms have similarities (they are, after all, financial aid and have the purpose of helping students), they are quite different. Let’s find out why.
1. Scholarship versus grants
Both of these are gift aids, meaning that you don't need to pay them back. However, the main difference is that grants are often need-based, which means they aim to help students who cannot afford their studies financially. Meanwhile, scholarships are often merit-based, given to students for their excellent academic and/or extracurricular achievements.
2. Scholarships versus study loans
The most significant difference here is that scholarships are gifts, while study loans… are loans, and you must pay them back. Generally, study loans are offered by the state where you plan to study. The purpose of a study loan is to lend students money to pay their tuition fees, accommodation, and other living expenses. Usually, after you graduate, you need to start paying back the loan, and it sometimes involves paying extra (some loans may include interest).
Who can apply for a scholarship?
The first thing to check when applying for a scholarship is if you meet the criteria. Some common application requirements include:
- registration or application form;
- letter of motivation or personal essay;
- letter of recommendation;
- letter of acceptance from an academic institution;
- proof of low income, official financial statements;
- proof of requested academic or athletic achievements.
Furthermore, it is wise to double-check if the date of the application and its deadlines are still valid, and whether the scholarship is open for national and/or international students. And if that is the case and you meet all the scholarship requirements, you can go ahead and apply for it!
How to find a scholarship?
Now that some general questions are answered, you might still wonder where to find study-abroad scholarships for international students. You can start by looking through the official pages of the universities where you wish to study.
If you can't find anything on the university site, consider contacting an official institution representative via email and asking them if they have any scholarships available and how (or if) you can apply for one.
Another idea is to search for a scholarship depending on the country you plan to study in. You can find many opportunities on the official country's websites for higher education.
Moreover, you can continue searching for options on the Internet. Make sure you read the deadlines and application dates well to avoid wasting time on expired offers. Here are some trusted sites that you can browse to find scholarships:
- Scholarships.com – database with over 3.5 million scholarships and grants.
- Scholarships for Development - has a list of international scholarships open to foreign students' applications.
- Scholarshipportal.com – our database where we list over 5,000 scholarship opportunities.
Also, consider these websites with scholarships for studying in specific countries or for applicants that come from a particular background:
- Hispanic Scholarship fund - offering scholarships to people of Hispanic heritage.
- Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters scholarships - scholarships offered to the best-ranked applicants worldwide to study Master's degree in Europe.
- Edu Canada - international scholarships to study in Canada.
- Commonwealth Scholarships - fully funded Master's studies in the UK for foreign students coming from low and middle-income Commonwealth countries.
- Study Australia - scholarship options to study in Australia.
- American Association of University Women - open to all women wishing to pursue a full-time degree in the USA.
- International Distinction Awards - scholarship offered by us to all international students.
- CET Academic Programs Scholarships - scholarships for college study abroad programmes.
What types of scholarships are out there?
In the scholarship world, there are several different types of financial support. To navigate through all the options, it's useful to know the main distinctions of each type.
1. Location-specific scholarships
They offer financial support for students who wish to study in specific countries, cities or regions. These scholarships aim to encourage more international students to study in a particular destination.
2. Subject-specific scholarships
These scholarships are awarded to students to encourage them to do a certain degree or subject. They can be as specific as promoting one subject in a particular university or city, or country.
3. Programme-specific scholarships
Like the subject-specific financial award, these scholarships are given to students planning to study a particular programme.
4. Student-specific scholarships
To meet the criteria for these scholarships, a student must come from a particular background. Financial support can be offered for students with a specific heritage, nationality, income, gender or membership of a community (for example, the LGBTQ community).
5. University/organisation/government-funded scholarships
These scholarships are provided by a particular entity, often requiring specific criteria to be met. Government-funded scholarships seek to attract international students to study in their country, while universities offer financial support to attract more foreign students to their institutions. Meanwhile, for-profit organisations or NGOs may wish to support international students in particular situations that want to study abroad.
How to increase your chances of getting a scholarship?
Once you decide on the scholarship you want to apply for, all that's left is to impress the jury and win, right? Yes, this is definitely a case of ‘easier said than done’.
Start with a motivation letter
In most scholarship application processes, there's an area in which you can demonstrate your personality, life goals and aspirations and that is the motivational letter. It's an opportunity for you to fill in the blank page with words drawing a story of who you are and what you dream of. And it can't be stressed enough how important it is to let your creativity and your thoughts lead the way to writing this letter.
However, there may be a few other tips that you can consider before starting to write a motivational letter for a scholarship:
- Take time. First, outline what you want to cover in the letter. List key topics and start writing.
- Be original and honest. Talk about why you are choosing this particular academic career and what are your future goals.
- Avoid using common phrases and instead, describe them in your own words.
- Proofread your work or opt for a quick grammar check by using online tools such as Grammarly.
- If you have a chance, ask someone who you trust to read your work and give their perspective on it.
You can also study our other article on how to write a scholarship motivation letter that would impress the admission committee.
Share your personal experience
Interesting personal experiences are what often catch the jury's eye. People who are involved in various activities or organisations, who practice their hobbies, travel or volunteer always have unique journeys to share. What are some of the most significant experiences in your life? Perhaps you have been practising a hobby that you enjoy.
Maybe you have visited a new country or an area near your home that made you feel inspired. Or maybe you have been a part of a volunteering programme in your local community. Any kind of personal experience can make up a great and unique story which you can share in your motivation letter.
If you are looking for some inspiration, we have shared two success stories of our last year's winners of the International Distinction Awards. Paula and Sidra have talked about their personal experiences which eventually made them the winners of the awards.
How to apply for a scholarship?
Although it really depends on the scholarship you are applying for, most applications will have a similar process: online application, document submission and the wait for the results to be announced.
An important thing to prepare before applying for a scholarship is gathering all the necessary documents. In most cases, several documents need to be submitted in your application:
- Motivation letter. Sometimes it may be called a scholarship essay or a personal statement.
- Proof of your academic, athletic, or artistic achievements.
- For some need-based scholarships, you may be asked to show official proof of your low income.
- An acceptance letter from the university. Without a document confirming that you will begin your studies, you will not be granted a scholarship.
- In case any of these documents are written in a different language, make sure to provide an officially translated copy.
And that's all you need to know about how to get a scholarship to study abroad. Don't miss out on an opportunity to receive funding for your studies, search for suitable scholarships and apply. Good luck!