Securing a Scholarship: Know Your Options

Daily grind or monthly payments? Getting a scholarship is an amazing source of income for students, which helps cover tuition costs or even an occasional shopping spree. Dreaming about a scholarship is easy, but getting one takes some hard work. Check out the hard facts about college scholarships, special requirements, and our best advice on how to apply for one.

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Scholarship – Definition of Success?

That’s the dream, isn’t it? It’s basically like being paid to study. Or at least being paid for having studied well and succeeding at what you’re doing. Is getting a scholarship the definition of success at university? Let’s look at the facts:

  • Scholarships are usually monthly payments that are meant to cover your costs of living, including insurance, textbooks, and occasionally clothes.
  • Most scholarships are merit-based, which means students who have already displayed high academic competence confirmed by their GPA and/or extracurricular achievements get them.
  • There are special scholarships that are given to people belonging to certain social groups or minorities or are otherwise in need (e.g. financial need).

Do scholarships, however, determine success? They certainly make your life easier but are not an indicator of future achievements. I have seen people win and lose scholarships, as well as many who have worked themselves to the ground without ever applying for one. There are times when worse candidates get the award owing to better self-presentation (which, let’s be honest, grinds everyone’s gears), and there are those who probably deserve more than one. Such is life sometimes!

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Whichever way you choose to look at it, scholarships may be a sign of great achievements, but they are not an indicator of an equally bright future. That is defined by one’s hard work, ability to spot and grab a good opportunity, and make decent life decisions.

Looking for (and Finding) Scholarships for College Students

All talk of success aside, how do you actually find a good scholarship? There are tons of funding options out there swimming in the big internet sea, so where do you start, and how do you go about this whole fishing business?

Before you start university:

  • Talk to a guidance counsellor. If you’re still in high school, now’s the time to talk to a guidance counsellor, who should have a good overview of relevant opportunities for students. Should they be unsure about certain offers, you, as a student, would be perfectly justified in asking them to compile such information and relay it to you during your next meeting.
  • Contact the relevant office at your future university. Every university has a webpage devoted to financing your studies, which is where they advertise scholarships, grants, and awards. Reach out to the advisor and ask for recommendations or help if necessary.
  • Start looking ahead of time. Scholarship deadlines close before the school year starts; don’t let yourself fall into the trap of waving them as they pass you by – be proactive in your search.

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Once you’ve started:

Scholarships are more readily available to more advanced students. Working hard is a definite prerequisite for getting one: learn the techniques of effective studying and apply yourself to your program. Be aware of your learning style and make your learning sessions effective and efficient. Once you’ve started university, you can start looking out for more external options for financing your studies:

  • Companies. You’d be surprised to know that companies like Mercedes, Coca-Cola, and Cadbury give tons of scholarships. It’s never too early to start planning your career and getting a scholarship from a relevant company is an excellent way to open the door to a good job. Depending on what you’re studying, look out for leading enterprises on the market and check out what opportunities they have open for students. Even if it’s not a full scholarship, every penny counts, as do internships, traineeships, or courses.
  • Foundations. A number of (frankly speaking political) foundations award scholarships on a yearly basis. To get one of these, your ideals and values should broadly align with those of the foundation, which you can inform yourself about on their website. (I would gently dissuade you from lying or altering your worldview to fit the requirements of the scholarship, as such applications are usually busted instantly).
  • State scholarship. Each country and its states have their own official funding line. Applying through these channels increases your chances of winning a scholarship, and even though some of them may offer less money than others, they would still help you make ends meet.

Don’t forget that each university has at least one regular scholarship, along with different grants, textbook allowances, and tuition waivers. Keep an eye out for these!

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How About a Special-Requirements College Scholarship?

It has long been clear to scholarship committees that not all students come from identical backgrounds and that privilege favours the privileged. Of course, it’s easy for a well-off student to sit in their own flat and study in silence while parents are paying their rent and covering other costs. Not having to work leaves a lot of time to study, have stellar grades, and qualify for fancy scholarships. On the other hand, some students must work three jobs to put themselves through college, often at the cost of their coursework and even the time it takes to write up a convincing scholarship application.

In order to level the playing field, an assortment of scholarships has been developed. Many of these opportunities are still merit-based but limited to people belonging to certain minority groups, religions, self-identifications, or political leanings.

Scholarships for Women, Minorities, or Specific Vocations

In their attempt to increase inclusion, prevent discrimination, and expand the chances of applicants, universities usually have an equity office in charge of protecting students’ rights. This office deals with any type of inequality committed on the university grounds and offers training and lectures to help fight inequality. And they also provide scholarships for students who tend to be side-lined.

There are special scholarships for women and other individuals identifying as such and specific possibilities for ethnic or religious minorities, disabled students, or new parents. Similarly, a series of funding opportunities has been created for very specific vocations (from acting to writing). You can check out a list of special requirements scholarships here.

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Anything Else That Helps to Get a Scholarship?

Apart from success at university, potential special requirements, and a talent for writing a good application and nailing the scholarship interview, there are a few details that can sway the decision in your favour:

  • Practical experience. Any internship, traineeship, or course you’ve taken to advance your skills looks great on your CV and shows the scholarship committee that you’ve taken measures to gain practical experience and prepare for the job market.
  • Volunteering. I’m not saying you should volunteer only because it looks good in an application, but it does look good. Volunteer out of your inner desire to do something valuable for the community or the chance to work on your hard and soft skills – the benefit of a rich CV will come on its own.
  • Personal interests and hobbies. Not only are there scholarships catering to specific interests, but it’s beneficial to have something to keep you going outside of lectures and exams. If there’s one thing that scholarship committees love, it’s a bit of personality. University is not just the time you work on your education and prepare for your chosen career path, it’s also the most prolific period of your life to work on yourself. Read, explore your interests, try new things – get out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to strut your stuff!
  • Good self-presentation. Most of the big scholarships will invite you to an interview to get a better overview of who you are as a person. Getting an invitation already means your academic profile has impressed the committee, and now you have to show who you are. Think of this as a job interview and be ready to answer similar questions, along with providing details of your extracurricular engagements and interests.
  • Being on the lookout. Somehow people overlook this tiny detail, but keeping your eyes wide open and scouring relevant webpages for new opportunities is crucial to getting a scholarship. Keep checking online databases, get in touch with the relevant authorities at your university, and don’t be afraid to contact companies and introduce yourself.

Yes, it may be that on some occasions scholarships turn into a highly competitive and elitist venture, but that doesn’t mean it’s 100% like that. Getting financial aid depends on your personal initiative, diligence, and readiness to move swiftly.

Apply for a Scholarship Without Fear

When you’ve finally selected a few offers you meet the requirements for, you might begin to wonder how to properly apply for one. Here are our best tips:

  • Clean up your CV. An academic CV includes all your academic, extracurricular, and voluntary engagements – basically everything where you learnt something. Format your CV professionally (avoid multicoloured layouts), check whether you need a professional photo done, and proofread to avoid any silly mistakes.
  • Write a smashing motivation letter. Now’s your chance to shine, show off your ambitions, aspirations, characteristics, and dreams in a powerful letter. Check out our detailed guide on writing a great motivation letter.
  • Take your interview seriously. Dress professionally, don’t joke around too much, and prepare in advance.
  • Provide supporting documents if necessary. Grade sheets, high-school diplomas, certificates, and similar documents that support your application.

And, believe it or not, that’s it. Make sure to meet the deadlines, be respectful and professional, and be ready to repeat the process as many times as necessary until you get it.

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Finding and Getting a Scholarship – In Short

To summarise, although it seems they’re in hiding, there are many scholarships out there waiting for you to apply for them. From university scholarships to financial boons offered by companies in your niche, by looking a bit deeper, you might find that your university life can be made easier.

To get a scholarship, you should:

  • Boost your CV through volunteering, internships, and nurturing hobbies and interests.
  • Find relevant offers for which you meet all the criteria.
  • Keep an eye out for special requirements.
  • Write a great motivation letter.
  • Follow up on the scholarship-advertising pages.

At the end of the day, remember this: Scholarships do not promise nor indicate success. As they say, many roads lead to Rome, and so do many avenues to making your dream come true. Scholarships are highly competitive, and, the sad truth is that not everyone can get them. However, this should not discourage you nor dampen your spirits. Getting a rejection is not a slight on your character nor anything personal – it’s just an unfortunate roll of the dice.

Keep your spirits up and best of luck on your quest!

What is a scholarship?

A scholarship is a financial aid for students, which is usually paid out on a monthly basis. Scholarships are typically merit-based, but there are also special scholarships for specific vocations and those aimed at various minority groups.

How do you get a scholarship?

To get a scholarship, you must work on yourself! Improve your grades, increase your knowledge, and engage in extracurricular activities. Clean up your résumé and write a great motivation letter. Prepare for your interview as you would if you applied for a job, and keep your wits about you.

How do you apply for scholarships?

To apply for scholarships, write a professional résumé, proof it, and make sure the structure is clear and easy to follow. You should also write a convincing motivation letter that outlines your plans, ambitions, and dreams, as well as who you are as a person. Prepare for your interview, be professional, and keep your head up.