Scholarships are a great opportunity to fund your university journey, with some that covers all years of your university life, including tuition and living costs, as well as extra expenses every month.
There are more and more scholarships available to apply right now, and they are all extremely competitive. In this article, I am going to share with you how to find and apply the right scholarship for you, and tips on the application process to increase your chances of being awarded.
Types of Scholarships
Below are the most popular types of scholarships.
Academic scholarships are the most common form of scholarship. These scholarships are based on academic merit, and are hence also known as merit scholarship. Therefore, they have high GPA requirements and are, by nature, pretty competitive. With such high competitiveness, majority of these students have both strong academic as well as extracurriculars background. Scholarships like these are usually full scholarships and fund all years of one’s university education.
Athletic scholarships are for students with strong academics and physical skills. If you excel in sports or anything physical, you should definitely look into a scholarship like this. There is practically no limit as to what sport that you do, as there are a large variety of athletic scholarships, from volleyball to gymnastics or cheerleading.
Under-represented Groups/Minority Scholarships
Under-represented groups/minority scholarships are less well-known, but they are quite a few available. Some are catered to specific ethnic groups, some are catered to females, and they are known as scholarships for women. In the past, majority of university students are men, and scholarships like these have been created for young women that requires assistance to pay for university fees. If you are a female, scholarships like these are a great option for you, and they are also widely available. Going back onto the point of scholarships catered towards ethnic groups, even if you are part of a certain ethnicity, it is a good idea for you to apply as you will still be eligible for it. There are also scholarships catered towards refugees.
Extracurriculars scholarships are for students who have average results. They do take academics into consideration, but mainly focus on other areas such as community service or leadership. Hence, if you have a strong background in these areas, then scholarships like these are a great consideration for you.
Creative and Arts Scholarships
Creative and Arts scholarships are for those who are talented in drawing, painting, design, music, or dance. Scholarships like these usually requires an audition process, where you have to perform for a panel of judges. They are mainly offered at universities with an Art, Music, or Dance programme, or any school that offers a creative field of study.
Unusual scholarships are less well-known, but are also widely available. It is a great way for you to be creative, and it usually involves some form of competition. For example, one friend of mine actually won a science competition that requires applicants to be creative and make a 5 minute video regarding any science topic. She did a video on Quantum Physics, and won the competition, and got a scholarship to fund her university tuition fees. So, do research on those as well.
How to Find and Apply for a University Scholarship
It is helpful to have universities in mind when finding scholarships to apply to. Majority of universities are very generous in offering scholarship opportunities for both domestic and international students. You can access these information easily through the universities’ official websites.
If you are a secondary/high school student, your school will most probably hold University or Scholarship Fairs every year. If not, you can Google: (Your country’s name), followed by “Scholarships and University Fair”. Most countries will hold Fairs like this once a year, where both local and overseas universities have a chance to showcase their school or scholarships offered. Do keep a look out for those as they are a very good opportunity for you to explore and get to know more about the different scholarships available. Normally there will be many booths present, each specific to a university or scholarship. There will typically be a spokesperson in charge of each booth. Talk to them and ask for their advice. They will be very happy to tell you more about the scholarships offered and answer your questions.
Your school’s Education & Career Counsellor would also be a good source. They are trained in this area to help students who are applying for University and Scholarships. Hence, they are very familiar with the different aspects of university/scholarship application, and are happy to guide you in this process.
There are also lots of scholarships offered by sources other than universities, such as the Government (e.g. Teaching Scholarships), the Army (E.g. Military Scholarships), etc. These information are also easily accessible from their official website.
Lastly, Google is a good source in one’s scholarship search. Websites like worldscholarshipforum.com, internationalscholarships.com, fastweb.com , scholarships.com etc, provides you with funding opportunities to study both locally and abroad, with scholarships available that focuses on specific subjects or student groups. (E.g. African students, refugees, etc)
Tips on How to Get a Scholarship
Now you’ve search and finally found scholarships to apply to, and probably need a few tips to proceed, I’ve thoroughly listed below 4 important tips on how to actually get a scholarship.
1. Know what you want
You do not have to be 100% sure of what you want to do in your future career, but you need to at least have a rough idea of what it is, such that this will narrow down your scholarship search. For example, I know that I like science, and will definitely find a career related to the field of science. However, I am not sure what will that be: It could be a science researcher, a science teacher, a doctor, etc.
If you know what academic areas interest you, it will guide you in selecting the suitable scholarships to apply for.
2. Prepare in advance
If you are going to university in 2 years, or if you are even younger than that, it is good to start preparing early. Go for University and Scholarships Fairs, research on the different scholarships offered by universities, and familiarize yourself with the different requirements. For example, some scholarships would require written essays, and some would require Teachers’ Recommendation Letters. If you are aware of the different components required for the application, you will be more prepared and ready when you are applying in the future. It is good to prepare a year earlier than your actual application date. Know the different documents and other extra components required, and familiarize yourself with the important dates (e.g. Application deadlines). You will be more mentally prepared and less flustered when you apply in the future.
3. Work hard
Now, more and more scholarships are focusing on both academic excellence and extracurriculars. Majority of the applicants have the top grades and make the mark for the scholarships’ academic requirements. There will be hundreds, if not, thousands of applicants, competing for the few spots available. Your academic grades are the first cut-off point that allow the Admissions Team to filter out the overwhelming large number of applicants. Hence, having good grades are crucial, and creates the foundation of your application. The truth is that, to get even considered for a scholarship, you have to meet the academic requirements first. Push yourself academically, and stay motivated in the process by keeping your goals in mind. However, it is equally important to give yourself a break and maintain a good work-life balance to avoid a burn-out.
4. Make yourself stand-out
Scholarships are getting more and more competitive each year, and it is crucial to stand out from the overwhelmingly large pool of applicants by demonstrating commitment to improving yourself as an individual. Simply making the grades is not enough to make you stand out. There are hundreds of applicants with similarly strong academic background, so, how can you make yourself stand out from the other applicants?
You need evidence to convince the Admissions Team that you are different. Simply stating “I have volunteered at the nursing home for a month” in your interview or essay is not enough (Also, a month is not enough as it does not show your commitment). It is basically asking the Admissions Team to trust your words, and they are not going to do that so easily.
Hence, you need evidence to back you up. Also, volunteering is becoming overrated nowadays. Everyone will have some form of volunteering experience in one way or another, as more and more schools are making volunteering work compulsory for students. It would be way better if you have a different experience like this:
“During the summer holidays, I wanted to use my time wisely and do my part for the community. I volunteered for the local nursing home and realized XYZ (a problem you observed). I came up with a solution for it and designed XYZ to help curb the problem.”, or, “I did XYZ and raised $XYZ amount of money for the nursing home to spread awareness on XYZ”.
This gives more context that simply “I volunteered at XYZ”, and shows the Admissions Team that you are actively trying to make a difference, hence, makes you stand out.
A more personal example is that I raised over a thousand dollars to spread awareness about wildlife conservation, and helped out my country during the recent COVID-19 pandemic by joining the frontliners to perform nasopharyngeal swab on suspected COVID-19 patients, mask distribution, and temperature taking.
Leadership skills are also an important consideration during scholarship application. You can demonstrate this through bieng the head boy/girl/chairperson, extracurricular activities, initiating projects or community work.
For example, I lead a group of students to come up with a solution for Singapore to move towards a zero-waste society, by gamifying the method through the use of a reusable smart bag, and designed a prototype bag as well as an app on it. We won the Merit Award. I also lead a group of over 30 individuals to organize online classes for students in Singapore during our nationwide lockdown. We engaged students through reading classes, arts and design, yoga, homework tutoring, etc. that was conducted in hourly sessions everyday.
You need to do things that is unique, and not typically done by students. For example, finding your own university internship is a great way to not only explore your academic interest and gain professional experience in the process, but also makes you stand out from the other applicants. Do check out the previous article on how to find your own university internships.
It is also incredibly helpful to build strong relationships with your school teachers. They are most probably going to be the one to write your Recommendation Letters to either universities or scholarships applications. If your teacher knows you well, and have a good impression of you, they are most likely be able to provide a more personal and accurate reflection of you in their letter.
What are the Requirements for Scholarship?
Different scholarships have different requirements, and if you choose to apply for multiple scholarships, it is a good habit to remain organized. You can create an excel spreadsheet with the different components required for submission. Through this way, you can clearly see which parts that are completed and the parts that are not completed. Most scholarships have 5 main components, namely:
- The Cover Letter
- Letters of Recommendation
1. The Cover Letter
The Cover Letter is basically an introduction of yourself to the Admissions Team, such that they have a background of who you are and why you would deserve the scholarship.
Transcripts are your academic results, and are easily accessible from your school. Some scholarships require the official transcript to be sent in by your teacher, while some are in the form of a PDF attachment which you can include yourself in the application portal.
Essays are a good opportunity for you to show your personality and character to the Admissions Team. It is your chance to stand out and be unique, by telling your own personal story. Some scholarships will require one or more essays with a given prompt and word count.
Most scholarship applications will allow you to attach a 1-page resume. If you have volunteer or work experience, you can include them in your resume. It is also appropriate to include your hobbies, or the household chores that you do at home, such as washing the dishes, or reading books. It is important to not include things that you have already mentioned in other parts of your application. Do not repeat them as they are a waste of space. Resume is a source for the Admissions Team to see your well-roundedness.
5. Letters of Recommendation
Most scholarships requires 2 Letters of Recommendations. Find a teacher, counsellor, or even principal, that is close to you. It has to be someone who knows you well, so that they would be able to represent you well in your Recommendation Letter. The Recommendation Letter should showcase your strengths and character. I actually have a previous video that talked about topics like these, so do check them out as well, and I will include the links in the description box below.
Not all scholarship applications have an interview, and for those that do, it is good to be aware of them and prepare early. You can prepare for these by practicing common interview questions by yourself or with a friend or family member. Common interview questions include: Why do you want this scholarship?, or, Why should we choose you among other applicants? If you are more prepared, you will less likely be flustered during your interview.
Scholarship Deadlines: When should you apply?
Different scholarships have different deadlines. As mentioned before, creating an Excel spreadsheet of the different scholarships that you will be applying for is a good way to keep track of the different deadlines and will prevent you from missing them. For some scholarships, you have to apply for them after your university application, and for others, you apply for them before your university application. It really depends on the type of scholarships that you are applying for.
Conclusion: Go for it!
Although scholarships are extremely competitive, do not let this hold you back from applying. At the same time, be realistic about your expectations. You never know what is going to happen, and you will definitely miss out on many opportunities in life in you are afraid to try.
I always keep this in mind: If you are afraid and do not try for something, the chances of you getting it will always be 0%. However, if you gather the courage, and try for it, you can’t say that your chances is 0%. So, do not be afraid, and go for it!
If you do get rejections, do not let them get you down – pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and don’t stop trying in life until you get what you want. Nothing good in life comes easy. You have to fight for what you want. If you find this post helpful or have questions, kindly leave a comment below.