Your odds of getting money to study, volunteer, or intern abroad might be far higher than you expect.
But first, would you have guessed there are some major study abroad providers who had only 15 applicants for 12 scholarships? Or that the providers are disappointed because year after year they have to select lower quality winners just because there are too few applicants?
While many scholarships ARE very competitive, it turns out there are plenty of others that may be easier to win than you think. Your odds of getting money to study, volunteer, or intern abroad might be far higher than you expect: you just have to identify the opportunities.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in setting up a financial plan for going overseas is not even applying for study abroad scholarships.
Here are 10 tips for study abroad scholarship applications that can help make your international dreams a reality.
Be Prepared to Work Hard for Study Abroad Scholarships
Working on study abroad scholarships. Trying to get a scholarship, whether for full-time study or for study abroad, is hard work. You’ll probably need to apply to half a dozen opportunities for everyone you hope to win. It’ll take time, so set up a schedule where every Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday night you sit for 3 hours and work on applications (or something to that effect).
If you need motivation, just look at your bank account and then at pictures of Tokyo or Brazil. Study abroad scholarships might be the only way.
Make a List of Everything You Qualify For
Start with your home university, then move on to external providers. Meet with folks at the career center or study abroad office. Find out what’s available, who’s eligible, what the requirements are, and when the deadline is. Make a spreadsheet in Google Drive.
Then move on to the bowels of Google. Search “study abroad + undergraduate + scholarship + country/language/major” and add those to the list. You’re going to wind up applying to as many as possible.
Try some of these:
General Scholarship Search Engines
Institute of International Education Scholarships
Go Overseas’s study abroad scholarships
UniPlaces scholarship for study abroad housing.
60+ more study abroad scholarship understand
the Organization’s Goals and Values
Before starting an application, you have to understand your audience. Look at what the organization actually does their mission statement or values page, and understand what seems important to them and how they talk about themselves. Then identify those keywords and values, and make sure you work those into your application.
Understand How They Evaluate Candidates
Who are they really looking for? Look at past winners or the detailed FAQ that’s probably on their website. Re-read the parts where they describe how candidates will be evaluated. Keep coming back to this and checking yourself and your application against each and every one of those criteria.
Essay Tip: Avoid Generic Statements at all Costs
You have a unique story by virtue of being alive. So don’t say things like, “I want to explore new cultures” or “I’ve always been interested in Japanese.” Tell the story about the refugee family that moved down the block, or how you love Hindi cinema or befriended the Korean exchange student in middle school. Make your interests come alive through concise stories and personal experience. Talk to your professors or other possible references early, get the verbal okay that they’ll support you. Re-read your essay when it’s done. If anyone else in the whole world could stand up, read that essay, and claim it as their own, then you need to re-write it with elements that speak to who you and only you are.
Include a Plan for Giving Back
Even if the scholarship doesn’t require it, volunteer your ideas for how you’ll bring your experience back home to help others. Will you make short videos about famous landmarks in Asia and share them with the primary school teachers? Will you have a blog? Do a photography exhibition?
Make sure it’s something you can follow through on, but an orientation to using your time overseas for the benefit of more than just yourself is always appreciated.
Do This to Get Great Recommendations
Talk to your professors or other possible references early, get the verbal okay that they’ll support you, and then hand-deliver them a package that includes one page of (SHORT!) bullet-pointed information about the scholarship, a second page of (SHORT!) bullet-pointed information about you and specific examples of why you qualify, and your resume.
This makes it easy for references to write you a good letter of recommendation, should the scholarship require it.
Double Check Eligibility and Application Requirements
Before submitting anything, double check that you meet all the eligibility and that you have all of the application requirements satisfactorily completed. Many students wind up being disqualified because they’ve simply forgotten something.
Also, go back to the essays. If the prompt asked you to talk about your leadership experience and community involvement have you done all three?
Print it Out and Read Everything Out Loud
It’s hard to proofread things on a screen. Once you’ve finished your essays and have an updated resume, print it all out and read every word out loud — even your resume. Read through your application line-by-line, and correct grammar and typos in red pen.
Edit the digital version, and repeat the process until there are no errors. A few typos could stand between you and several thousand dollars, so don’t be that guy.
Even if there’s no preference indicated for early applicants, remember that all applications are being reviewed by humans — humans who most likely have other jobs and responsibilities besides selecting scholarship winners. Once the deadline is reached, those evaluators will be inundated with applications and may start skimming through applications.
You have the best shot of winning when someone reads your story, relates to it, and finds it an appealing fit for their organization’s money. If your application is in a stack of ten because you applied early, it is perhaps more likely to get a thorough read-through.
It All Adds Up
Remember, every little bit helps. Even if a scholarship award is only $1,500, that’s your round-trip international airfare right there! It all adds up. Not to mention, once you’ve completed one scholarship application, it’s that much easier to re-purpose your essays and recommendations to apply for dozens of other opportunities. It’s a numbers game, and if you have a strong profile and the determination, you can have a strong chance to win.
It’s also worthwhile to mention persistence. Maybe this year you don’t receive any scholarships. That just means you need to continue to do well in school, find outlets for your international interests that will improve your eligibility, and re-apply next year.
Explore more overseas scholarships and apply today.