Scholarships & Financial Resources
There are no good reasons not to pursue higher education, and financial restrains should definitely not be one of them. Especially now, with academic program costs increasing every year, it’s not a bad idea to consider financial aid to ease the load. It might be overwhelming to sift through all of the options available, but it’s worth the effort, and we are here to help you every step of the way. After all, the more money you save, the more you’ll have to spend on enjoying life!
Here are some basic questions to consider before browsing through scholarships opportunities:
What Kinds of Scholarships Are There?
Just like college degrees and interests differ, so do scholarships types. That means that there’s bound to be something for you, whether you are a studious book nerd of all-star football player. Regardless of particular type, almost all scholarships are merit-based, so you’ll need to stand out and make yourself shine!
- Academic: These scholarships are the most report card-oriented. Grades, GPA’s, standardized test scores, and class ranking are the main factors for academic scholarships.
- Athletics: Athletes can get financial aid because of notable athletic performance. Sport distinctions are usually awarded to football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and volleyball athletes.
- Demographic: Scholarships given solely based on ethnicity, gender, or a variety of minority characteristics.
- Destination-Based: Different countries offer different scholarships. Whether you are looking at programs in your home country or abroad, check out your country’s main scholarship and financial aid organization for some great finds! For those doing something overseas, many countries offer scholarships specifically for international students, so keep your eyes peeled.
- Industry: Specific majors, such as languages, business, journalism, and international relations, offer scholarships specific to their fields of study. These can be offered through big businesses, local companies, neighborhood organizations, memorial funds, or government-sponsored associations.
- Need-Based: Scholarships awarded to students that demonstrate financial need. These usually require bank statements and W2’s from family units.
- University: Whether public or private, universities offer scholarships linked with their financial aid programs to assist international and local students complete courses and degree programs.
Keep in mind that many of these scholarship types overlap, so be sure to explore all of your options thoroughly. The more specific you get, the less candidates there are, and the higher your chances of being awarded are!
How Can I Plan Ahead?
Unfortunately, many scholarships cannot be awarded until you have been accepted into a specific program. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t start doing some extra homework ahead of time. Here are some of the best ways you can plan ahead for your scholarship applications:
- Bring out your best. We all know that scholarships are highly competitive. Use this as motivation to broaden your scope of activities and improve your game. Focus on grades, but also get active in extracurricular activities.
- Get involved with the community. Volunteering is not only a positive pastime, but it also stands out on scholarship applications. Whether it’s in local events, mentorship programs, charity drives, or fundraising options, giving enriches. Plus, who knows; you might just meet an organization that’ll sponsor you down the road!
- Start the search early.If you know when you want to study abroad, start researching scholarship options at least a couple of semesters before. The application window between getting accepted into a program and applying for financial aid is not very large, so it helps to already have options lined up at this point. That way, all you have to worry about then are the actual applications.
- Stay organized.There’s nothing worse than missing a deadline, so grab a calendar and start color-coding your days. This way, as soon as you get accepted, you know where to send applications off first.
- Read eligibility requirements thoroughly.There’s no point in wasting time and writing the year’s best essay if you don’t actually qualify for the scholarship. Read the fine print, and, if you have any questions, contact the scholarship provider.
How Do I Find A Scholarship?
There’s no magic formula that’ll match you with a scholarship that doesn’t require an essay and will pay for your entire program. In fact, the search for a relevant scholarship might just be the hardest part of this entire process.
First, understand academic financial terminology. Scholarship lingo might seem as foreign as an entirely new language, so it helps to get familiar with specific financial aid terms. Once you have a more clear concept of what you are applying for, searches will be easier to narrow down and filter through.
- Online Services. There are many websites that filter for applicable scholarships (Hint: GoAbroad!). Sign up for as many reputable services as you can find (Tip: you should never pay to apply for a scholarship), and be sure to answer all optional questions fully for maximum results.
- Study Abroad & Financial Aid Offices. Since there are usually scholarships available for specific programs or international students, using your university’s resources is not a bad idea. Even if they don’t have the perfect scholarship for you, they can answer any questions you might have and point you in the right direction for helpful resources.
- Nonprofit Associations. Since they place their mission before monetary gain, the benevolent nature of nonprofits might be willing to help you out. Focus on the betterment of the self and community when talking to these guys.
- Local Organizations. Small businesses, especially those that are relevant to the field of study you are interested in, are great possible providers of scholarships. Not only are they not advertised to the entire world, but usually the entire process is more personal and face-to-face (i.e. practice that charming smile and dress up).
- Personal Connections. If you are on good terms with your employers, teachers, or other close relations, don’t hesitate to ask for tips about financial aid. If they cannot sponsor your studies, chances are, they know someone who will be able to help.
Apply to as many scholarships as possible (the more money, the better, no?). Statistically, the chances of winning smaller scholarships are bigger, so it’s not a bad idea to snag up a lot of these and watch the money add up, instead of investing all of your time and energy into a single scholarship.
How Do I Win that Scholarship?
Most importantly, stay organized and put your best foot forward. Since many people are applying for scholarships, the chances of being considered if you forgot to include a page of the application or the postmark date is past the deadline are slim.
- Research Scholarship Providers. It is important to always appeal to your audience, and scholarship committees are no different. Invest some time in reading about the founders and mission of an organization. Read sample essays from past winners. It’s always easier to sell yourself if you are aware of what your buyers are looking for.
- Read All of the Instructions. Once, twice, three times. Make sure you include all indicated information, supplementary materials, and understand what directions are asking of you.
- Write a Winning Essay. Consider the essay as an interview; add personality, passions, and a little razzle-dazzle. Make an outline, focus on vivid experiences, stay authentic, remain positive, proofread, and get input from a (grammar-smart) friend.
- Shine Bright. It’s not attractive to come across as bragging, but it’s important to be confident. Gather all of your trophies, acknowledge your strengths (and recognize your weaknesses), and don’t be afraid to talk about your qualifications. If you recognize your potential, others will as well.
- Include a Letter of Recommendation. Some scholarships ask for these, some don’t. Either way, it’s not a bad thing to include. Select a relevant, respected professional to vouch for your accomplishments, make the process as easy as possible for them (remind them of all of your wonderful qualities and winning moments), and follow up with a cute thank you note.
- Keep Trying. If at first you don’t succeed, apply to another scholarship. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up. After all, if you’re going to be playing with the big kids now, so you’ll need to stock up on determination and step out of your comfort zone. This is a good place to start.
Scholarships might seem straight-forward, but somehow, they always have the power to intimidate. Now, it’s time to stop avoiding the paperwork, put in some effective research, and invest in postage stamps. While any kind of higher education is worth the price tag, there’s no harm in reducing it as much as possible before packing the bags, loading up the car, and waving good-bye to Mom and Dad. Good luck!