You have your eye on the travel program of your dreams—whether that’s studying abroad in Patagonia, teaching ESL learners in Amman, volunteering with furry critters in Australia, or interning in one of Seoul’s amazing skyscrapers. And, while you’re convinced it’s worth the investment (tip: travel rarely isn’t), you also wouldn’t mind having a few extra dollars to spare or put towards this pending adventure. You’ve got your eye on some travel scholarships, and you want to make sure you ace them from the get-go without wasting your time.
We’re on your team, and know that you’re ultra-deserving of travel grants and scholarships. That’s why we’ve racked our heads to collect and share the most important pitfalls to avoid when filling out your travel scholarship application—help like this doesn’t come around too often!
Do it right from the start and watch those bennies come rolling in. Here’s our best travel scholarship application help and advice so you can participate in meaningful travel with a little less financial worry.
Don't submit your scholarship application before you...
1. Check your eligibility
To keep things simple here’s an example (or two): If you’re not studying abroad in Italy you are not eligible for a scholarship to help students study abroad in Rome. If you’re studying abroad with one program, you’re not going to be eligible for a scholarship offered by another program provider (probably).
Are there exceptions to these two examples? Always. Are there exceptions to eligibility requirements for travel scholarships? Not so much. There are tons of travel scholarships out there with a variety of eligibility requirements—nationality, age, financial need, GPA, major/focus of study, destination, program, etc. etc. Make sure you tick all the boxes before you even begin your travel scholarship application. It saves you and the people reviewing your applications a ton of time.
2. Track ALL your deadlines
You can’t get a travel scholarship if you miss the deadline to submit it. That’s some simple math even I can do! Deadlines and due dates matter. A lot. Between Google calendars, smartphone reminders, and old school spreadsheets there’s no excuse not to stay on top of scholarship application due dates. Even the scholarship application helps you out with that by sending reminders to finish your application and submit as the deadline approaches.
Track all your outstanding applications in a spreadsheet and put all your deadlines into your calendar. Then, set reminders starting at two weeks out, then one week out, and finally a few hours before the actual deadline. Though, ideally you’re submitting your scholarship applications early!
3. Recommendations matter
Most travel scholarship applications will require you to have at least one—sometimes two—letters of recommendation. And no, your mom cannot recommend you. Based on application requirements, you might need to get an academic and/or professional recommendation.
Choose recommenders carefully. If you never went to that international economics class and the professor can’t put a face to your name, do NOT ask them to write you a recommendation. You want someone who is really going to speak to your strengths as an applicant.
You cannot wait until the last minute. Let me repeat that, a little louder for the people in the back: DO. NOT. WAIT. UNTIL. THE. LAST. MINUTE. You need to give your chosen recommender plenty of time to write a meaningful letter for you. And, if they fall through, you want enough of time to find someone else to write your recommendation.
*Super-secret Pro tip:* Don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want in your letter. Writing letter of recommendation is hard! If you know what the application review board is looking for in an applicant, give your professor or supervisor (or whoever you ask) an outline or list of traits to play up. Any additional info you can give will make your recommendation that much better.
I like to put together a little packet for my recommenders that includes background on the program/scholarship, why I’m applying for said program/scholarship, a copy of my resume or cv, and any information I’d like them to include in my letter. If the letters need to be mailed in I always include pre-addressed and stamped envelopes, too.
4. Actually answer the question
This is THE biggest of all scholarship application mistakes. Your scholarship application essay is the main event, so if you ignore the application’s prompt and don’t answer the question—or don’t answer the question completely—there’s not going to be a check with your name on it.
If you’re supposed to talk about why studying abroad in Thailand is going to help you in your chosen career path, don’t go on a tangent about your favorite Thai restaurant back home—unless, that is your career path. If you’re supposed to discuss the significance of current events/political changes in your host country, you might want to do a little research and make sure you know what you’re talking about. Again, a rant about how much you love Thai iced tea might not always be appropriate.
It’s not always easy to know how to answer scholarship application essays. Especially when asked to write a personal statement or narrative. You always want to talk yourself up and be very clear and specific about your goals. It helps to have someone look over your essay and keep your tendency to go on side rants in check (keep reading for more on that.).
5. No double dipping—write unique applications
There aren’t one-size-fits-all travel programs, there certainly aren’t one-size-fits-all travel grants and scholarships, and that means you definitely cannot just write a one-size-fits-all scholarship application. This is just begging to mess up and miss answering the scholarship application essay question or accidentally submit an application to a scholarship you’re not actually eligible for. Take the time to write unique applications for each scholarship. Yes, it will take extra time and effort, but it will pay off in the end.
6. Get a second pair of eyes on your app
This is the travel scholarship application equivalent of Captain kicking Olivia Benson off a case she’s too close to. You’ve spent days, weeks, maybe even months, working on this scholarship application and you can’t see straight anymore. Does that sentence make sense? Am I even answering the question? Is this too long? Too short? Too academic? Too conversational?????????!!!!!!
Stop. Breathe. Step away from the keyboard.
Maybe it’s a trusted professor/mentor, maybe someone you asked to write your recommendation, a close friend taking a copyediting class, but whoever it is should be able to give you honest and constructive feedback. Maybe you didn’t even realize you were making some of these scholarship application mistakes? If you need a little extra nudge in the right direction because you have no idea how to answer scholarship application questions, this second pair of eyes will definitely help.
7. Take your time, don’t want until the last minute
Remember how your professors always say you can’t wait until the night before to write your papers? Then, you wait until the night before to write your papers and wonder why you haven’t gotten that A+ yet? Yeah. Well. This is a lot like that, except instead of just getting a B or C, you’re losing the opportunity for FREE MONEY.
You didn’t just decide to study abroad, fill out that application on a whim, and hop on a plane, right? (If you did, we don’t want to know about it *shudders*.) You shouldn’t apply to scholarships on a whim either. Going abroad is a big decision that you shouldn’t take lightly, and travel scholarship application reviewers need to see you mean business. Start early. Stay organized. Don’t wait until the night before to write your application essay—your 2 a.m. rambles might satisfy Dr. Professorton, but they won’t convince anyone to help fund your travel dreams.
A little extra scholarship application help
Now that you’re aware of common scholarship application mistakes, you’re definitely not going to make any of them as you start your search for travel scholarships. Here are a few more resources for a lil’ push in the right direction.
- Our Travel Scholarships Directory should be your first start for all things, well, scholarships to travel abroad #namesaysitall
- Watch this video for how to use travel scholarships to make your adventures come to life
- Looking for study abroad scholarships specifically? Here’s the COMPLETE guide
- We have an entire collection of articles dedicated to all things traveling scholarships
- Check out these hot scholarships for going abroad this year
You’re a travel scholarship application pro, now. You’re basically Scrooge McDuck diving into piles and piles of money. Don’t believe us? Check it out:
That’s you! ☝️☝️☝️
Now your travel scholarship application shines as brightly as you!
Aside from avoiding all these scholarship application mistakes—some big, some small—the key to scoring some serious scholarship money for your travels is to let yourself and your personality shine through!
People want to support people. You know, humans, with hopes and dreams, and passions, and goals. All those application faux pas get in the way of that, so skip them and write an application they can’t refuse. I can almost guarantee you’ll snag travel scholarships left and right if you follow this advice.