Keep a calendar of deadlines for scholarships. Some programs require that you apply as much as one year in advance. It can often take one month or more to get all the information and documents you need for a scholarship application. It is important you prepare well in advance.
It might make sense to apply to every scholarship that comes your way but consider our advice to apply only to a few scholarships. This will not only save you time and effort but also help you improve your chances in getting a scholarship. This advice follows the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule. Applying this principle in scholarship application, it is wise to apply only to 20% of available scholarships that would give you 80% chance of success.
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Not following instructions correctly will count against you in the final selection of scholarship winners. Knowing all the questions you must answer on the application will help you plan how you would like to answer each question and avoid repeating yourself in different parts of the application.
Read the eligibility requirements carefully. Many programs have age limits, nationality restrictions, or are intended for specific academic fields. If you are not eligible, your application is likely to be disregarded and thrown away by the scholarship administrators. This is not only a waste of your time, but also for your colleagues who provide you with letters of recommendation for scholarships.
Tailor your application to the interests of the organization sponsoring the scholarship. Make sure the goals you express in your application match the goals of the scholarship program. Your essays should speak to the selection committee. If you are applying to a scholarship intended for a specific academic discipline, such as botany or anthropology, the selection committee will be experts in those fields. You must impress them with your in-depth knowledge of the subject. Don’t write about things that are obvious to experts. If the scholarship supports many fields, such as conservation and public health and engineering, the selection committee will probably not be experts in your field. You must educate the committee through your essays why your field is so important.
All individuals who meet the eligibility criteria for the scholarship to which you are applying are your competition. Are you competing against others from your own country or many countries? Are you competing against people in other fields or academic disciplines? To stand out among the competition, you must tailor your responses to questions to show how you are different and better from your competitors.
When responding to essay questions do not exceed the maximum number of words or pages allowed. Use the minimum number of words required to clearly and completely express your ideas. Selection committees must read dozens of applications; they may not read your entire essay if it is too long. Have your friends and colleagues read your essay before your submit your application. If you are not a native speaker of the language in which you are writing, have someone who is fluent in the language read your essay. When possible use a word processor or typewriter to complete your application. And remember to use spell check if using a word processor!
If you are asked to provide a budget for your scholarship, make sure your costs are realistic — don't ask for too much or too little. Ask only for funds for items that are covered by the scholarship and don't ask for more than the maximum amount allowed by the scholarship. If you are receiving funds from your university or other scholarships, be sure to mention this in your application. Check your math to make sure your budget line items are added correctly. Poor math can count against you.
Letters of recommendation are a very important part of any application. You should ask for letters of recommendation only from people who are able to talk about your unique abilities and skills. A well-written letter from a professor or a supervisor at work who knows you very well is more impressive than a letter from an important figure (such as a university president or the minister of the environment) who knows little about your academic goals. Make sure those who are writing letters of recommendation are familiar with the scholarship program. And don't wait until the last minute to ask for your letters of recommendations!
Read carefully through all of the eligibility requirements for each award, and make sure you meet every requirement. You should also decide which scholarships are most worth your time to apply for–you will probably be eligible for many programs, and you might not have time to apply for all of them. Don't limit yourself just to large scholarships–keep in mind that smaller scholarships add up, and each scholarship that you win gives you another honor to list on future applications making you attractive to scholarship committees. Often, smaller scholarships will have fewer applicants increasing your chances of winning.
Many scholarship programs will post their application materials on their websites–some may use an entirely online application form. If the application is not available online, write to the scholarship agency to request a copy of the application; include a self-addressed stamped envelope.
Most scholarship applications will include an official form where you will list your personal information. If the form can't be filled out on your computer, we recommend using a typewriter to complete it. It's always best to make your application look as professional as possible.