How to finance your studies

How to finance your studies


Today, there are hundreds of education scholarships available to help students in embracing the courses of their choice. All it takes is a systematic approach. Students and parents often feel that one must try tapping into scholarships when all other avenues for securing funds have been tried. On the contrary, applying for education scholarships makes a lot of sense even if you have established the source of funds. In fact, applying for scholarships must go hand in hand with your other efforts to secure funds.

Here are a few steps that can help you systematically apply for education scholarships:

Give ample time: Plan a good 6-8 months in advance for the education scholarships you wish to apply. Researching the sponsoring agency, the qualities they are looking for in candidates they wish to financially support, applying and following up — all these take time and effort. Hence, do plan well in advance.

Do your research: The Internet brings all the information at your fingertips. Search for the scholarships that support your area of interest. Systematically compile and arrange data. Let the list be exhaustive.

You can reach out to higher education specialists. They help map your interests to possible courses and finally to scholarships you can tap. A person to person approach works better instead of trying to draw information via phone calls or emails. Spend time discussing your needs and how they can help.

Do some ‘people hunting’ on Facebook and LinkedIn, get connected and talk to experts who have served in the field of higher education. They can suggest scholarship options and may even connect you directly with the sponsors.

In case a personal visit is not possible, do not hesitate to drop an email or letter to education agencies seeking the information needed.

Shortlist and prioritise: Your research will clearly point out to the most promising scholarships based on several selection criteria. Chief among these will be the relevance of scholarship to your interest area and the countries, colleges the scholarships connected with, etc. Shortlist only those where you meet the eligibility criteria completely. Never shortlist scholarship sponsors based solely on the size of the scholarship. Also, keep an eye on the fine print regarding post-study clauses, bonds, minimum CGPA/marks to be maintained during the study period, etc.

Application process: First get your basic resume in place. Tweak the resume based on the requirement of each scholarship. Assuming that one resume fits all applications is a common mistake that candidates make. 

Read the scholarship application requirements and highlight the relevant portions in your resume. ‘International exposure’, ‘knowledge of foreign languages’, ‘special skill sets’ are some important areas. Move such aspects upfront in your resume.

A common question you come across in most scholarship applications is on why you deserve the scholarship or why you should be considered. Most applications require you to write a one-pager specifically on this. This is an opportunity to highlight those aspects of your personality that cannot be squeezed into your formal resume. Apart from soft skills, you can also showcase your cultural accomplishments. This will lend a personal touch to your application.

Spend time planning and writing scholarship essays. This is considered to be one of the most important aspects of a scholarship application. 

Be a credible candidate: A word of caution: never fake, tweak or sugar coat your experiences and abilities. It can backfire and the credibility of your application will be lost. Performing background checks is a lot easier in today’s connected world. 

The same applies to your social profiles. Every post on these social sites will inevitably be a reflection of you, your belief systems and thoughts. They should blend in well with your application.

Identify 2-3 people who know you well on the professional front. Choose people who can, in genuine terms, speak about the strong points in your personality. Inform them and seek their permission to put their contact details as the reference in your application. Tell them to expect a call from the education scholarship agencies you are applying to.  

Before you send your application, make sure your application is concise. It must be neat and free of typos. Ensure you prepare a checklist for every individual application. Respect deadlines.

Post-application Steps: You need to follow up to ensure the agencies have received your application. Build a rapport and ask them if they require you to furnish any additional details to strengthen your application. 

Do not hesitate to apply for more than a couple of scholarships. You can get monetary help from multiple sources as long as you are being transparent. Also, beware of scams, touts and shady agencies. Cross-check every detail to make sure that you are not wasting your valuable time and efforts.