Here are some suggestions and tips I would like to share with you:
I. Set your destination goal
The first thing you should do before applying for a scholarship is to ask yourself “where do you want to go? And why?” I agree that we need to grasp all the opportunities when they come but it is also important to have your own destination goal. It helps you to prepare yourself well and shape your goal.
II. Know your desired major that you want to study
This is another important thing that you have to do. You need to have your own desired major before searching for a scholarship; otherwise, you will get lost in choosing a major because there are hundreds of majors available for a scholarship. There are 3 important things that you should put into consideration to choose the right major:
- Your interest/ skill/talent (What are you good at? What are you interested in?)
- Your undergraduate degree (That could be different from your interest/skill / or talent)
- Your work experience (That, too, could be different from the two above)
You must choose a major which is combined with the three things above. Some people might get stuck in choosing a major because of these 3 things are completely different from one another. For example, your undergraduate degree in law but you work as an admin or HR in a private company. If you are in this case, you should draw an outline to choose the right major. You need to find a central point that is related to law (undergraduate degree) and administration (work experience). Or you can choose either of them but you need to make sure that it is good for you and why? You might choose law as a major in case you have just started working as an admin (you can also omit this work experience since it’s irrelevant) or you might choose public admin or business admin (you can explain why are you interested in this field in case you have been working in this field for quite long.) Therefore, freshly graduated students need to work in a field that they study or it will be hard for them to choose a major in the future.
Why choosing a major is important?
Because it helps you to write a good plan and draw your interest in a particular field. For every scholarship, the plan is very important. You need to show the committee your interest and your plan after graduation. Ask yourself these questions when you decide to choose a major:
- Why do you want to study this major?
- What is your plan?
- Why are you interested in that field?
- What are you going to do with that major?
- What is your research topic?
III. Collect information about your preferred scholarship as much as you can
After knowing your destination goal and desired major, it’s time for you to get yourself ready for a battlefield. You need to have a clear understanding of the scholarship that you want to apply to. You need to know every piece of information such as the requirements, available universities, available major, deadline, how to apply, procedure, alumni, guideline, the purpose of scholarship, as well as FAQ. The most important part of this stage is to find out which university is good for your desired major. There are many universities available for every scholarship. So you need to know which university has a major that you want to study. Please note that it doesn’t mean that all of the universities have the same majors and specialize in the same field. Each university has its specialization field. On the other hand, please do not forget to read their FAQ. Some people tend to ignore it and ask repeated questions that were already answered in the FAQ.
IV. Be well-prepared to meet all the requirements
After you have enough information regarding the scholarship information, preferred university, and desired major, it’s time to start preparing your documents to meet their requirements. The most common requirements for a scholarship are Undergraduate Certificate, Transcript of Academic Record, IELTS/TOEFL, Passport, Personal Statement, Statement of Purpose, and Letter of Recommendation. Therefore, if you haven’t had any of these, you need to get them all as soon as you can. It’s impossible to get all of these things done just in few months. So please plan as early as you can. Each requirement has its difficulties. You will have to suffer to get them.
- GPA: If you are still in college, it’s not too late for you to get a better GPA (at least 3.00/4.00 or higher).
- IELTS/TOEFL: Even though it is just an optional document for some scholarships but it’s good to have it because it’ll add extra credit to your application.
- Passport: You can do it after you pass but it’s also good to have it in advance.
- Personal Statement / Statement of Purpose: It’s the most stressing part because it’s the most important part of all the requirements. It’s what you show the committee of who you are, it’s what they judge you, it’s what they decide whether to give you a scholarship or not.
- Letter of Recommendation: It’s another important component for applying for a scholarship abroad. It’s better if you can get it from the high-ranked people such as Dean, Professor, Director, Head of Department, or Manager. It is also good if you can get it from a foreigner who is from a country that you want to apply to. To get it, you need to have a good performance at school and in the workplace. Therefore, you must perform your work well not just working for a salary.
V. Start drafting your application at least one year ahead
So this is the last and most important part of applying for a scholarship. You need to spare your time at least one year before the scholarship opens. One year is not enough if you haven’t started from the 1st stage. So start your journey NOW, do NOT wait until the scholarship opens, it’s way TOO late! Why do I recommend you spare one year just to draft an application? Well… That’s because it’s the most important factor to make your dream comes true. There are so many important steps in this stage. So I would like to mention only a few for now and I will write more detail about it later.
Brainstorm: Write all of your ideas on a blank paper. You can write anything that comes up in your mind such as your family background, work experiences, academic background, your achievements, interest, volunteer activities, why do you apply for this scholarship, what do you want to study and why, what can you contribute to their country, what can you bring back to develop your country, tell them why do you need this scholarship.
Outline: After you wrote down all the ideas. You should start outlining. How many paragraphs do you want to write? What should be the first sentence of each paragraph?
Choose important ideas to write: It’s time to sort all the ideas you have and put them into places. You should only choose the main ideas to write and explain why it is important.
Grammar/spelling check: Application essays are what you show the committee of who you are. An application that has lots of grammatical mistakes and wrong spelling is not different from a person who doesn’t prepare themselves for going out. So your application must be neat and well-organized as well as zero grammatical mistakes and wrong spelling.
Leave it for a day or two then come back to edit it again: Your ideas won’t come up within a day so have it for a day after you edit it then come back later tomorrow. You will have lots of things to write and it’s even better than yesterday. That is the reason why I recommend that you to start doing it at least one year ahead because I am sure you must be busy with your work, school tasks, and other stuff so you won’t have much time to do it. Let consider it as what you like to do during free time then you will enjoy doing it.
Proofreading: This is the last step in writing an application. Once you feel like your essays are good enough to be submitted then you must send it to those who you think they are better than you to read it and give you feedback as well as comments. You will be surprised by their ideas and suggestions because it’s going to be different from what you think. It’s also a good idea to ask your foreigner friends to check it because they will be able to correct your grammatical mistakes and wrong spelling. You should also ask those who already got that scholarship to check it because they have experienced it before you and they passed it.
VI. Be ready to fail and learn from the failures
Once you are ready for the battle, you also have to be ready both mental and psychical. While you’re fighting in this battle, you will face lots of obstacles such as break down, disappointed, upset, lost yourself in the middle of nowhere, want to give up, feel like a loser, asking yourself why are you so stupid? However, as long as you don’t give up, you will eventually achieve it one day. You need to learn from each failure you’re going to face. You need to be strong to accept the weakness and correct it to fight harder for the next battle.
Did you wonder why I consider applying for a scholarship as a battlefield? Because they have so many things in common. Going to the battle, you might probably get hurt, lost, break down, you need to fight with yourself as well as with others which are the same things that will happen when you apply for a scholarship abroad.
NO MATTER WHAT, DON’T GIVE UP!