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Applying for Scholarships: The Basics

Tuesday | June 7, 2016 | by Xiao Lu

Applying for scholarships

For international students wanting to study in the U.S., there are many financial aid opportunities available. Students can look for funding from nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, as well as colleges and universities. Students should begin searching and applying for scholarships as early as possible. Read on to understand the basics of applying for scholarships:

What Types of Scholarships are Available?

The U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website defines a few of the different types of scholarships. Merit-based scholarships are awarded for meeting certain academic standards, for having a combination of academic accomplishments, or for having a special interest or talent. Other scholarships are awarded based on financial need, and some are geared toward certain groups such as minorities. Merit-based scholarships are the most common type of application for international students.

Applying to Schools and Scholarships at the Same Time

In most cases, your scholarship application is submitted along with your admissions application. On the application form, there is a section asking if you would like to apply for the school’s scholarships as well. By clicking yes, you automatically enter yourself to be considered for school scholarships.

Although there is no additional documentation needed when you submit your application, you may be asked to submit an essay that states the purpose of your application. You can tailor your essay depending on the type of scholarship you are applying for.

It is important to note that schools have a certain budget amount allocated for scholarship funding to distribute each year, and they tend to be more generous in the early stages of the admissions season. By applying earlier in the process, you increase your chances to be considered a good candidate for scholarships.

How do Scholarship Committees Select Candidates?

There are a number of criteria that scholarship committees take into consideration, including:

  • Academic and test scores: Schools like to see above-average scores, including GPA, GRE/GMAT, and TOEFL/IELTS. The main purpose of scholarships is to reward top-tier students, so good scores will weigh heavily in your favor. Each university will have different GPA and test score requirements for scholarship applicants, so be sure to check what the minimum standards are for each.
  • Practical experience: Another important criterion for scholarship eligibility is solid practical experience. This can include research projects, academic papers, and internships. For most graduate school applicants, a good research background is reliable evidence that you are capable of assisting with research projects. If you can clearly communicate your work experiences in your personal statement. you will increase your scholarship chances.
  • Your field of study: Although U.S. institutions have strict requirements for applicant test scores and soft skills, the admissions decision will vary depending on your major or degree plans. For the popular majors where hundreds of applicants compete for a limited number of spots, the scholarship requirements will be respectively high as well.
  • Degree level: Schools tend to allocate larger portions of their scholarships toward certain degrees, such as doctorates, in order to attract qualified candidates. For U.S. Ph.D. candidates, a tuition waiver is granted in many situations. Although it is easier to get admitted to a master’s degree program, chances are there will be fewer scholarship opportunities than a higher level degree.

Xiao Lu

Xiao Lu is a Marketing Associate at World Education Services.