Everything you need to know about study abroad scholarships for graduate students

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Prodigy Finance - June, 08 2021

8 min read

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What are scholarships?

A scholarship is a sum of money awarded to students based on varying requirements. There are thousands of need-based and merit-based scholarships that could help pay for your masters degree. You can search for scholarships based on your academic major, occupation, or other interests.

A study abroad scholarship can be used to cover your tuition, living expenses associated with your studies, or both. It’s different from a loan, as it does not need to be repaid, as long as the scholarship’s requirements are met - such as maintaining excellent test scores.

With a scholarship in hand, you can start your masters knowing you have a solid financial plan. You can focus on your studies and enjoy life abroad, without the stress of having a part-time job to pay for your education!

Types of study abroad scholarships

The most common scholarships are based on financial needs or merit. But there are also scholarships based on the country of study, the programme or major, as well as a student’s gender, race, religion, or medical history.

College scholarships are awarded based on:

  • Merit - this could be academic, athletic ability, or creativity

  • Financial need

  • Topic of study or research area - such as STEM scholarships

  • Qualities such as leadership or public service

  • Gender or minority groups - including scholarships for women

There are many other categories of scholarships for graduate students, including niche scholarships. Let’s take a deeper look at a few types of scholarships:

Need-based scholarships

What are need-based scholarships?

Need-based scholarships are calculated on a student’s financial need, by looking at how much their family can afford. This amount is subtracted from their cost of attendance (tuition fees and living expenses).

There are many schools that provide need-based scholarships for international students. However, don’t base your choice of school solely on those that will offer you financial assistance.

It’s important to study a programme that aligns with your career goals, while meeting your personal interests. There are certainly other scholarships that you can apply for, and you can also explore various sources of funding including grants, fellowships, and collateral-free student loans.

Merit-based scholarships

What are merit-based scholarships?

Merit scholarships are awarded to students with outstanding academic, artistic or athletic achievements.

Merit-based scholarships also consider an applicant’s extracurricular activities, leadership roles, and community service, among other factors. Unlike need-based financial aid, merit-based scholarships do not consider the applicant’s family contribution or income.

There are generally two main types of merit scholarships: those offered directly by schools in the form of merit aid, and those offered by private organisations in the form of private scholarships.

To qualify for a merit scholarship you need to score above average on your GPA, SAT and ACT. The average college GPA is 3.15 or B grade but scholarship providers look for people who score above 3.5 GPA - which is 90% average or A grade.

How to get merit scholarships to study abroad

Here are a few things to consider:

  • If you’re still weighing your options on which school to attend, then your shortlist should include programmes where you rank high academically. If your grades place you among the top talent, this will improve your chances of getting a merit scholarship.

  • You can negotiate your merit scholarship if you receive two or more admits. Some schools may be willing to match a merit scholarship that you were offered by other schools.

  • Take note of schools where large merit scholarships are offered due to higher tuition. Compare net prices of schools by subtracting scholarships and grants from the total cost of attendance.

  • If a school has a lower acceptance rate, it may also have fewer scholarship opportunities. If you’re aiming for a school based on the scholarship and financial aid available, be sure to consider a variety of schools.

  • Always contact school admissions offices to find out about scholarships for international students. For instance, at Tulane University, you’ll need to check with your respective admissions officer for Tulane merit scholarships.

Full ride scholarships

What are full ride scholarships?

If you’re wondering how to get scholarships to cover the entire cost of your tuition and living expenses, then applying for full ride scholarships is the way to go!

With a full ride scholarship you can pay for your tuition, food, accommodation, text books, and more. This differs from a full tuition scholarship which covers your tuition only.

Schools, government and private companies provide full scholarships, but the competition for these scholarships is extremely high. Full ride scholarships are rare. If you’re wondering what percentage of students get scholarships that cover their cost of attendance, only about 0.2% of students get them per year.

How to get full ride scholarships for studying abroad

Full ride scholarships vary depending on which institution is awarding it. Similar to merit-based scholarships, you need to be a top-achiever to qualify for full scholarships.

Here are a few eligibility criteria to earn full ride scholarships:

  • You’ll need to achieve specific test scores on the PSAT, SAT, and/or ACT tests. Some schools may require a certain GPA or class rank, and you’ll need to maintain high test scores and grades to keep your scholarship.

  • Show a depth of skills and interests that extend beyond the classroom, such as volunteer work.

  • Get letters of recommendation from mentors, employers or professors. Letters of recommendation serve as testament to your character and qualifications. TIP: Provide more information about your skills and achievements to whomever is writing your letter (in the form of a resume, if needed), so that they can write a stellar recommendation letter.

  • You may need to write a personal essay about your goals. TIP: How to write a personal essay for scholarships? Remember that you’re applying for scholarships with the most talented students from around the world. Your scholarship essay needs to stand out from the other applicants. Let your essay express your personality, skills, achievements, and experience, while following the guidelines for each application.

Scholarships for women

Within the broad category of scholarships for women, there are need-based scholarships and merit-based scholarships.

In some cases, only minority groups may be eligible to apply, while in other instances there are scholarships for women of varying ages, levels of study, and even scholarships for women to study a particular field - such as STEM scholarships for women.

STEM scholarships for women

Women make up a smaller percentage of the STEM workforce. Therefore, there are a number of STEM scholarships for women to encourage them to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Similar to other scholarship applications, eligible female applicants for STEM scholarships must submit an essay, transcript and application form.

Applying for study abroad scholarships

When to apply for scholarships?

There’s no harm in researching and applying for scholarships as early as possible. The more funding sources you can bag for free, the better for your bank balance in the long run.

Just remember that some scholarships have earlier deadlines than others, and application processes for each scholarship will differ. If you’ve missed the application deadlines for some scholarships, don’t give up - there are thousands of scholarships for college students that you could still apply for.

Scholarships are offered by universities, private companies, study abroad programmes, government, non-profit organisations, and other associations. Put in the effort to research your options and find out as much as possible, including what scholarships are taxable, and how long do scholarships last.

How to apply for scholarships

Think of applying for masters scholarships as another step in your study abroad journey. In fact, you should treat scholarship applications similar to how you would your university applications. Research all of your options, get a shortlist, thoroughly go through the requirements of each scholarship, and start applying.

The application process for international student scholarships will vary for each scholarship provider. You may also need essays, recommendation letters and portfolios to accompany some applications for masters scholarships - so the application process can take much longer than you expect.

While adhering to the guidelines and directions of each application is imperative, follow these steps to help you with your applications:

  1. Research as early as possible, and prepare to apply for many scholarships. Get all the info you need, as well as any application materials and documents.

  2. Don’t miss application deadlines. Make a note of deadlines and calculate how much time you’ll need to finalise and submit each application. And remember, the earlier you apply, the better your chances.

  3. Read the eligibility requirements thoroughly and follow application instructions. You need to understand what each application process involves. TIP: Don’t apply for a scholarship if you’re not eligible to receive it, and don’t submit documents unless you are required to. If you have any questions, contact the scholarship provider to clarify your doubts about the eligibility criteria.

  4. Organise and separate each scholarship you’re applying for. This includes sorting them by application due dates and keeping track of progress. It also involves getting the relevant documents required for each application, such as test scores, financial aid forms, essays, letters of recommendation, and proof of eligibility for the scholarship, among others. You may also need to prepare for an interview or submit a portfolio. TIP: Get certified copies of your transcripts and any other important documents that you’ll need for your scholarship applications.

  5. Check your application. Proofread your application, make sure it’s filled-in correctly, and that your answers are legible. TIP: If you're reusing a recommendation letter or essay from another scholarship application, make sure you don’t have any incorrect details. Get someone else to read and double-check your essays to avoid any errors.

  6. Keep copies of your scholarship applications. This will make it much smoother to resend if needed.

  7. Track your application so you know where you stand and when to follow up, if needed.

More tips for international student scholarships

When it comes to writing your essay, you’ll need to brush up on your English writing skills. Use the correct grammar and spelling, proofread your essay, and stick to the word count.

Research the values of the institution you’re applying to. If you have achievements, traits or skills that align with these values, be sure to include this in your essay and application.

Think about your finances, the cost of living, your currency, and the exchange rates when deciding which scholarships to apply to.

Where to apply for scholarships?

Ready to study your masters abroad and want to know how to find scholarships? Start by researching these scholarships for international students:

Tips to find scholarships for international students in USA

  • Search for scholarships online - there are thousands of scholarships you can quickly and easily find online.

  • Find scholarships through professional organisations - connect with people from these companies to learn what scholarships are available.

  • Ask the schools you wish to study at about scholarship opportunities. For instance, Ohio State University encourages students to complete the ScholarshipUniverse application, which is a scholarship-matching tool for graduates applying for Ohio State merit scholarships.

No matter what you’re studying, you’re bound to find a few scholarships that you can apply for.

Once you put in the effort and find these opportunities, apply for as many scholarships as possible. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Need funding for your dream school?

Prodigy Finance can help you with that. We provide student loans for an international masters education.

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