Recipe for securing a scholarship from a US university


If you study the success of Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Stephenie Meyer, all of them stayed undefeated when it came to realising their goals in life. They mapped their future and stayed undefeatedly focused. Notably, all of them were scholarship holders.

Yes, indeed, a person carrying wisdom will always make more opportunities than he would see. And that’s how early success breeds future success.

‘Early success’ here refers to looking for opportunities concerning scholarships. Finding scholarships for international students may be hard but they do exist. 

While scholarships and grants vary significantly from university to university, they are usually awarded based on students’ merit, need, or any of exceptional excellence. As many aspiring students research and plan their options for studying in the U.S., they must be aware of what might land them a coveted scholarship award.

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Here are a few important aspects for students that will help them prepare to secure a scholarship:

  1. Be ready to work hard for study abroad scholarships: Be planned. Create a list of the universities/ colleges you wish to study. You may perhaps need to apply to a dozen of opportunities, with your plan A and B set of institutions if the former doesn’t work out. The application process takes time. It is important to set up a schedule where you spend 3- 4 hours every alternate day and work on applications.
  1. Understand the university requirements and its criteria to evaluate candidates: Before starting an application, know about the university. Check your eligibility for scholarship and application requirements. It is advisable to go through the university’s goals and values, understand what seems important to them and how they talk about themselves. Then identify those keywords and values, and make sure you align those into your application.

Browse the past winners or the detailed FAQ, which are likely to be on their website. Re-read the section where selection criteria and the evaluation process will help you spruce up your application. 

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Get recommendations from your professors or other possible references early on, should the scholarship require it. Share brief information about the scholarship and a few specific examples of why you qualify, along with your resume. Be creating and truthful in writing.

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  1. Enhance your skills to boost scholarship probabilities: Apart from your academic excellence, universities look for a different set of skills like demonstrated leadership skills, teamwork, or strong writing skills. An advanced degree in a highly specialized field, proficiency in sports, cultural activities, or a remarkable contribution in community service, may provide the likelihood of winning a scholarship.
  1. Apply sooner than later:  Even if there is no preference or indication for early applicants, this way, you can have the best shot of winning when the selectors read your story, relates to it, and find it an appealing fit for the scholarship. Say, if your application is in a stack of initial letters because you applied early, it is perhaps more likely to get a thorough read-through. As the deadline approaches, those evaluators will be besieged with applications and may start skimming through applications while reducing your chances to get their attention.
  1. Mistakes to avoid– 
  • Do not wait too long to begin test preparation. Early preparation will help when taking required standardized entrance exams like the SAT or English-language proficiency exams like the TOEFL and IELTS, as required by universities of your interests 
  • Not writing your essay and procrastinating until the last minute to apply for scholarships 
  • Avoid the temptation of plagiarizing essays or even full sentences from the Internet or past submitted essays
  • Be honest in what you write, about your achievements and extracurricular activities
  • Carefully review, re-read and edit your scholarship essays and use spellcheck before submitting them to a university
  • Do not rush. Scholarships are highly competitive. Give yourself adequate time to prepare an effective application and be able to communicate your goals for university study, career aspirations, and why you chose a specific university to apply to

Remember, if you have a robust profile coupled with a strong application and determination, you can have a greater chance to win a scholarship award.  

Authored by: Prateek Gujral, Principal Advisor (South Asia), Truman State University

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