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How to apply for a foreign scholarship

/ 01:53 AM September 04, 2011

Do you dream of studying abroad to improve your career prospects or simply to experience a different culture or lifestyle? Do you wish you can do this for free?

Studying abroad may seem impossible to the average Filipino but there are ways to do it and fulfill your dreams. One way, of course, is by applying for a scholarship to study overseas.

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Here are some guidelines on how to look for scholarships, the actual application process, and preparing for that big step.

What will you study

What scholarship to apply for will depend on your objectives  and capabilities.  Are you going for further studies, sabbatical, networking or exposure to a different environment? You should choose a course that you have a good chance of passing, even excelling in.

Surf the net

There are different types of scholarships available depending on the objectives and values of the  funding or sponsoring organization. The most obvious way to start is through an Internet search. You can google the  word “scholarship” and will be presented with millions of possibilities.

Narrow down your search to a specific course. You can also network and ask people from your circle whether they know of a scholarship that you can apply for. You can find from local alumni associations, students who got the scholarship you are interested in. Very often these former scholars will be willing to give you tips on how to apply.

Try public, private groups

There are government, university, private or corporate-funded scholarships. One of the biggest scholarship providers in the world is The Rotary Foundation. You can also look at foreign government-funded scholarships such as those provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Australian Agency for International Development (AUSAID), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

There are also foreign foundations that give fellowships such as Fulbright, Chevening, and Asia Foundation. Some universities have bursaries or scholarships that you can apply for. Multilateral aid organization scholarships include those offered by the World Bank and  Asian Development Bank.

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Get organized

Choose the scholarship you want and create a separate folder for this, either in the computer or an actual file. Study and analyze all the requirements and see if you are eligible.

There will be requirements you have to meet. The usual and most basic are curriculum vitae (CV), transcript of records (TOR), diploma (English), reference, health examination, application essay and proof of language proficiency (through the International English Language Testing System or IELTS, if the course is in English).

Beat the deadline

Once you know the deadline, subtract seven days. Your application pack should be submitted at least one week before the deadline either  online or through courier services.

Based on your self-imposed deadline, work back three to five  months to accomplish all the requirements. Create a to-do list and see what tasks can be started immediately or done simultaneously.

Make the CV brief

Your CV gives the scholarship evaluation committee an idea of who you are and what you have accomplished. Write a CV that is brief and to the point. Highlight your academic background and relevant extracurricular activities. Focus on demonstrating leadership, problem-solving skills, ability to work with a team, and experience as a volunteer, if any.  Do not lie, cheat or bend the truth. Resumé fudging is a serious offense and you will be found out sooner or later. It is not worth it.

Transcript of Records and diplomas or certified true copies of these documents usually take a long time to secure  (especially if you are from the University of the Philippines). Have multiple copies made so you can use them for other applications.

Choose right references

Reference or recommendation letters are important because they give the selection committee an idea of your accomplishments and character based on other persons’ points of view. Choose people who are eligible to give you a recommendation (usually a former professor, superior or a former recipient of the scholarship you are applying for) and those who will actually put in a good word for you.

When you ask them or give them the form, explain why you are applying for the scholarship and tell them the application deadline. Offer to pick up or mail the sealed recommendation letter yourself so you have control over the process.

Make your pitch

If you have to submit an application essay, then you have to put your heart into it. You have to sell yourself and make sure that you are recognized for your achievements and potential to do well in the course, and later on in your professional life. You are competing with other applicants so highlight all your strong points.

Try to get as much information as you can about the organization giving the scholarship. You should focus on what their values are. What are their current and future activities and priorities and how can you best fit into their requirements? The committee should see you as a real person they can relate to.

Study for exams

Some scholarships also require the applicant to take aptitude examinations such as the Graduate Research Examination (GRE), Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Try to get the best score in whichever examination you have to take because, all things considered, the selection committee will give the scholarship to the person with the higher grade.

Send your applications

Submit applications to as many programs as you can. Do not be fixated on just one scholarship and ignore the others. Always keep your options open.

Some application procedures include interviews so be prepared to state your case either in  a one-on-one or panel interview. Be punctual and professional in dealing with all the members of the organization.

Pass proficiency tests

Language proficiency requirements should be started and accomplished immediately. Try to get a score higher than what is required. If you need to take the IELTS, then you have to prepare for the exam. You can either review on your own or enroll in a review center. You can have the exam results sent by  IELTS to the university or scholarship sponsor. It is just a matter of indicating this on the application form you have to fill out to take the test.

Just make sure the Test Results Form (TRF) is sent well within the application deadline.

Think positive

Lastly, always be positive and do not take it personally if you get some rejections. Getting a scholarship is simply a  matter of being chosen as the right person for the right grant. But you can increase your chances of being chosen if you submit all the application requirements and project all the qualities they want in their scholars.

The author was a  Rotary World Peace Fellow in 2007, He did his Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution at Bradford University in England. At present, he is the head coach of Queen’s English IELTS Review Center. For IELTS review classes, visit www.qeieltsreview.com

Have you any tips or stories on how you got your scholarship? Do you know of any scholarship grants available? Please share tips and experiences on this article’s online global pinoy discussion page (http://globalnation.inquirer.net/category/global-pinoy)

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