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10 Myths Stopping You Applying for Scholarships

By Guest Writer

Updated June 26, 2015 Updated June 26, 2015

Guest post: Dr Mira Maier

Surprisingly, among secondary-school graduates with good grades, only one in eight will apply for scholarships to continue their studies. It seems they have some false beliefs, and these ideas inhibit them from applying. So what are the myths and misconceptions that are holding them back?

1.  “Only the very best and most gifted students win a scholarship”

The mistaken belief that scholarships are awarded only for outstanding exam results makes many students just not bother to apply. It turns out, however, that this belief is just not true. Only a small percentage of the many organizations awarding scholarships pick only the student with perfect exam scores. Many different selection criteria are used, including everything from where you live to what your father does, so carefully check the criteria used before dismissing an interesting funding opportunity as unattainable. 

2.  “There are hardly any scholarships available”

It’s always the biggest organizations awarding scholarships that get the publicity and whose names are well known. This gives the false impression that that there are only a few scholarships available, and the belief that with so many applications it must be impossible to get one. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are over 8,000 organizations in the European Union awarding scholarships, and in fact many have problems finding enough candidates. The secret is to do your research and find the award that best matches your personal situation.

3.  “You need to have strong social commitments”

Next to thinking only the smartest students have a chance at getting a scholarship, this belief is the most common. It is true that some awards do need you to be involved in different kinds of community work or volunteering activity, but for many this is not considered at all relevant. So if you are not involved in volunteering or community work, just find the right organization to apply to and this will not handicap you at all.

4.  “There is never enough money to pay the true costs”

The amount of funding you receive actually varies enormously. Some grants, it is true, may just be a single payment of a few hundred euros, but others can pay €1,500 a month. It is normal for higher-level studies, like a doctorate, to be funded more generously. Remember that you can apply for several grants, and combining two or even three together is often allowed, which can make a huge difference. Even if your award doesn’t cover all your expenses, you can usually get a loan for the difference, or of course take a part-time job.

5.  “Finding scholarships takes a lot of time with no guaranteed result”

It is true that in the past searching for scholarships was time-consuming and difficult. You needed to use a variety of different resources and they were usually incomplete with just partial listings. Today there are lots of good listings and databases to help you find a relevant scholarship quickly. At www.european-funding-guide.eu it only takes a few minutes to create a profile; you then get a complete overview of all the opportunities matching your profile, saving you hours of futile research.

6.  “The application process takes far too long”

In actual fact, applying for scholarships is often very simple, requiring less information than applying for a job. Applications can often be done through email or directly online. Some do take longer, needing references and a complete CV, but advice and information on how to get through the process faster is available. When you think of the financial stress you could remove, leaving you free to concentrate on studying, the time taken to apply for scholarships is really a great investment with a strong return.

7.  “With so many applications, my chances are too small”

The best-known and most-publicized scholarships really do get a lot of applications, but many smaller, less well-known groups regularly complain that they don’t receive enough applications. Using the results from your search you can easily identify the smaller organizations where the competition will not be so strong. Remember that scholarship schemes of all shapes and sizes pay in the same currency!

8.  “I must be in financial need to get a scholarship”

Again there is a grain of truth here. It’s true that some scholarships are means-tested, which is why this common misconception has developed, preventing many students from applying for scholarships at all. In reality, however, the selection criteria used vary greatly. Some schemes are targeted not at financial need but, for example, at building expertise in a particular profession or helping students from a certain region. With a complete overview of all the awards suitable for your goals, you will easily be able to find the ones you can apply for, whatever your financial circumstances.

9.  “Scholarships are only awarded at the start of a program”

You have struggled to get through your courses and you just need some help finishing up. It isn’t true that you can only apply for scholarships when starting a new degree – in fact they are often available no matter where you are in your studies. It is always worthwhile to take a look at what is available, even if you are in your last semester.

10.  “Only living expenses are covered by a scholarship”

In addition to grants for living expenses, there are scholarships covering all sorts of other expenses, from tuition fees and travel costs to equipment, books and even printing. Studies or internships abroad are available that pay many of the different expenses involved. There is funding available for everything from language courses and research trips, or even a visit to check out a study possibility before making that final commitment.

Now that there are comprehensive tools available it is so much easier to find the scholarships available for you, no matter what your circumstances or needs.

Mira Maier is the founder of the European scholarship platform European Funding Guide. She got her PhD in Germany, where she also developed the successful German matching-based scholarship platform mystipendium.de.

This article was originally published in April 2015 . It was last updated in June 2015

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