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5 Scholarship Application Mistakes to Avoid

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated March 5, 2016 Updated March 5, 2016

There’s a lot you can get right when applying for scholarships – but also a lot you can get wrong! To help you avoid potential pitfalls, we asked the team who run the QS Scholarships scheme to identify some of the most common scholarship application mistakes they see.

1. Failing to answer the scholarship essay question

One of the most common scholarship application mistakes – and one that will really limit your chances of success – is failing to address the scholarship essay question. If you’re applying for multiple scholarships (which is a good idea), you might be tempted to simply use the same essay each time, or submit the personal statement you used for university applications. But the committee assessing the scholarship essays will be looking out for submissions which clearly answer the question set – so it really is worth investing the time in creating a new piece for each scholarship application.

2. Missing the scholarship application deadline

This one should be pretty obvious, but nonetheless a lot of scholarship hopefuls end up missing the deadlines. Needless to say, this dramatically decreases your chances of success. It can be difficult to make all your applications on time, especially when each scholarship scheme has a different deadline. The best strategy is to start researching relevant scholarships well in advance of your intended study date (a full year ahead if possible), and then create a schedule so you can organize your workload and prioritize the most urgent submissions.

3. Leaving mistakes in your scholarship application

You might think the odd typo here or there is no big deal, but the details really can make a big difference. Those reading your scholarship application are likely to be influenced – whether consciously or not – by mistakes such as spelling or grammatical errors, missing punctuation or words, or even just glitches in the layout such as mismatched font sizes. Find a willing friend, family member or mentor with a good eye for detail, and ask her/him to proofread each scholarship application before you send it off.

4. Failing to grab the reader’s attention

Even if you’ve perfectly answered the scholarship essay question, and erased every last error from your text, there’s another challenge to address: the sheer number of applications each committee will receive. To be in with a chance of standing out from the crowd, you need to be sure your application grabs the reader’s attention, and keeps him/her engaged. Kick off with a compelling statement, and ensure your text is lively throughout. Keep paragraphs short and well-connected, and make it memorable through the inclusion of relevant details, quotes or examples.

5. Applying for scholarships you’re not eligible for

There are thousands of scholarship schemes around the world, each with a clear set of eligibility criteria. Sifting through the options to find those which are relevant is a mammoth task, and you might be tempted to send off some applications without thoroughly checking the criteria. Unfortunately, if you apply for scholarships you’re not eligible for, you won’t be successful even if you’re written the world’s best ever application essay. Instead, make use of scholarship listings and databases to identify schemes that closely match your own profile.

And a bonus mistake…

6. Not applying at all!

A surprising number of students simply don’t apply for scholarships at all, due to a plethora of myths and misconceptions. Often, students think they won’t stand a chance of success, that the process will take too long, or that there isn’t a scheme out there to match their own background and ambitions. But when we speak to QS Scholarship winners, their most common piece of advice is simply to remember that everyone else starts out with the same doubts – and to persist in trying anyway. So: apply, apply, apply!

This article was originally published in September 2015 . It was last updated in March 2016

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Written by

The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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