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How to Get a Full Scholarship

How to Get a Full Scholarship main image

Full scholarships (also called full-ride scholarships) are the holy grail of funding opportunities, covering almost everything for the full three or four years of university. Your tuition and living costs will be covered by the provider, leaving you free to focus on your studies and social life without worrying about money. Sounds great, right?

Sadly, there just aren’t too many of these dream scholarships going around. Full scholarships are rare, and those that are available are very competitive. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply for them – read on to discover how to increase your chances of being awarded one of these prestigious scholarships.

Know where to look

First things first, where do you actually go to find full scholarships? Your first port of call should be your chosen university’s official website, as they may offer their own funding opportunities for students from your location or in your subject, or possibly list external scholarships you could apply to.

As well as your university, you could check sites like InternationalScholarships.com or FastWeb.com, plus our own Scholarships to Study Abroad page, which lists funding opportunities in different study destinations, scholarships focused on particular subjects and scholarships aimed at particular student groups (e.g. African students).

Prepare in advance

If you know you’ll need a full scholarship to help you to attend university, it’s important to start preparing as far in advance as possible. This is especially important if you find you need to attend an interview - some universities conduct special ‘scholarship weekends’ in which 50-100 students will be invited on campus to interview with a faculty member, answering questions on their goals and motivations and how this fits in with that university and course. If you need to attend a scholarship interview, you should treat this as you would any other formal interview, dressing smartly and coming well-prepared with good answers for their possible questions, as well as having a few questions ready to ask them when invited to at the end of the interview. Find out how to answer common admission interview questions here.

Work hard and keep motivated

Although some full scholarships will be based on financial need rather than academic excellence, some will take both into account, or only be awarded to exceptional students. It goes without saying that you should be working hard in your studies, but you’ll need to really put in the effort if you want to get that full scholarship, as the majority are awarded to the highest-achieving students. In some cases, universities may automatically consider applicants for full scholarships using your regular university application, making high grades crucial. While pushing yourself academically can be mentally exhausting, try to stay motivated by keeping your goals in mind, and give yourself a break every now and then to relax (especially during and after exam season!).

Make yourself stand out from other applicants

With so much competition to get a full scholarship, it’s crucial to stand out from the pool of applicants by demonstrating real commitment to bettering yourself as an individual. This means having a few extracurricular activities to show off to scholarship providers, demonstrating your passions and interests outside the classroom, as well as examples of times you’ve got involved with the local community, perhaps by taking part in volunteer work for a good cause.

Leadership skills are also hugely valued by scholarship providers, and you can demonstrate this by volunteering to lead projects in your extracurricular activities or community work.

Another thing that could really make you stand out from the rest when it comes to scholarship applications is a glowing report on your academic and personal qualities through your letters of recommendation, so it’s important to build strong relationships with your academic mentors – if a mentor knows you well, they’ll be able to provide a more personal and accurate reflection of you in their letter.  

Read the application instructions carefully

This may seem extremely obvious, but you don’t want to drop your chances by accidentally missing out a document or piece of information that was stipulated in the scholarship’s application instructions. Be sure to read the application guidance carefully and repeatedly, so you’re less likely to miss anything, and email the provider if you need clarification on anything.

Submit an exceptional scholarship essay or cover letter

Another one that goes without saying, but your application essay/cover letter needs to absolutely be the best quality it can possibly be. This means making sure it’s clear and concise, is formatted correctly, grabs the reader with a strong introduction, stays focused on its key theme or topic, and has flawless spelling and grammar. Don’t just rely on proofreading it hundreds of times to make sure it’s perfect – ask a friend to go over it and check for typos and any sentences that don’t read as well as they could do.

One of the winners of our QS scholarships wrote a very helpful article on submitting a winning scholarship essay, which you can read here.

Be realistic

And finally, as we touched on earlier, the unfortunate truth is that there aren’t many full scholarships to go around, and they’re extremely competitive, meaning that many candidates who meet and exceed the requirements for a full scholarship end up missing out. Don’t let this hold you back from applying, but be realistic about your expectations. And remember, there’s no limit on how many scholarship applications you can send out, and normally no limit to how many scholarships you can be awarded, so you may be able to build your own full scholarship using two or more smaller scholarships. (Of course, be sure to check with the providers that you’re able to apply for and receive funding from other sources). If you do get rejections, try not to let them get you down – pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and don’t stop trying in life until you get what you want.

Do you have any questions on scholarship applications? Read our FAQ here, or leave us a comment below.

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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