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Scholarship Applications: Frequently Asked Questions

Scholarship Applications: Frequently Asked Questions main image

Although knowing all the right places to go to find scholarships isn’t as easy as it sounds, applying for scholarships to study abroad shouldn’t have to be a mammoth task.

With our scholarship applications FAQ, you’ll find all the information you need on applying for scholarships, with advice on where to find scholarships, how to submit your application and what to include. Good luck!

  1. What types of scholarships are available?
  2. What are my chances of gaining a scholarship?
  3. Can I get a scholarship for graduate study?
  4. Where do I go to find scholarship opportunities?
  5. Can I apply for a scholarship before being accepted into a university?
  6. How do I apply for international scholarships?
  7. How do I know if I am eligible to apply?
  8. What should I submit with my scholarship application?
  9. What should I include in my scholarship essay?
  10. When is the best time to apply for study abroad scholarships?
  11. How do I get help with my scholarship application letter?
  12. What are scholarship scams and how do I avoid them?
  13. Further questions?


1.  What types of scholarships are available?

There are a huge range of scholarship opportunities available for university students across the world, ranging from partial scholarships which cover some tuition fees, to full scholarships which cover the duration of your studies. The majority of scholarships cover tuition fees only, leaving students to cover their own living costs.

There are also many different types of scholarships for international students from certain regions, or even students studying in a certain field. For instance, many students from developing countries, including parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, can apply for specific scholarships, as can many students from all over the world looking to study in a STEM-related field (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

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2.  What are my chances of gaining a scholarship?

Don’t be fooled, scholarships are highly competitive. After all, there are many students around the world trying to get funding for their studies. Although some scholarships depend on outstanding academic records (‘merit-based scholarships’), your chances of success are often determined by the quality of your application, and whether or not you are in financial need. A number of universities in the US, including Harvard and MIT for example, offer ‘need-blind’ admissions policies, meaning that all students’ applications are considered regardless of their financial situation, with tuition fees then covered at least partly by the school.

There are a number of things you can do to improve your chances of gaining a scholarship. When applying for scholarships, you should make sure to include all the documentation requested, and dedicate plenty of time to writing your application. In particular, it’s important to clearly communicate your motivations for studying and how gaining a scholarship will support your ambitions. Stay within the deadlines and, most importantly, show the scholarship providers you have the potential to do great things!

3.  Can I get a scholarship for graduate study?

Yes! In fact, graduate scholarships to study abroad tend to be even more common than undergraduate scholarships, due to the fact that universities and governments are often keen to attract highly skilled graduate students, often using graduate scholarships as an incentive.

Dependent on your level of study, there will be different opportunities available. While some scholarship schemes are open to all students, there are also dedicated master’s scholarships, PhD scholarships, postdoctoral scholarships and academic research scholarships. See the next question for information on where to find scholarships.

QS also offers US$7 million worth of scholarships every year, mostly at graduate level and exclusively available to attendees of the QS World Grad School Tour and QS World MBA Tour. (There is also an Undergraduate Scholarship offering up to US$10,000, for which you don’t need to have attended a QS event.)

If you’re interested in applying for one of our graduate scholarships, register for an event close to you and then complete the scholarship application process.

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4.  Where do I go to find scholarship opportunities?

To find scholarships you are eligible for, it is advised to first look at the information provided by your chosen university. Funding information will be listed on the university’s website or in the prospectus, and this is also where you’ll find the relevant contact information should you have any questions about scholarship applications.

In many cases you will not be able to apply for university scholarships until you have gained acceptance onto a program at the university. If you are relying on a scholarship for funding, please see question five below.

As well as university scholarships (funded by your university), there may also be a range of external scholarships you can apply for, such as government scholarships or scholarships funded by organizations or charities with an invested interest in higher education.

To look for these scholarships you can either use a scholarships search service such as InternationalScholarships.com or FastWeb.com, or you can conduct a more thorough search by visiting official consular/governmental websites for yourself and tracking down any information provided on international student funding. Often current scholarships will be listed together, for example as on the government of Canada’s dedicated scholarships website, or the DAAD's scholarship database (for Germany), but sometimes they are trickier to find, so be patient!

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5.  Can I apply for a scholarship before being accepted into a university?

If you’re relying on scholarship funding in order to be able to study, you should let the school in question know of your situation. Some schools offer only ‘fully funded’ places, meaning all applicants must have sufficient funding in place. But many allow you to apply to a program before gaining scholarships, on the understanding that you let them know as soon as possible if you have to reject the place due to lack of funding . If you do not get the scholarship, you should still have time to withdraw your university application or find an alternative method of funding before the start of term.

6.  How do I apply for international scholarships?

In most cases, schools, governments and external organizations will list their scholarship opportunities online, with details of how to apply found alongside these listings. Most will allow you to submit your application online, accompanied by any supporting documentation you are asked to provide (see below).

In rarer cases, the scholarship provider will specify an address for you to send your application in a printed format. If you have any specific queries about applying for scholarships, contact the provider using the contact information found on official websites.

For more application advice, as well as information on finding relevant scholarship programs, please see our complete guide on How to Find Scholarships to Study Abroad.

7.  How do I know if I am eligible to apply?

You will know if you are eligible to apply for a particular scholarship by reading the details on eligibility found on the provider’s website. Eligibility may depend on nationality, if the scholarship in question is targeted at students from specific regions. For subject-specific scholarships, the program you are enrolling on will also affect your eligibility.

In most cases, university scholarships are only open to students who have already been accepted onto a program at that particular university. Government scholarships will also have designated funds for domestic students, as well as separate funds for international students – so make sure you have found the correct scholarship scheme before applying.

Other common eligibility requirements include good grades at prior level of study, a degree from a reputed university (for graduate scholarships), and proficiency in English (e.g. TOEFL/IELTS, for English-language programs).

8.  What should I submit with my scholarship application?

As well as a completed application form, which will include information about yourself and your contact details, you may also be asked to provide the following documentation to support your application:

    • A transcript of grades
    • Letter(s) of recommendation
    • An essay on a given topic

For some ‘need-based’ university scholarships in the US, applicants will also be asked to submit a ‘Free Application for Federal Student Aid’ (FAFSA) to establish whether they are in need of financial aid.

9.  What should I include in my scholarship essay?

The simple answer would be: anything that makes you stand out. Anything relevant to your studies, that is! The majority of scholarship providers want to know why they should fund you rather than any other applicant, so use your essay as a chance to prove your worth – mention your academic achievements, your ambitions and your interests and how they relate to the program you are applying for.

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10.  When is the best time to apply for study abroad scholarships?

Many study abroad scholarships have similar deadlines, which often depend on the start dates of the academic year in the relevant country. For fall admission, scholarships for international students can be found up until the late summer months, and for winter admission you’ll often have until late in the fall to apply. For exact dates, be sure to check the details provided on the website of the scholarship provider and note them down in your calendar so as not to miss a key deadline.

11.  How do I get help with my scholarship application letter?

If you need help gathering information about particular scholarship programs, you should get in contact with the scholarship provider directly. If you want advice and guidance on making your application a good one, see our Admissions Advice site section.

12.  What are scholarship scams and how do I avoid them?

A common way of determining scholarship scams is to ask yourself if the scholarship sounds simply too good to be true. If the application process seems too easy, or if you have to pay to apply, you should be wary. If a website is offering a ‘guaranteed scholarship’, or you receive an unsolicited email, you should be very skeptical.

If you are worried about the authenticity of a scholarship, conduct an online search to see if there is any more information online about the same scholarship. If there is very little information, or the information that is provided is somewhat vague or unclear, walk away!

To minimize your chances of being taken in by a scam, stick to official websites belonging to schools, government or reputed organizations, or use a free scholarship search service.

13.  Further questions?

If you have any unanswered questions about scholarship programs, either contact the scholarship provider directly or ask your question in the comments section below. 

This article was originally published in February 2015. It was updated in August 2018.

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Asdas A, Giada C & 19 others saved this
Laura Tucker's profile image
Written by Laura Tucker
Laura is a former staff writer for TopUniversities.com, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.

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Hi Omar, I would recommend first choosing a country to study in and a university program suitable. From there you can look for scholarship opportunities offered by the government, the university or externally. If you follow the information given above you shouldn't go too wrong! To see the types of scholarships available to african students, see this article, or see all our scholarships articles here. Laura

I am from Syria , i have 29 years old , i have a diploma in civil engineering (graduated 2007) after high school .
I want to apply for a scholarship to study civil engineering (undergraduate) to get a higher certificate and make my future career .
Can you tell me if my age problem for apply to get a scholarship to study a bachelor degree in civil engineering , and if there is no problem for that, can you guide me to the universities accept Syrian students .

Best regards

Hi Hosam, 29 isn't an age problem! Admission shouldn't be a problem for you, so long as you meet the entry requirements. As a Syrian student, although some universities may have strict regulations on international students, many others will encourage you to apply - some also offer scholarships for students from developing countries so you might want to look into this. The real question is, where do you want to study? Use our ranking of the world's top universities for civil engineering to get a list of 200 leading universities (learn more about them via their profile/website) and then use our where to study site section to learn more about each country. Laura

Hi Laura,
I am Noura from Algeria (north Africa) i'm first year studant and i am studying english language and literature can you please tell me how can i apply for a scholarship and how much does it cost to study in America?
I look forward for your answer :)
Thank you for your help

Hi Noura, we have an article called How Much Does it cost to study in the US? as well as a US country guide filled with useful information. For scholarships, my advice would be to look on the website of the university you want to apply to or to search for external scholarships. We have a range of scholarship articles to help you get started with your search. To find a university, take a look at the top universities in the US for English language and literature. (Bear in mind that the higher up the rankings you go, the higher the entry requirements are likely to be). Good luck! Laura

Hi Laura

My name IS Christine I am currently working with a Shipping Agency here in Kokopo Papua New Guinea. I have been interested in furthering my studies after completing my Diploma in Business Studies in our Divine Word University. I wonder if you can assist me on how to obtain a Scholarship to study abroad

i want to apply for my ms in computer can anyone suggest me how to get for the study. Nowadays im running a blog for studies

Hi Christine, often the best place to look for scholarships is your chosen university's website under 'funding information'. If they do not offer any scholarships consider looking for external scholarships. We have a selection of scholarship articles to study across the world available here and you can also use the links listed above in question 4 for more information on finding scholarships. Laura :)

Hi Laura,
I am an 11th grader aiming for the National University of Singapore, and there is one specific scholarship I'm targeting: the TEMASEK Sunburst Scholarship. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find much information on it, and am a bit confused on what I need to get the scholarship. I have contacted the organization, but my questions are still unanswered.

I mainly want to know what would be a satisfactory level of community service. I have already done a few months, should I be aiming for a year or more?

Their website is http://www.step.com.sg/temasek/tms/step.nsf/TEF?OpenForm.

I understand that you may not have information on this specific scholarship, so any advice is welcome. By the way, your articles are really helpful and have been a great aid so far to me. :)

is it possible to get the scholarship

Hey! After having a look at the application requirements for the TEMASEK scholarship, I would say that as long as you can demonstrate your involvement in the community and/or social work, that would be sufficient. Of course, the more you show your involvement in community work the better but it's this passion and interest that you want to focus on. Also, instead of saying you've only done a few months community work, emphasize how this has affected you and had an impact on what it is you'd like to do in the future and how higher education will help you reach this goal. I hope this helps! Good luck! Laura