Applying for a Scholarship: The Basics | Top Universities

Applying for a Scholarship: The Basics

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Staff Writer

Updated May 19, 2021



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Studying at a top university is often an expensive choice to make, and if you’re struggling to scrape together the money, not only for fees but for accommodation and other living costs, university expenses can seem very steep and unaffordable. If this is you, don't worry. This guide will give you the starting point you need for a successful scholarship application.

Almost all top universities will have scholarships available for students to apply for. You just need to know what they are, where you can find them, and how you can put yourself forward for them. Be aware that putting together a successful scholarship application does often require a significant amount of time. But of course, if you're successful, your efforts will be well worth it. 

Read on to find out how to research, apply, and get funding for your undergraduate degree.

Do your research

To avoid putting pressure on yourself and potentially missing out on an excellent scholarship, start your research early. The more time you can put into your scholarship search, the more options you’ll have. You’ll need time to research scholarships, request information and application forms, and complete your application by the specified closing date. Some scholarships may even close before the academic year starts.

You can find out about the different scholarships available here.

Check if you are eligible

Another important element you want to consider early on is finding out what scholarships you’re actually eligible for, as some will have specific criteria. By doing careful research you'll be able to find the scholarships most appropriate for you and then you can spend time working on your application for them.

Be organized

It pays to be organized when it comes to working on your scholarship application. To begin with, make a note of the scholarships you’re planning on applying for, so that you can keep track of them easily and not miss any important deadlines.

It is also a good idea to keep all of your scholarship material in a separate folder. That way you will always know where it is, and make sure you have the most up-to-date information in there.

Include all required information

When you’re applying for scholarships, you may think that it’s more effective to apply for many scholarships, instead of spending more time on just a few. If you do this, however, you may miss  out some vital information on your application. Make sure you have all of the information that the selection panel has requested in your application. An application with missing items does not make the best first impression, particularly if these are items they have specifically requested.

See the checklist at the bottom of this article to see what you need to include.

Think about presentation

A scholarship application is very similar to a job interview. If you want to make a good impression, spelling mistakes and illegible writing don’t look good. Be sure to spend time checking these, and if you’re asked to fill in a form in a particular way, make sure you do. Before you send it, ask a family member or friend to proof-read it for you. They may find a mistake that you didn't pick up on.

Provide correct information

This goes without saying, but make sure the details you’re entering in are correct. Getting your contact details or other personal information wrong, or misspelling something, will make you look extremely unprofessional, as well as potentially delaying the process – so make sure you triple check before sending off the forms.

Provide references/referees

In some cases you may need to provide references or referees in your application. It’s important to choose these people carefully; after all, there's a lot hanging on this application. You also need to let each of your referees know when you are applying for a scholarship and tell them something about the kind of skills and experience you need to demonstrate. This enables them to write a considered reference that highlights the parts of your application that you want to stand out.

Don't miss the deadline

Always give yourself an extra few days leeway when applying for a scholarship. You may need this if you're getting your application professionally printed, or if you're waiting for confirmation from a referee. Remember, late applications usually won't be considered. 

For some tips on time management, click here

Scholarships checklist:

  • Are you eligible?
  • Do you know the deadline?
  • Have you got all the necessary information? This will vary depending on the scholarship application, but usually includes academic record, proof of financial circumstances and confirmation of your study plans.
  • Do your referees know what scholarship(s) you are applying for?
  • Have you and a friend/family member proofread your scholarship application?
  • Have you submitted your application before the deadline?

For more information and answers to commonly asked questions about finding and applying to scholarships, see our Scholarship Applications: FAQ.

This article was originally written in November 2008 and was updated in November 2019. 

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