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Applying for a Scholarship: The Basics

Applying for a Scholarship: The Basics main image

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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I wanted to surf for the available scholarship for MPH (master in public health ). I had completed my BPH from Nepal Pubanchal university and had about 2 years experience in research. I am currently working in mental health sector in TPO Nepal ( NGO ). I am focusing to study in korea. If anyone have idea regarding this please I would be grateful for you.

I am a NIGERIAN. I really need a scholarship to sturdy in Malaysia

Hi Nancy. You may want to take a look at our guide to studying in Malaysia, here: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study/asia/malaysia/guide

i want to study in astralia in scolorship

Hi Adnan. You can find out more about applying to study in Australia with our country guide, here: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study/oceania/australia/guide

I really need a scholarship to study at one of indian best medicaL universities

I will love to have a schlarship to study software engineering in united state of america.

Please I'm looking for a scholarship at leeds or leicester, any help? :(

It is true that there are generally more scholarships available at postgraduate level, but there is support available for undergraduate studies too. Best of luck for your search!

Here I am .

I was awarded a Chines Government Scholarship I am in need of a admission letter

I am doing A level in Bangladesh. I want to go abroad for undergraduate studies basically in USA or in UK and prefer a scholarship. I am looking for scholarships but getting no options for undergraduate studies. What should I do now to find the scholarship..............

Hi Ahsan,

If you have an idea of which US/UK universities you want to apply to, you can check to see whether they offer any scholarships you could be eligible for - these should be listed on the university websites. You could also check whether any organizations in your own country offer scholarships that would support you to study abroad, as well as searching for scholarships offered by organizations based in the US and UK.

Some information about scholarships for international students in the UK is included in this article: https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/student-finance/uk-tuition-fees-how-much-does-it-cost-study-uk

It is true that there are generally more scholarships available at postgraduate level, but there is support available for undergraduate studies too. Best of luck for your search!


Thank you so much Laura for your information.

I would like to study engineering in MIT,therefore am requesting for a scholarship from the university

i am searching for good scholarship in USA

I am from Liberia West Africa, my Country suffer from a 14 years of bloody civil war from Charles Taylor former rebel leader of a group national patriotic front of Liberia (N.P.F.L). now Liberia is striving for development and the educational system is very difficult for student to enroll at the University of Liberia. kindly grant me a scholarship in United States of America in the area of Medical Science to enable me contribute to the develop of the Health sector of my Country.

Estoy buscando una beca para estudiar inglés, en Cost Rica o a distancia. ¿Me pueden ayudar? Lizeth

I am a 20 year old female, currently looking for full financial assistance to study in the USA. I have a good academic record and have applied to several universities. I am South African and in need of a sponsor for my tuition, accomodation, books, meals and airfare. I will be willing to meet any requirements for any sponsor and to fulfil my obligation with pride and commitment. Your assistance will be highly appreciated.

i would like to study in the US pursuing ac bachelors of commerce am a ugandan aged 24yrs , whats the way forward?

hi.. i am Swarup Roy , I am frm india , So i just complt my MBA in indian university. So PLease Suggest me how to go Abroad in further Study.

I want a scholarship for MIT.

hi, I want to study English literature from top from king college London or from any top 5 university but the fee is so much high. so how can I get free scholarship offer plz plz plz plz help me

I want to study in Canada on their top university in undergraduate in applied physics.I am from Bangladesh.

But,the tuition fee is too much for me...How can i get tuition weiver or a scholarship.plz help.

I am from a developing country (Malawi, Central Africa) and in great need of a scholarship in any country around the globe. I am able to meet the possible requirements available. please help me.

i want to have scholarship in turkey in engineering

Dear Sir,
I belong to a poor family and it very difficult for me to continue my study in effortless college or universities so please i am waiting for scholarship. Thanks
Regard: Shakir Ullah

My name is Dennis Taruru. I am kindly seeking for a scholarship to study Information And Telecommunication Engineering in California Institute of Technology (Caltech) please assist.

I want a scholarshif for Malaysian

I want a scholarship for USA.

I am seeking scholarship in Universiti Malaya,Malaysia

im seeking for a university scholarship

Am seeking for a university scholarship

I'm seeking a scholarship in Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester. Best Regards :)

I want a scholarship for Switzerland

I am serching for good university scholarship

I am searching for the good universities of Amsterdam with scholarship until 2014. Please let me know if you find any. Thanks.

I am finding a finance scholarship USA, so pls let me know the avaible scholarship 2014. Tks

i will love to apply for scholarship in Harvard