Studying abroad, particularly in the US, offers plenty of benefits. Apart from having access to top-quality education, you also get to experience a mix of cultures that is entirely different from yours. However, without adequate planning, the costs associated with studying in the US can drain your finances quickly. Here is where a scholarship can prove to be of great help, since it ensures that students seeking further education receive the financial assistance necessary for this pursuit.
However, obtaining a scholarship in the US is not as easy as it may seem. A report published by the National Post secondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) revealed that for every 10 college aspirants, only one successfully receives a scholarship. And of all the scholarships awarded, 40% are restricted based on location, nationality, and citizenship, 37% are restricted based on the area of study, 6% are restricted to certain ethnicity, and 5% have gender-based restrictions.
Nevertheless, while things may appear grim, not all hope is lost. You can take some steps to increase your chances of obtaining a scholarship in the US. Here are some ideas to boost your chances.
Do not restrict your scholarship applications
When faced with the prospect of studying in the US, most students tend to focus exclusively on applying for scholarships with A-list universities. The only drawback to this is that the selection process for these scholarships can be very stringent and rigorous. This, coupled with the number of applications (which can go up to tens of thousands), can greatly decrease your chances of receiving a scholarship.
To significantly increase the possibility of getting through, you need to apply to every scholarship that you’re eligible for. This includes applying for scholarships with smaller awards, and since they’re generally not highly competitive, your chances improve greatly. While smaller awards may not be enough to cover the whole of your tuition fees, they can help you deal with ancillary outlays such as the cost of books and general living expenses.
Not all universities have the same deadlines for scholarship applications. Also, in most cases, the deadlines for university admissions and scholarship applications may not always match. In some cases, the last date to apply for a scholarship may precede the deadlines for admissions. Unfortunately, many students make the mistake of applying for scholarships along with their university admissions.
If you commit this error, you would essentially miss the deadline for applying to the scholarship program. As an international student, you can increase your chances of landing a scholarship by simply planning well in advance and applying on time. Since the demand for scholarships is continually on the rise, it’s never too early to start looking into the application process.
Submit an error-free application
Nothing gets a scholarship application rejected faster than glaring errors in the documents submitted. When you’re filling out applications, it’s a good idea to always double check the entries you’ve made in the forms. Bringing someone else in to validate your application and check for errors before submission is another great idea, since it can ensure objectivity.
Also, more often than not, international students skip filling out the optional fields in a scholarship application. Overlooking these sections can work against you, because these are essentially gateways for the university to get to know more about your background and your interests. Answering optional fields such as hobbies, certifications, and participation in extracurricular activities sincerely can, in fact, boost your chances of getting a scholarship in the US.
Perform well in tests and academics
Since scholarships are offered only to meritorious students, academic performance plays a major role in determining your chances of studying in the US. An excellent score on standardized tests such as GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, and IELTS can go a long way in putting you on the radar of the top universities in the US. Data reveals that around 12.9% of students with SAT scores of 1,000 or more win private scholarships, while only 7.8% of students with SAT scores under 1,000 do.
And while getting a great score on standardized tests is important, possessing a high undergraduate GPA is even more crucial. Students with unweighted GPAs ranging from 3.5 to 4.0 are twice as likely to win a private scholarship in the US as students with GPAs below 3.0.
Display leadership abilities
Universities in the US value a student’s leadership skills and their ability to render community service voluntarily. So, a great way to significantly increase your chances of receiving a scholarship from an American university is to take an active part in community service. The tendency to help others and the skill to manage people and situations are what American universities look for in a student applying for scholarships.
You can make your scholarship application more appealing with special mentions of any role you may have served in an organization or any activities you may have taken part in. Including certificates and other documentary evidence to back these claims also serves as an added boost. While academic performances are important, abilities and achievements like these can make students stand out from the crowd.
Write a neat scholarship essay
Nearly every scholarship application requires that students write an essay justifying the reason they deserve a scholarship. This is a great opportunity for you to showcase your strengths and to distinguish yourself from the rest of the applicants. A good scholarship essay has the tendency to sway the university towards your application.
Not only is it essential for your essay to be free of grammatical errors, but it’s also vital that your piece connects with the reader on an emotional level. The language should ideally be eloquent, flow freely, and be easy to read and understand. Furthermore, the essay should also convey your passion for the course you intend to pursue, and venture into how a scholarship can help you achieve your goals.
Include letters of recommendation
Universities in the US take recommendation letters seriously. Stellar letters of recommendation can sometimes be the driving reason behind a student getting a scholarship for studying in the US. However, these letters generally only hold great value if they come from professionals or academic experts. So, it’s best to approach a professor or a teacher you consider your mentor and ask for a recommendation to include in your scholarship application.
Apart from offering invaluable advice on academic and professional fronts, a mentor is generally in a good position to write a sharp and perceptive recommendation letter. An outstanding letter of recommendation typically succeeds in bringing a student’s skills, academic performances, and other abilities to the front.
If you’re keen on obtaining a scholarship in the US, these ideas can significantly increase your chances of getting one. In addition to these tips, you can also strengthen your case by incorporating your achievements and publications in your scholarship application. You could also enclose documentary proof that backs up your claims. And since there is no limit on the number of scholarship programs you can apply to, it’s best to submit an application to every scholarship you’re eligible for. This way, you can go all out and take every chance you have.