Watch out for scholarship scams: Each year many students and parents are defrauded by scholarship scams. Never pay for a scholarship search. There is never a good reason to pay for a scholarship search. The information you will need is available for free.
Get full scholarship information: Each scholarship has its own application procedure. It is important to read the materials carefully and to understand what information is requested. Make sure you get as much information about the scholarship as possible. Write, call or e-mail the provider of the scholarship to ensure you have full details of application procedures and what will be expected of the successful applicant. If the scholarship entails a particular project, find out the full objectives and intended methodology of the project. If the scholarship is being funded by a private enterprise, gather as much information as you can about the company, its philosophy and its goals. You can never have too much information. Carefully typed applications make the best impression.
Eligibility: Apply only for those scholarships for which you are eligible. It is highly doubtful that you will be awarded if you are not eligible for a scholarship. Check thoroughly to ensure that you are actually eligible for the scholarship before you embark on the application process. It is pointless to submit an application, no matter how perfect it may be, for a scholarship for which you are ineligible. Check for any gender, age, nationality, indigenous or other special group restrictions on applications and only apply if you definitely match the eligibility criteria. If in doubt, check first.
Things to consider for your before applying for scholarship:
People who will judge your application don’t know you. They will just get a bunch of dates and numbers and little personal information. Even grades might be difficult to judge for them if they don’t know how they compare to those of other students in your local education system. Therefore, try to make as much of the more “personal” information as possible including your academic transcripts (but quality, not quantity!).
Take your time to write about “research experience” and “scientific interests”. Provide adequate reasoning as to why you want to do a study particular course and state your motivation in your own words. Marketing yourself is the key for a successful application.
But don’t overdo it! It is interesting to see applications from potential Nobel-prize candidates wishing to start a Masters/PhD thesis, but not even big leaders will buy this. After all, people don’t expect you to know everything before you have even started your PhD. What most group leaders are looking for are smart and open young people who show some enthusiasm for science and research or any other area you are applying for scholarships.
If you are applying from a country whose diverse educational system might not be very familiar to group leaders (e.g. China, India, Africa etc.), we encourage you to support you candidature with scores of internationally valid exams (GRE for aptitude and TOEFL/IELTS for English). However, this is NOT mandatory everywhere.
Prepare a resume/CV: Some scholarship applications will ask for your resume or CV. If you worked previously, list your experiences, but don’t sweat it if you don’t have much (or any!) work experience-many students don’t. Use your resume/CV to point out any awards and honors you’ve received, community service you’ve been involved with, and activities you’ve participated in.
Activities and Honors: List all relevant activities and honors, but be selective. If you have more activities than can fit in the space provided do not include the ones that are not significant; the two days you spent last spring on a community clean-up day, for instance.
Read the criteria for selection carefully to understand what the reviewers are looking for. For instance, the Presidential Scholarship looks for applicants who can show “leadership experience with [an] outstanding extracurricular record,” so include your volunteer and community service activities, emphasizing those in which you took a leadership role.
The ideal letter of recommendation: Your letters of recommendations should come from teachers or academic advisors who are familiar not only with your academic abilities, but with your personal interests and background and how those relate to your ability to carry out the program of study you wish to pursue. If the teacher or academic advisor is familiar with your extracurricular activities and leadership abilities, s/he should also incorporate that into the letter.
The letters should address the qualifications sought. Recommenders should address only those elements of your application on which they can comment confidently.
How to ask for a letter of recommendation: Start early. Discuss your plans with your recommenders now, before the application is even available. Let them know what you would like to study and why you want to apply for the scholarship. These discussions can help you clarify your goals and plans as well.
As soon as you have the application forms (applications for Incoming Freshmen Scholarships are available at your high school counselor’s office, the Office of Recruitment Services and the Scholarship Office around early October), schedule a meeting with your recommender. Give your recommender a written description of the scholarship and a copy of your personal statement and proposed academic program. You may also want to provide a copy of your transcript and an autobiography or resume highlighting activities and honors. You should also give your recommenders appropriately addressed envelopes with postage, if necessary. Be sure to also give them plenty of time to write the letter, do not wait until the last minute.
You may also want to remind the recommender that it should include your full name with middle initial. You would be surprised on how many include only the first name of the student within the body of the letter.
The Personal Statement: The Statement of Purpose (often called “letter of intent” or “application essay” by various educational institutions) is one of the most important components of your application process. This document provides the admissions committee with information that allows them to become more acquainted with who you are; what you want to study at graduate school and why; experiences you have in the field; and what you plan on doing with the degree once you have mastered it. A statement of Purpose also serves as a writing sample and interview.
The following section is an excerpt from the Yale University Undergraduate career Services’ publication entitled Applying for Fellowships.
“The personal statement presents an opportunity for you to speak about yourself. Your essay should show that you have ideas and opinions, are able to think logically, and can express yourself clearly, with economy and elegance.
Clear writing is the result of clear thinking. The first and most important task is to decide what you want to say. This is a short essay. You must be highly selective. Consider carefully what you wish to impress upon the reader. Remember the nature of your audience. It is composed of people who are probably as intelligent as you are, well educated, and vastly experienced in this work. Do not try to fool or second guess your reader; you will seem silly if you do. Do not write in a cute, coy, or gimmicky style: selection committees have heard it all already. Do show that you have thought deeply and broadly about what you have learned in your academic career and what you hope to learn next.
When you have written a first draft, start the work of refining, simplifying, and polishing. Do you say exactly what you mean? Is any section, sentence, or word superfluous, ambiguous, or awkward?
Are your verbs strong and active? Have you removed unneeded qualifiers? Are you sure that each accomplishment and interest you mention supports one of your main ideas? Do not apologize. Do not misrepresent yourself. You are writing as an adult who wishes to join the community of scholars and other professionals. You must write as a peer and potential member of such a community.
Ask several individuals whose judgment you respect to read and criticize a draft of your essay. Possible reviewers include faculty members, writing tutors, and friends who can assess how well your essay represents you.”
Transcripts: If the application requires a transcript from all the schools you have attended, request this information as soon as possible. Whether you e-mail, fax, or call in your requests, mail a letter as a backup. Some schools charge a nominal fee for official transcripts. After a few weeks have passed, call the schools to ensure that the transcripts have been sent to the proper address. If by chance you have to hand-deliver a transcript, do not tamper with the seal – this may render the transcript invalid.
Proofread Your Application Carefully: Use your computer’s spelling and grammar check features. Let someone else (parent, teacher, or friend) read and evaluate your application, another set of eyes always helps.
[This article was submitted by Ankita Singh, an International Student, to help students in applying for admissions and scholarships in USA. Ankita have B.Tech. degree from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India and recently completed MS in Environmental Engineering from University of Pittsburgh, USA.]