[Scholarships Hunting]: Getting Information

More than eighty percent of inquiries that I receive on a daily basis through e-mails and phone calls, and on direct counseling to prospective students, are about scholarships. And let me tell you, there are A LOT of scholarships available for Indonesians to study abroad (and in Indonesia too, but this is not my field, so I can’t go into details about this kind of scholarship), some are partial scholarships, some gives full coverage such as (but not limited to) tuition fee, allowance, flight tickets, insurance, settling-in cost, research costs, the whole shebang. However, not all Indonesians are aware of this. Mostly because of the disparity of access to information in this country, but sometimes it is because those who know about the scholarship are too lazy to search for further information.

Of course, demands exceeds supply, and the more promising a scholarship is, the more competitive it (usually) is. Some scholarships demand that applicants need to already have a full admission / unconditional acceptance to a study program in a university, some will give out scholarships even when the applicant does not have a full admission yet. Some require a certain number of years of working experience, some can be applied by fresh graduates.

Generally the road to a study abroad scholarship starts with getting the right information at the right time:

1. Collect information: the ACADEMIC part
Get as much information as possible about 1) the study programmes you are interested in, 2) the university and/or country that provides those study programmes, 3) the admissions requirements and application procedures to that university
You can do this by googling “study in <name of country>” or “study <name of study program> in <name of country>” or if you already know where you want to study, go ahead and read the institution’s website. A crapload of information is available there: what study programs they are offering, descripstions of each study program, admission requirements, tuition fee, application procedure, etc etc.
Gather all necessary documents, do all necessary tests to obtain the necessary documents, then apply to the university. Applications to almost all universities overseas are done online / digitally, so it’s not like in Indonesia where you have to come to the university campus to buy the application form and later on sit for an entrance exam.

Do this around a year before or at least nine months you plan to start your studies (university intakes usually in September, but a few starts in February). University application deadlines vary from six to four months before intake starts.

2. Collect information: the FUNDING part
– Ask the university for funding/scholarship opportunities
– Ask a national agency representing a country’s higher education (not an education agent, more like an information center)
– Ask the Embassy
– Ask a well-known and reputable education agent (the ones that help with application process and usually charge commission to students or if not to the students then to the university)

They will have information about various funding / scholarship opportunities that they manage or if they don’t have a scholarship that fits you, they will direct you to websites or institutions that do. All you have to do is: ASK. And ASK PROPERLY.

Don’t just go and ask: “Do you have a scholarship?” or “What scholarship can I apply for?”
They need to know your academic (and sometimes, professional) background, to be able to suggest a suitable scholarship or to determine whether you are eligible to apply for the scholarships that they.

Don’t just go and ask: “Which university is the best?”
‘The best’ is a relative term. The best university for someone who is interested in studying European Law is different than the best university for someone interested in studying Industrial Design. Of course there are rankings published by ranking institutions, but determining which university is best for someone takes so much more than just rankings.
Take into account the reputation of the university, how well-fitting the study programme is to your interest and passion, whether the university is research oriented or practical oriented, the international student life in that institution, the city, and the country where the institution is located. As you communicate with the admission office, you will get a sense of how they treat international students and how they manage their institution, and this will help you -to a certain extent- in your decision-making process.

Don’t just go and ask: “Which university/which scholarship is easiest to get into/to get?”
Because really, if it’s easy and just about everyone can get acceptance, chances are their competitiveness is lower. Also, REALLY?

Do this around one year before your studies start, because scholarship application deadlines can be from six months to one year before university intakes.

3. Collect information: the ALUMNI part
Get connected with alumni of the university you are applying to or alumni (recipients) of the scholarship that you are competing for. They can’t tell you what is the surest way to get a scholarship, the best template for a motivation statement, the best answers to give on a scholarship interview, because every applicant is different; but hearing from them, you can synthesize the information you have and prepare yourself better. This phase actually prepares you for your future studies: how to process information and decide which course of action is best to solve a problem.

Do this when you have shortlisted the universities and the scholarships that you are interested in. Give it at least three months before application deadlines to allow you enough time to really prepare.

Perhaps (if I feel like it), on my next post I will share about how to SCREW your scholarship application. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take me another four months to feel like writing again.




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