Study Abroad

Study abroad scholarships: how to find scholarships and apply for them

study abroad scholarships

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a scholarship to study abroad? “Scholarship” is a word that is loved by many students because it helps them pursue their education without putting a lot of financial burden on them or their families. So, how can you find scholarships e.g. scholarships in the US, scholarships in Germany etc.? Some students search online and when they can’t find a scholarship after scrolling through a few websites, they simply give up. If it was that easy, everyone would’ve had a scholarship to study abroad.

In this post, I’ll explain how to find scholarships to study abroad and how you can apply for these scholarships. So, first of all, you have to understand that if you want to study abroad e.g. study in the US, Canada, Europe, the UK, Japan, China or Australia, you can’t always secure a scholarship by just applying online while you’re still in your home country. Unfortunately, sometimes this is not how it works.

You can apply for some scholarships online and you might get the scholarship before you go abroad. However, sometimes you have to be present in a country and enroll at a university to apply for some scholarships. In this case, you’ll have to take a leap of faith, go abroad and then apply for these scholarships.

Scholarships that you can generally apply online

Government scholarships

  • You can visit the website of your country’s government or the educational ministry, for example Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Pakistan. You can find different scholarships on the HEC’s website, mostly for Master’s and PhDs. But you have to return to Pakistan after your studies and work there for some time.
  • You can visit the government’s website of the country where you’d like to study. For example for the scholarships in the USA, there is Fulbright scholarship, but still, you have to go back to your country after your studies.

If you don’t want to go back to your country and would like to work abroad after your studies e.g. work in the UK, work in Germany etc., then there are some other scholarships that you can apply for. Regarding the scholarships in Europe, there is the Erasmus Mundus for example, with which you can study in different European countries and you don’t have to go back to your country after your studies. 

There are some country-specific scholarships as well e.g. DAAD scholarship in Germany. You can find some funded programs e.g. PhD positions that you can directly apply at DAAD. Moreover, if you’ve already found a PhD in Germany but have no funding, you can apply for PhD funding at DAAD. If you want to study in Japan, you can check MEXT scholarship in Japan.

Generally, government scholarships can be applied online. Depending upon the country, you might have to submit some documents in person as well.   

University scholarships

Generally universities also offer some scholarships. While applying for a study program, check the website of the university as well as the website/page of that particular study program for scholarships. If you can’t find any scholarship there, you can visit the website of the international office of the university. See if there is any information regarding scholarships for international students.  If no such information is available on the above mentioned websites/pages, you can contact them using the contact information available on their websites. Check with them regarding internal/external scholarships.    

Generally, university scholarships can be applied online.  

External scholarships that you might have to apply in person

Company scholarships

There are some companies that offer scholarships to students by collaborating with universities as part of some marketing campaigns, so that more people get to know about these companies. Some companies might ask you to work for them a couple of hours a week or do a summer internship with them in exchange for the scholarship. This is a good deal because you can also gain some practical experience and develop your professional network by doing so. Check the websites of the companies in the region of your university or ask the university for such scholarships.   

If you can’t find anything at their websites, you can ask these companies about scholarships. Provide them information about your admission and your professional profile, for example by sending them your CV. In return, you can offer to work for them part-time during your studies or full-time for some years after your studies. They might consider your application if your profile is good and relevant to to their company.

Make sure you do it in a decent and acceptable manner by sending an email to the right person, probably someone from the HR, and don’t flood their mailboxes with emails. If they accept unsolicited job applications, they’ll normally have an online platform or email address for these applications. You could use this channel for your application. 

Organization scholarships

NGOs, churches, banks etc. in the area also offer scholarships sometimes, particularly to women or international students. You might be able to apply for these scholarships online, for example when it’s a well-known international NGO. However, sometimes you might have to show your enrollment letter and grades of at least one semester. These organizations may want to see how you’re performing in this country, in addition to your performance back home.

Province and state scholarships

In some countries, for example concerning scholarships in Italy, state/provincial governments offer some scholarships e.g. EDISU Piemonte. However, you might have to submit some documents in person after applying online. These could be need based scholarships in the beginning but might become a combination of need and merit based scholarships later on. That means, you’ll have to show good academic grades to keep receiving the scholarship.    


If you can’t find a scholarship online

Ask alumni or current students

It’s quite possible that some local public/private organizations don’t optimize or advertise their website for search engines. In this case, it might be difficult to find them in the first few results, which search engines show you. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to get in touch with the alumni or the current students of the university where you’d like to study abroad.

Some universities have alumni information on their websites. You can also try to find people through online platforms such as LinkedIn . Just make sure that you respect their privacy. People might reply to your emails or messages if you ask something politely and show that you’ve done your homework. Try to avoid those questions, answers to which can be easily found online, for example at websites of universities.       

Interest-free loans or part-time jobs

Let’s say nothing works out when it comes to scholarships but studying abroad means a lot to you, then you can opt for (preferably interest free) loans. Some universities offer small interest-free loans to students. If that’s not the case for the university where you’re applying, you can ask the university, whether they know any organizations or banks that offer loans to students.    

In many countries, students are allowed to work, generally 20 hours a week, during their studies. You can try to find a part-time job on-campus or off-campus to earn some money. For example, some students work as teaching assistant or research assistant on campus or find a job in the library or cafeteria. Some countries might not allow you to work off-campus on certain types of visas. Make sure that you check the conditions associated with your visa. You can also try freelancing, but remember to check the laws because some countries might not allow freelancing to international students.

More importantly, check with the current students at that university or in that city, how easy or difficult it would be to find a part-time job. Based on my personal experience, finding a part-time job in Germany was way easier than it was in Italy. Moreover, ask some students, how much these jobs pay on average and how easy or hard it could be to manage your particular study program while working, let’s say, 20 hours a week.

In addition to this information, you should check how much money you need for your tuition fee and other expenses such as rent, health insurance etc.  Based on this information, you can make a realistic plan to fund your studies. It’s important to have a backup plan. Let’s say, you don’t get a scholarship but still decide to go abroad for studies, thinking you might get a part-time job. What if you don’t get a part-time job? Ask yourself this question!       


How to apply for Scholarships

Generally, you need the following documents to apply for scholarships:

Your CV gives a good overview of your profile but I think, the letter of motivation (LOM) is the most important document in your application. In your LOM, you can tell them, why you’re applying for this particular scholarship, why YOU deserve this scholarship and why YOU will benefit the most from this scholarship.

Some scholarship applications might not require a letter of recommendation (LOR). However, I’d recommend including one to three recommendation letters in your application.  

For information regarding application procedure and tips on other documents required for admission applications, check out How to study abroad: Tips and documents required.

Good luck finding and applying for scholarships!

In this post, personal views and opinions are expressed. Always do your research and take a decision that suits you best. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below.
Author: Adil Ilyas
Co-author: Osama Ali

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