Many African students need some form of financial support to be able get a decent education. In this digital age, your ability to access timely information and strategically utilize such will determine whether you win a scholarship or not. The days are gone when you have to go to the ministry of education or your school library to queue for scholarship information. Now you have all that at the tip of your fingers. In this article, I will show you 15 easy steps you can follow to win enough money for school, and fulfill your dream!
- Start searching early: Most of us probably start searching for scholarships when we start admission application, and suddenly discover that we can’t afford to pay the fees. This is erroneous as you may not have enough time to find the scholarships that might be of the highest relevance to you. Start as early as possible. If you are in high school and you are interested in going to university, start searching in your last two years in school. If you will need scholarship for graduate studies, start searching while in the university. The rule is simple: the earlier the better! However, if you are reading this and you did not start early, there is hope.
- Beware of scholarship scams: Except in very rare cases, which the sponsor(s) should clearly state in the official announcement, scholarship applications are completely free. Never give money to anybody who promises to secure a scholarship for you for a fee. If you had enough money to throw around, I suppose you wouldn’t be applying for a scholarship. That is why they are called scholarships ? meant to help a student, who would otherwise not be able, get an education. You should be very wary of giving somebody your money in the guise of a promised scholarship. Scholarships are awarded based on competition and the most suitable candidates are awarded after evaluating qualified applications. Instead of giving money to somebody to secure you a scholarship, invest your time and resources in searching for them and preparing winning applications.
- Search where you matter: You don’t want to waste all your time and money on the internet without getting good value for it. Do you? That is why you should search for scholarships where you are the priority of the information provider. Generally, www.fastweb.com is considered the most comprehensive source of scholarship opportunities for students but it is focused mainly on US students with very little reference or relevance to African students. So it is important that you make use of a website with an African focus. This has many advantages: the information presented is 99% relevant to you, your level of technological skills is taken into consideration, and detailed guides are provided to help you apply. One of the best websites you can find at the moment with a focus on Africa is http://ScholarsHubAfrica.com. It has receive excellent reviews from newspapers in Africa and the overseas because of its unique way of presenting information that makes applying for scholarships very easy. Moreover, you can ask for help if you run into trouble.
- Read instructions carefully: This is an expensive mistake you should never make. Don’t be so excited about a scholarship that you fail to carefully read ALL the instructions line by line. Even if you have read the instructions for previous years, certain rules might have changed and the only way to know is to read everything. You never lose anything by gathering sufficient information. Unfortunately, many students want to have it on a platter of gold. They want it delivered without any efforts on their part. There is nowhere money is easy to get, and no one who has worked hard to get money will give it to you for being lazy. Be diligent and read all the instructions because you can only win when you obey instructions as stated in the scholarship profile. If you have any reason not to meet any criteria, you should contact the scholarship provider to ask for exception. Otherwise, you risk not being considered.
- Apply for only the scholarships you are eligible: Scholarship sponsors have eligibility criteria for awarding scholarships, which are often strictly adhered to. Such criteria might be based on nationality, sex, subject of study, professional experience, age, etc. There is no point applying for scholarships you are not eligible. Sponsors receive more qualified applications for each scholarship than there are slots, so they may not consider those who do not meet the eligibility criteria.
- Apply for many scholarships: Apply for as many scholarships as you are eligible. Again, you lose nothing by applying. There is no guarantee that you will win a particular scholarship and the only way to ensure you don’t lose out eventually is to apply for as many as possible so that somehow you may win one. You should also apply for small scholarships and those open to minority groups that you qualify for, which are often less competitive. The state of world economies now implies that fewer students can sufficiently fund their studies without scholarships, which has led to stiffer competitions for the few available opportunities. So make use of every avenue to get funds for school.
- Organize your application materials: Different scholarships require different application materials. The most common ones are personal statement or letter, recommendation letter, statement of account, transcripts, CV/resume, autobiographical essay, and professional essay. (The explanation of these terms is beyond the scope of this article. More explanations will be available in a few days on this section). Once you have all your materials ready, DO NOT merely forward them to every new scholarship application. Save your original materials in your email or Google Docs (if you have a Gmail Account) so that you can access them anywhere you need them. To apply for a new scholarship, simply download them and customize them for each scholarship provider. Each scholarship provider has specific questions and expectations; make sure you revise your letters to reflect such expectations. A forwarded letter or statement is usually very easy to identify and it may give a very bad impression of you as a lazy and unserious person. Some sponsors may even consider it insulting.
- Do not miss deadlines: This might sound too obvious but one would be surprised to discover how many people miss scholarship deadlines every year. Either due to negligence or carelessness, many applicants simply occupy themselves with other things until application deadlines have passed. Never make this mistake. Except where you are lucky to have a general extension of deadlines, which rarely happen, you risk having your application thrown out if you submit late. One way to overcome this problem is to create alerts in your email to serve as reminders for approaching deadlines. Many email providers have calendars you can use to organize reminders for deadlines and you can decide how often you will be reminded. You may also use your mobile phone if you have one with relevant capabilities. Whatever method you decide to use, never miss deadlines!
- Answer all questions: Scholarship application forms often contain questions you are expected to answer besides the materials you will submit. You should answer all questions correctly and sincerely. If you skip questions, it might be interpreted as trying to play smart, and be disqualified. If you tell lies in order to win a scholarship, you might be found out even after you have started on your programme, and still be disqualified. Even if you were not found out, there is no point building your future on lies. Tell the truth and expect the best.
- Find someone to review your application: if you are in school, one of your tutors/teachers should be able to help review your application and offer advice. If you can’t get a teacher to do it, ask a friend or relation to review it. If he/she discovers any spelling mistakes and corrects them or spot any defect that you can work on, it might just make a difference in the final selection process.
- Prepare for interview: Some scholarships involve interviews as part of the selection process. If you apply for a scholarship like the British Chevening and Commonwealth Scholarships, you may be invited for an interview. In that case, you have to anticipate what questions you will be asked and how best to answer them. You must be prepared to prove, based on the selection criteria of the sponsor, that you are the best candidate for the scholarship. Research the issues involved online or through any information outlet available to you. List out the strengths and weaknesses of your application and how to defend it, as well as how it fits into sponsor’s overall goals.
- Use a valid contact address: Most scholarship providers these days use emails to communicate with applicants. That is why you must use a valid email address besides your postal address. Check your email at least twice a week as the scholarship announcement date approaches. You might be contacted to provide additional information or to accept the offer within a stated period. If you don’t respond within a speculate time, you lose out.
- Respond to offers immediately: Once you have been made an offer, don’t hesitate to respond by indicating that you intend to accept the offer. As we started earlier, there are many qualified candidates on the waiting list that can be easily offered the scholarship. There is no need to play big by taking unnecessary time before accepting the offer. If you were so big you wouldn’t be applying for support in the first place. If you have any reason not to accept the offer immediately, contact your sponsor and ask for more time to consider it. They most probably will grant your request. Now that you have won a scholarship, properly utilize it by putting your best into your studies.
- Renew your scholarship annually: If your scholarship lasts for more than a year, you might be requested to renew it annually based on agreed conditions. Usually, you are expected to write a report at the end of each term or year about your progress. Write and submit your reports promptly. That way you will have money to complete your studies. If you don’t submit your report, your funding might be suspended or discontinued and your studies jeopardized.
- It is a game after all: one thing that discourages many students from trying is the fear of failure. You may consider how stiff the competition will be, how more qualified your competitors are, how they have this and that advantage over you, etc. But this is very unnecessary. You must not win, except where you have announced it to everyone you know that you have applied for a scholarship even before you knew the outcome. In that case, you may feel very disappointed when you don’t win because you had created unnecessary expectations before you could know how it will go. Instead, take it as a game in which you can play again or play another one if you lose a particular one. No need to be disappointed especially when you did not pay to apply. No big deal, you know. Just one of those things. As they say, you keep trying because winners never quit and quitters never win.
Now that you know how to search, win and keep scholarships, why not start today and win your dream scholarship? Of course, you can do it. Your time starts now!
If you are interested in checking out scholarships on Scholars Hub Africa, visit http://ScholarsHubAfrica.com/SHA/scholarships. You can like the page on Facebook for regular updates at www.facebook.com/ScholarsHubAfrica