You have everything ready: an excellent profile, a list of postgraduate degrees that will contribute to your professional achievement; a congruent narrative for your admission process; excellent English and a great academic record… But you don’t have enough financial resources to study in the more selective postgraduate programs abroad; Or rather, the opportunity cost of studying for a graduate degree is very high compared to the financial security of working. If you already have defined that studying a master’s or doctorate is the next step to achieve your goals, the economic situation should not be an impediment for you to continue your professional path. In this article we will share tips and recommendations that will increase the possibility that you will obtain scholarships to study the best postgraduate programs in the world.
Investigate all opportunities
The first step to be eligible for a scholarship or funding for your studies is to know what scholarships exist. It is very common that candidates do not apply to certain financial support that they could have obtained because they are not aware that they exist. Don’t let this happen to you! Investigate the types of scholarships, what are the requirements of each one and their application deadlines, for which profile they are intended, etc. Remember that information is power, so it is essential that you have perspective of all the possibilities that exist. For this information search, we recommend the following sources:
- The program and the university to which you will apply: several of the scholarships that you can obtain are offered directly by the trusts that the institutions have for this purpose. Therefore, the first place you should turn to for information on this type of support is at the university. Write emails to the admissions office or, if there is one, to the financial aid / scholarship / financing office, since in most universities the offices are decentralized. Make sure your email is brief, and expose the most relevant of your profile so that the data sent to you is ad hoc to your context.
- Government institutions: Some scholarships are offered by government bodies at the different levels you can find (local, provincial, national). Even the country you will study in will also offer scholarships from the government (such as the Fullbright and Chevening scholarships). Investigate the official pages and go directly to the embassies and consulates, and check the types of financial support that you could access and all the requirements they need. A very specific example is those local governments that are interested in having qualified professionals in the city or town. Do not think that you will not find support, you may be surprised at the number of grants that exist and are not known!
- Graduate Societies: Graduates of the most competitive programs frequently create funds for some applicants to be scholarship recipients. If you have already defined the postgraduate courses of your interest, or you have already been accepted, get in touch with these graduate societies and ask. Sometimes, even if these funds do not exist, they can give you perspective on what scholarships exist, since they probably had one and they can share the details of how they managed to obtain it.
- NGOs: Some civil associations or foundations trust in the legacy of education and provide scholarships to certain types of profiles. Locate those related to your areas of interest and ask. This may be your great opportunity!
- The company where you work: This source is also important. Once you begin your graduate admission process, you can talk to your superiors about your intention. If the company in which you work is part of your professional project, you can investigate if it is possible that they will help you financially with part of the postgraduate course with the particularity that, once you finish, you return to work there. Show your formality and your desire to continue with the company.
Time, time, time
The importance of time lies in two important points. The first of them is that you consider that the deadlines for the admission process are not the same as those for scholarships and funding processes. In your research, make sure to identify the financing you could apply to and when is the deadline for each one. In this way, you don’t miss out on a scholarship opportunity for something as banal as the deadline.
The second point for which time is important is that you have to start meeting your requirements well in advance. There are procedures that you probably have to do, essays that you must write, documents that you must comply with, among others. It may even be that the scholarship file is longer than the admission file. Hence, although the scholarship limit is in a certain month, you should start preparing up to a year before so that you do not have setbacks.
While there are scholarship requirements that you can prepare in a couple of months or so, there are two that require a much longer study time: language and standardized test scores. The English language is fundamental: it is the lingua franca around the world, and the most requested in terms of scholarships. Not meeting an adequate command of English will close the door to many scholarships and programs around the world. Therefore, this is the first requirement that you have to cover, regardless of the financial support or the postgraduate degree you choose for your professional development. Even if you can, become proficient in another language as it will make your profile more competitive.
Another important topic is taking standardized tests, which goes hand in hand with the study of the English language. Some of the more selective scholarships will ask you for minimum scores on the TOEFL and on the GMAT or GRE. These exams are not easy, so you should prepare well in advance. In these cases try not to do it alone, get advice from experts in these exams so that you do not compromise your score.
It must be recognized that financial need is not a sufficient reason to obtain a scholarship. In fact, when considering you, they will first look at your profile and what you can contribute to both the program and society. Hence, long before applying, it is essential that you build a competitive profile. What do we mean by competitive? You must stand out from the rest of the applicants. Your history of successes, initiatives, accomplishments, your qualifications, volunteering and non-work activities should support a whole narrative of who you are and the potential you can have. As you excel, your chance of being awarded a scholarship also increases. Remember: there are many applicants and little funding.
At this point, scholarships always have a more social focus, dedicated to the contribution that can be made to society, hence your leadership skills and your volunteering history will stand out a lot in your application. If you have not yet taken actions that imply your impact through these two points, it is time to start taking action on the matter and work to make yourself stand out in these two areas.
Bureaucracy is thorough and essential
You would be surprised by the number of applications for admission and financial aid that are rejected because a piece of information was missing in the application, or it was filled out incorrectly. In the case of these procedures and processes, carrying them out carefully and in detail will prevent you from making mistakes that put the approval of scholarships at risk. Have at hand each and every one of the papers and requirements that will be requested of you and check perfectly what you will be asked to do with each one of them.
Million dollar question
The fundamental question of your admissions process is: “What matters most and why?”. Also, for the scholarship process, having a clear answer to this question is an important step for you to show that not only is your profile competitive, but that the scholarship will be one of the key points for you to develop successfully. It is another good time to emphasize, again, that financial need will be an important factor, but not a determining factor, to be eligible for a scholarship. Hence the importance of being clear about future professional goals, which involve studying a certain postgraduate degree to achieve a certain change in society.
Learn to write for others
As a final point, but no less important, it is essential to learn to write and write for others: “The person who attends your request will review your documentation with a different mindset: on the one hand, they will not […] be familiar with the discipline in which your program is framed; and, on the other, it will be looking for in whom it is worth investing the resources and in what way it can justify this choice ”(Borunda & Borunda, 2020). Resources are limited in scholarship funds, so they look for the best profiles. No matter how competitive and developed your profile is, if you don’t know how to frame it in an essay that shows your passion and your desire to make important changes in society, your chances of being awarded a scholarship will be limited.
For this reason, it is important that, when you write, you have coaching to advise you on your essays and the rest of the admission requirements.
Determine if a scholarship is necessary, alternatives
Extra point: sometimes you can cover, if not all the costs of your education, then a significant part. In this case, consider that you may be eligible for other types of scholarships and financing. Do not discard them at first, as they can give you economic sustenance in the beginning. In addition, there are always alternatives so that you can pay for your studies while you are abroad. Find out if there are internships or agreements so you can work on Campus, or determine what other alternatives are offered in the admissions offices.