Higher Education is a multi-billion dollar industry, thriving on the expense of students seeking to build their skills and develop their career prospects. Unfortunately, the staggering costs of postgraduate (Masters) education is a deterrent from applying, for many talented students worldwide. But if you are smart, talented and passionate, you will be able to uncover a reservoir of opportunities waiting to be explored. Many organizations and governments understand and respect this passion for knowledge. Hence, they award numerous scholarships and bursaries to train future leaders for a better tomorrow.
When they hear about scholarship schemes (especially fully-funded schemes), many students pessimistically assume that the breakneck competition will not allow them to win and therefore, it is not worth trying. While it is true that such scholarships are ferociously competitive, the right mix of talent and passion can easily help you ace the challenge. In 2017/18 many global scholarships just around the corner. I’d like to walk you through some strategies to win that scholarship you so covet. But before that, here is a list of my favorite international scholarships, you should look out for this year.
Fulbright Scholarships – USA
The Fulbright scheme run by the USEFP is one of the most widely recognized international scholarship schemes for postgraduate and PhD studies. To apply for this scholarship, you would need to sit the GRE exam and the English language test. This fully funded scholarship covers majority of the courses in US universities including some top ranked ones such as Stanford, Caltech, University of California Berkeley and Cornell.
Commonwealth Scholarships – UK
The Commonwealth scholarships are also fully funded postgraduate awards granted on academic excellence and student motivation. They are course-specific. So watch out for which universities and courses are offering the Commonwealth scholarships this year. The Commonwealth split scholarships are available for PhD studies.
Chevening Scholarships – UK
Another fully funded, one year postgraduate degree scholarship for future leaders from around the world has been offered by Chevening. It has country-wise quota and list of priority areas. The good news is that the Chevening secretariat has recently quadrupled the scholarship quota for Pakistani applicants!
Rhodes Scholarships – UK
One of the most prestigious and competitive scholarships, the Rhodes is for all-rounders aspiring to study at the Oxford University in the UK.
Endeavor Scholarships – Australia
If you wish to study in the land of the Kangaroos (Australia), apply for the Endeavor scholarships. You would need some professional experience and decent grades to sail through this one.
Erasmus Mundus Scholarships – Europe
If you are a travelling and exploration enthusiast, this scholarship is for you. Each study semester is in a different European (sometimes non-European) country. So, you get to travel, improve your qualification and network with people, all for free.
Other scholarships to keep in sight include the Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded scholarships to study in Japan, South Korea and Singapore and the Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) scholarships for Masters and PhD in China.
How To Get These Scholarships?
So, how to put together a winning application that is so irresistible that the panel cannot help but grant you the award? Here are a few handy tricks to keep in mind
1. Research the scholarship
Gather all possible information on the scholarship provider. Focus on eligibility criteria and scholarship mission/objectives. This is where you will derive your motivation letter from.
2. Apply for university courses
Start your application process early as it can be time consuming. Most scholarships will only consider applications already admitted to their University course. Make your University and course choices carefully.
3. Sell yourself through your motivation letter
This is the most critical part of the process. Many students are deterred by the prospect of writing the scholarship motivation letter but honestly, it is not that difficult. Highlight your academic and professional achievements (without sounding ostentatious). Never lie on your motivation letter. Many scholarship providers will detail exactly what they are looking for (sometimes in the form of questions). Respect the word limit and answer all these questions/points. Show that you are passionate to learn and help your country through this opportunity.
While the GPA/percentage marks could be important in scholarships based on academic excellence, many others are keen on picking future leaders with a vision and passion. So don’t let your low scores demoralize you. Cover that by marketing your extra-curricular activities and professional experiences, if any.
4. Review all documents and send before deadline
Get your reference letters, double-check all required documents, proofread motivation letter, say your prayer and send.
5. Ace the interview
Some scholarship providers conduct panel interviews with shortlisted candidates. The purpose of interviewing is to know the applicant in real time, ensure that motivation letter is genuine and assess personality and language skills of the applicant. Therefore, it goes without saying, don’t lie. Review your application before the interview. Be prepared to justify any anomalies on your application such as career gap, low score in a course, resignation from a previous job or university choice.
With this, I wish good luck to all applicants this year. Now is the ideal time to start applying for university courses. I would also take this opportunity to request parents not to demotivate children who wish to adopt other professions besides medicine and engineering. Groom them to be future leaders from their school days and encourage non-academic skill building exercises. Pakistan is well-endowed with some of the brightest minds in every field. Create your opportunities, go out there in the world and show them that we are intellectuals, not terrorists.