Scholarships: beating the competition

Scholarships are a competitive area, as might be expected, and there are ways to increase your chances in being successful in an application (aside from being devoted to your subject)!

Here are some practical tips that should ensure you get ahead in the race:

Apply for the right scholarship

It goes without saying that you should apply for something in your field. We are not here advising that a mathematician refrain from applying an arts scholarship (or vice versa) but that you should consider the nuances of each scholarship opportunity. Disciplines often overlap and have various strands of thought within them. So read the guidelines carefully and watch out for some key words and styles that you think might indicate a match or dissonance with your interests.

To add, scholarship opportunities might not clearly label these differences, so you should scratch the surface a little to better understand whether your time is best utilised in making the application. There are essentially two ways of doing this:

  • Look at previous winners: You might, if you can access information on previous winners, find that there is a particular pattern in research interests or general direction of study. This should help you decide as to whether you might make a good candidate for funding.
  • Have a conversation: There is also a benefit in actually trying to speak to someone about your application. Communicating with the organisation on the phone, face-to-face, or via email, not only brings insight, but also shows a keenness that the potential decision makers might admire.

It is also possible that your best opportunity for funding might come from outside academia. Wouldn’t it be nice, for instance, if you found a funding stream that isn’t on anyone else’s radar. Or if you were to find that your particular skill and knowledge is fast becoming desirable to industry. Again, you could seek advice to this end from colleagues, teachers and people of the industry in question.

Treat it like an exam

In a sense, scholarship applications are exams, so treat them like one. It is therefore an obvious benefit to prepare notes, revise and keep a close eye on the deadline. It is likely that there will be an interview and written element to the application, so being sharp with how you represent your ideas might just get you over the line ahead of someone else.

If there are any gaps in your knowledge, it is a good time to try to fill them for want of getting stuck during the process.

The personal statement is also important. They should be around 500 – 800 words of concise writing. This is not to say that you should dampen any written flare. If you have it, and you think that it might impress, then use it. There is nothing that bores the application board more than reading generic CV sounding applications.

Keep applications within your time restraints

Leading on from above, quality is more important that quantity of applications. You should aim to make as many applications as you can, but you shouldn’t bog yourself down in cutting and pasting template application responses when you could be thinking hard about an application that you have prioritised. Think about your time constraints and keep your applications within them. Vendors design the applications so that you put some time and effort into them and they will be able to spot a blanket reply from a mile off.

Good luck!


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