Full scholarships (also called full scholarships) are the holy grail of funding opportunities, as they cover almost everything for the three or four years of college. Tuition and living expenses are covered by the provider, leaving you free to focus on your studies and social life without worrying about money. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, these scholarships are not plentiful. Full scholarships are rare and those that are available are very competitive. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply: read on to discover tips to increase your chances of getting one of these prestigious scholarships.
1. Know where to look
First of all, where do you find full scholarships? The first thing to do is to check the official website of your chosen university, which may offer its own funding opportunities for students in your field or specialty, or list external scholarships you may be eligible for.
In addition to your university, you can check out sites such as InternationalScholarships.com or FastWeb.com, as well as our Scholarships Abroad page, which lists funding opportunities in different study destinations, subject-specific scholarships, and scholarships for specific groups of students (e.g. African students).
2. Prepare in advance
If you know that you will need a full scholarship to attend college, it is important that you start preparing as far in advance as possible. This is especially important if you know you will need to interview: some universities hold special “scholarship weekends” where 50-100 students are invited to campus to meet with a faculty member and answer questions about their goals and motivations and how they fit into the university and the course. If you are going to a scholarship interview, you should treat it like any other formal interview, dressing smartly and arriving well prepared with good answers to their potential questions, and having a few questions ready to go when you are invited at the end of the interview. Find out how to answer the most common admissions interview questions here.
3. Work hard and stay motivated
While some full scholarships are based on financial need rather than academic excellence, others take both into account or are only awarded to exceptional students. It goes without saying that you’ll have to work hard for your education, but you’ll have to work very hard if you want to get a full scholarship, as most are awarded to the highest performing students. In some cases, universities automatically consider applicants for full scholarships as part of the normal college application, making good grades crucial. Although studying can be mentally exhausting, try to stay motivated by keeping your goals in mind and give yourself a break every now and then to relax (especially during and after exam time).
4. Stand out from the crowd
With so much competition for a full scholarship, it is essential to stand out from the group of applicants by demonstrating a real commitment to improving yourself as an individual. This means having extracurricular activities to show scholarship providers, demonstrating your passions and interests outside of the classroom, as well as examples of involvement in the local community, perhaps by participating in volunteer activities for a good cause.
Scholarship providers also place a high value on leadership skills, which you can demonstrate by volunteering to lead projects in your extracurricular or community activities.
Therefore, it is important to build strong relationships with your academic mentors: if a mentor knows you well, they will be able to give a more personal and accurate picture of you in their letter.
5. Read the application instructions carefully.
This may seem extremely obvious, but you don’t want to lose your chances by accidentally omitting a document or piece of information provided in the application instructions. Be sure to read the application instructions carefully and repeatedly to reduce the likelihood of omitting something, and email the provider if you need clarification.
6. Submit an outstanding essay or cover letter
It goes without saying that the wording of the application or cover letter should be of the highest quality possible. This means making sure it is clear and concise, properly formatted, draws the reader in with a good introduction, focuses on the main topic, and has perfect spelling and grammar. Don’t just reread the text hundreds of times to make sure it’s perfect – have a friend proofread it and check for typos or sentences that don’t read as well as they could.
7. Be realistic
Finally, as mentioned above, the truth is that full scholarships are few and far between and are extremely competitive, which means that many applicants who meet and exceed the requirements for a full scholarship end up getting shut out. Don’t let this stop you from applying, but be realistic in your expectations. Remember that there is no limit to the number of fellowship applications you can submit, and there is generally no limit to the number of fellowships you can be awarded, so you may be able to build up your full fellowship using two or more smaller fellowships (of course, be sure to check with the providers that you can apply for and receive funding from other sources). If you are rejected, try not to get discouraged: get up, dust yourself off, and don’t stop trying in life until you get what you want.