A Scholarship Guide
After having spent a good 150+ hours on scholarship research and all related activities: writing personal letters, finding the right supporting documents, following up… I do have some advice to give on the topic. First and foremost: there is no such thing as free money. Scholarship research, just like applying to an American university (and to the best of my knowledge a British or any other university outside of Sweden that doesn’t use antagning.se) takes time, and it’s worth considering whether you rather find another job or take out additional loans instead. However, when you after your sweat and tears from time to time hear back some positive news, it’s really a welcome contribution to that tuition bill. Hence, here’s my guide to scholarship search:
There are a bunch of companies advertising that for a small fee they will do the search for you, however, I’ve found that the best way is simply to do the search on your own: Google is your friend, and some libraries have specific scholarship databases. There’s really no easy way around this, you have to be diligent and search search search. Though, it does help to single out what kind of scholarships you are eligible for, in my case I’ve focused on international studies and drama/culture. Sports related sponsorships and funds are to my experience the easiest to find, so if you play a sport that’s an advantage (however handball didn’t help me much, most Americans have no clue that it exists). Personally I also made the decision to focus on Swedish scholarships due to the perceived smaller application pool, but most universities provide other databases, and I encourage anyone to explore that as well if you’d ever find yourself the time. This initial step of finding the right scholarships might seem overwhelming but don’t get discouraged if you don’t seem to fit in precisely in the foundations’ descriptions – it’s up to you to convince the board members that you’re the candidate they’re looking for.
I make myself a spread sheet with all the details and deadlines for my applications so I know when they open for new submissions and when I need to have sent the application. So far it has turned out that I finish all the applications for fall semester when I’m home and working over the summer and all the spring submissions over winter break.
Most scholarship funds have an application form and most also want a personal letter and other supporting documents. A copy of your admission letter, grades and a budget breakdown are not uncommon requirements. For some, work samples may also be appropriate.
This is the most important part of your application as this is where you show the board members why you’re worth their investment. So show it.
This is probably the easiest part of your scholarship research. Just remember to send all the papers they ask for – and to NOT send documents they explicitly ask you not to submit.
Make sure everything is in order and submit your application. Just over the few years I’ve been active, more and more scholarship funds go online, but there are still a few that want hardcopies.
You usually get a confirmation letter or email stating that the fund has received your application, but if you don’t hear back within a week or so, reach out and make sure that they’ve got your papers. Also, should you be awarded some funding you’re usually required to get back within a year and account for your sought purposes.
I hope this is useful, although I have to repeat that applying for scholarships is hard and taxing. But, I’ve also found that writing that biannual personal statement allows me reflect on the semester that has passed, as well as allows me to single out my main objectives for the six months to come. And so with that I wish you: happy hunting!
Ps. If you’re a Swede reading this I can send you off in the right direction by recommending the fund that I’ve been fortunate to have received grants from three years in a row: Carl Erik Levins Stiftelse, and their site is a good place to start
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