Step 1. Ask for Help
First and foremost, don’t be afraid to reach out to the people around you for help. Contact your university’s study abroad office, your professors, the financial aid office, and your academic advisors to ask them about scholarships or grants that they may know of.
If possible, go in-person to these offices to ask for advice on how to get a scholarship to study abroad, rather than just emailing or calling. Not only will this make it easier for your professors or study abroad office to help you, but they’ll be impressed with your clear determination and initiative in arriving to discuss financial aid in person. The hardest part of getting study abroad scholarships is simply finding them, so be sure to ask the professionals if they know of any!
Step 2. Research, Research, Research
It cannot be said enough: do your research! The more scholarships you can apply for, the more financial aid you will get. You can start by exploring GoAbroad’s Scholarships Directory! There are also a number of other resources, such as NAFSA, that compile lists of scholarships for study abroad students, but this list is not exhaustive and there are many different types of scholarships to study abroad that you should also explore.
The best way to know all the nitty-gritty details of the scholarships you will be applying for, as well as up-to-date application requirements, is to contact the funder directly — they practically wrote the book on how to get a scholarship to study abroad! Not only will this ensure that you have all the correct information, you will also be showing the scholarship or grant funder/provider that you are not afraid to take the initiative and actively pursue the scholarship you are applying for.
Step 4. Tweak Your Resume
Once you’ve compiled your list of study abroad scholarships that you plan on applying for, you now have to work on actually being awarded the scholarships. A huge part of this is your resume! Be sure to highlight any international experience you’ve had, update all of your recent campus activities and try not to go over one page. Writing concisely is important.
Cover letters go hand-in-hand with resumes, and are sometimes a crucial part of an application, as they can be your one chance to make an argument for why you deserve to be awarded a scholarship. However, you can’t just send in a generic cover letter about wonderful of a student you are. Focus on how you plan to translate your lessons from abroad into your life on campus and at home.
If you are applying for a scholarships to study abroad provided by an international university, be sure to research how that country typically organizes their resumes or cover letters and, if you’re confident enough in your language skills, you could try writing them in the language of the country you will be studying in!
Step 5. Check Your References
No, we don’t mean your bibliography. Most study abroad scholarship essays and applications require personal references; that is, someone you’ve worked with either in a professional or academic setting. For most students, this means reaching out to professors and asking for their assistance. When asking a professor to be a reference, or to write you a recommendation letter, always ask them far in advance so that they may prepare.
It is also important to choose professors or employers who you have interacted with, so that they know you well enough to recommend you. In other words, don’t ask your Spanish 101 professor who you took a class with two years ago to write your recommendation letter (unless your relationship with him/her is sólido).
Reach out to authority figures who you know not only would be happy to recommend you for a scholarship for studying abroad, but are also pertinent to the scholarship itself. For example, if you are applying for a leadership scholarship abroad, reach out to the academic advisor of the campus club you are a part of. If you are applying to an international relations scholarship, reach out to your political science professor. However, regardless of who you reach out to, always be respectful and realize that you are asking them to take time out of their busy schedules to help you (and a follow-up, written thank you note never hurts either).
Step 6. Mark Your Calendar
If you are applying for a number of different scholarships or grants, as well as applying for the study abroad program itself, it can be difficult to keep track of all the different deadlines and application requirements. This may seem obvious, but make a calendar specific to your study abroad scholarship applications, with each deadline clearly marked. Staying organized is crucial when applying to more than one scholarship (or even just one!).
Step 7. Apply, Apply Apply!
It may seem tiring, but apply for study abroad scholarships as quickly and thoroughly as you can. This bit WILL require considerable amounts of time and patience, but every little bit counts. Since you’ve already done a lot of legwork, your process should run smoothly. Even smaller awards all add up and ultimately will allow you to have a much more affordable and less stressful summer, semester, or year abroad!
Also, be sure to customize your applications whenever possible, and avoid the temptation to simply copy and paste from one application to another. Scholarship providers know when you’ve done your research on the values of their foundation or the focus of a specific scholarship. Customizing each application will give you a much better chance of becoming a pro at figuring out how to study abroad with scholarship.
Step 8. Take Your Time & Take it Seriously
It can be easy to feel the need to rush through applications, especially if you are applying to a number of them. However, you should treat study abroad applications just as seriously as the applications you completed to be accepted into your university. Read and follow the directions for scholarships to study abroad, and leave yourself enough time to complete all of your applications without feeling like you’re under a heavy-hammer deadline. You’ll turn out better-quality work if you do not feel rushed, and better-quality work means a better chance for more financial aid!
Step 9. Have the Grades
This may seem rudimentary, but in order to get the a scholarship for studying abroad, you often have to have good grades. Not all scholarships or grants require stellar grades or grade point averages, but many of them do. This is simply because the providers want to know that the student receiving their scholarship is serious about their study abroad experience. It’s important to put in the work and get good grades before your time abroad to show scholarship providers that you plan to take your study abroad experience.
Step 10. The Proof is in the Passion
Most, if not all, study abroad scholarship applications require a personal essay. You might start having vivid flashbacks to your university application essays and the stress they caused, but never fear! In these applications, it’s your chance to shine. Be sure to let your passion for study abroad and the country you’ll be studying in to come through in your application essay.
Scholarship funders and providers want to know that their money is being used for a good purpose, and that the student who is applying for them appreciates the opportunity they are being given. So don’t be afraid to express yourself; tell your story and explain why you deserve the scholarship that will allow you to study abroad.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is to put in the time and effort when applying to study abroad scholarships, just as much as you would for any other academic scholarship, and you are sure to see the results. Even if you do not receive as many scholarships for your study abroad experience as you would have hoped, there are other options to fund your time abroad with crowdfunding websites such as FundMyTravel or even by finding tutoring and babysitting jobs while you are abroad (an excellent way to immerse yourself in the culture you are studying in!)