Scholarship Applications – 10 Reasons why yours will fail

By StudyLink

ScholarshipsYou want to study abroad. That dream does not come cheaply, and for many international students a scholarship is the only way to get there.
So why are so many scholarship applications sent straight to the bin?
In this article, we’ll share the ten most common mistakes students make with their scholarship application. They may seem like common sense – so make sure you avoid them if you want your application to succeed!

1. You don’t qualify for the scholarship

Let’s set some realistic expectations. Every scholarship – and there are a gazillion of them out there – has very specific requirements. So don’t bother applying if they require a straight-A student and you generally get C’s. Or if the scholarship is for Nigerian citizens, and you are from Singapore. Or if the scholarship is for post-grad students and you’re studying a diploma. It’s just not going to happen, and you’ll be wasting your time.
And of course, there’s no point in applying for a university scholarship if you haven’t yet been accepted for that program!

2. You forgot to research all the options

It takes time to prepare a good scholarship application, and the first step is research. You need to know all the options available to you and get as much information as you can on what each scholarship is looking for.
Almost every university and college has some kind of scholarship or bursary system – usually based on merit and always very competitive.
There are many other scholarships available, including private foundation ones (such as the Fulbright), international government agency ones (such as British Council) and your own government. Contact your local Department of Education for more information.

3. You only applied for one or two scholarships

Apply for as many as you qualify for! That gives you more chance of success. Yes, it takes time, as you need to write each application specifically for that scholarship – but you want the money, right?

4. You left it until the last minute

As well as research, you need time to get organised. Find some appropriate referees and let them know what you need them to do and say. Arrange for the required documentation such as transcripts – they may need to be certified. There’s no point in sending off the application unless it is complete, so don’t run the risk of forgetting something important.

5. You missed the deadline

This is surprisingly common. Every scholarship has a different deadline, so don’t assume they all fit to the same intake schedule. Once that deadline passes, it’s over. And if you do submit it late, it doesn’t reflect well on your organisational abilities.

6. You didn’t answer the question

The scholarship committee has designed the questions to find out whether you have the abilities they are seeking. So don’t answer a question about how you overcame an obstacle with a comment about your amazing high school results. If you fail to follow the specific directions or answer the questions fully, the committee assume you have just submitted the same copied and pasted application to every scholarship. Straight to the bin, I’m afraid.

7. You fell for a scholarship scam

Yep, you didn’t win the scholarship because it never actually existed. Beware of online sites offering ‘guaranteed’ scholarships for a small fee, or agencies that want your bank information or money in advance. You should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship. So don’t do it.

8. You lost your audience on the first page

If you’re applying for a post-graduate or research grant, don’t assume your reader will understand every technical detail of your planned PhD. Avoid the jargon and acronyms – unless you’re willing to explain them. Ask yourself, would my mum understand it? And if you’re not sure, get her to read it first.

9. You forgot to check your grammar

And your spelling too. Some committee will put your application on the reject pile if it has just one spelling mistake. It needs to be perfect, and it demonstrates your language ability too.

10. You didn’t get it proof-read

As some friends and family to check it over for spelling mistakes, structure and whether the questions are answered. It’s also good to show it to your referees, as they’ll then know what abilities to emphasise if they are asked for a referral.
If you need any more advice on scholarships, chat to one of our student counsellors. You’ll find more articles on available scholarships on this blog.


Here are some real mistakes students have made with their scholarship applications:

  • Mailed the envelope, without the application
  • Used impossible-to-read fancy font
  • Used completely illegible handwriting
  • Sent their arrest record in as a referral
  • Submitted a baby photo as their ‘recent’ picture
  • Forgot to include their name and address
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