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What makes an ideal scholarship candidate?


What makes an ideal scholarship candidate? The answer is as varied as the number of scholarships and bursaries available for international students. Competition for the most lucrative financial scholarships is intense, so do you fit the profile for the ideal scholarship candidate?

Read more: Top 10 tips on getting that scholarship

We asked some international scholarship offices around the world for their perspective, so, what do they look for when judging a scholarship application?

Why should you receive a scholarship?

There are literally hundreds of scholarships available, from those specific to your host university to government-funded awards, such as Commonwealth Scholarships, and global awards such as Rotary. They range from a fee discount of as little as US$500 to over US$40,000 a year.

It’s important to remember that each scholarship has different requirements. So don’t limit yourself to just one, but make sure you write a different application each and every time.

Applying for a scholarship is just like applying for a job. The one that has your name on it will require the exact skills, experience and potential that you offer. If you have already laid a solid foundation for your future career, you’re already halfway to winning the scholarship you deserve.

The ideal scholarship candidate…

  • Can prove academic success, beyond good grades. Have you achieved excellence in the most challenging classes? Have you take on extra-curricular activities to further your understanding and skills? Have you a strong grasp of the local language, at a higher level than the course requirement?
  • Shows leadership skills and potential. Have you actively taken on leadership roles in community groups or the workplace? Have you developed public speaking skills? Can you argue your opinions diplomatically?
  • Is professional and committed. Your references, application, essay and photo (if required) will reflect on these characteristics, even if the scholarship board never gets to meet you in person. Make sure you get someone else to check it carefully for spelling and grammar, and keep to the question requirements. If they ask for a 500-word answer, don’t write 5000!
  • Has a strong network of mentors and referees. Build relationships with your professors, advisors and employers, they form a valuable network for careers and scholarships.

Roehampton University, in London, offers a range of scholarships to international students – from the Vice-Chancellor’s scholarship, a fee reduction awarded automatically on academic performance, to the Commonwealth Scholarship which covers all tuition fees, travel costs and a monthly allowance.

Simon Kaufman, Roehampton’s Senior International Officer, explains that each scholarship looks at different qualities. “For the Commonwealth Scholarship, we look for the capability to make a significant contribution to social and economic development in their own country when they complete their studies.”

“With the Roehampton 2025 scholarships (a first-year fee discount of £4,000), we need evidence of academic excellence, and we look at how the applicant will fulfil their career goals and make a contribution to our University community. We are also looking for students who will promote international understanding for our Sacred Heart Scholarship, which covers tuition fees and on-campus accommodation.”

So, the most important thing any applicant must do is tailor their personal statement to the eligibility criteria and specific requirements.

Nikhil Lately, a recent alumni of Roehampton University, was awarded an India Country Scholarship in 2007. He completed a postgraduate MSc in Sports and Exercise Science, and has now set up a sports science facility at Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai.

As Nikhil explains, “Sports science does not really exist as a field in India. Now my degree and training has paid off, as I was offered a job at an NGO here in Mumbai to work as head of pulmonary rehabilitation, and they gave me the opportunity to set up a sport science lab. The lab, at the moment, is quite rudimentary and does not match the resources at Roehampton, but it’s a solid start.”

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