How can you get ahead in the competitive scholarship field? We’ve got the inside scoop from Megan Lee, director of GoAbroad, on what makes students stand out (positively and negatively) to help your application be memorable for all the right reasons. Here’s how to be amongst the few that are given financing for their abroad experience:
1. Start Early, We Mean Real Early
Collect all the information and materials you need in advance, and make a timeline for applying. Megan recommends getting started a year in advance (never too early to get yourself organized!). Deadlines can sneak up on you quickly if you're unprepared and a hastily written application might as well be one you didn't submit.
2. Research and Resources Count
Check out GoAbroad’s online directory and resources on study, intern, and volunteer abroad scholarships. There are some incredible opportunities out there, and taking the time to do your research will really pay off. Megan recommends students "cast a wide net," and make sure to apply to more scholarships, to increase you chances.
"Invest time in applying and don't get discouraged throughout the process," Megan says. "Sometimes the process takes a long time, and if you haven't heard anything for awhile, keep applying."
3. Think Big in Your Essay
Think big with your application essay. Most applications ask why the specific scholarship or abroad program would benefit your academic goals. In answering, Megan recommends connecting your abroad experience to the bigger picture.
How will this program contribute to your future career goals?
How will it allow you to follow your passions?
How will it change your perspective on the world?
Also, be sure to personalize each essay to each scholarship and ask at least two people to proofread your work. It's obvious when one generic essay is used over and over, so tweaking your work to cater to the specific program will be worth the extra time.
4. Find a Creative edge Within Dry Guidelines
You can make your application really stand out by staying true to yourself. If you’re an artist, create art. If you love to write, showcase your talent. As long as you don’t wander too far from the criteria and guidelines for the application, you have the chance to bring an authentic spark to what you’re presenting.
You’ll be surprised how well those processing scholarship applications respond to work that brings something different. Design your scholarship application so that it tells the story of who you are and what makes you different.
"Students often get bogged down with crafting theories and complex papers, but in reality there are a lot of different ways to learn and showcase why your skills are valuable," Megan says. "By using photos or pictures, or other avenues to showcase your talents, you can get people more excited about your application."
5. Don't Let the Little Stuff Stand in the Way
The biggest mistake students can make in applying is not triple-checking the details. Make sure you meet all the eligibility requirements. Check your deadlines for recommendation letters, essays, and application fees. And, most importantly, make sure you address your application materials to the correct scholarship fund!
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