How to improve your chances to win a scholarship

First, to find potential opportunities for funding, it is worth keeping an eye on the various newsletters your school sends out, while consulting the scholarship guides that most universities make available. Some systems even allow you to create personalized alerts to notify you about upcoming awards that may be of interest like our website Scholarships in Europe. Winning a scholarship is not a simple thing to do considering there are a lot of scholarship seekers and there are only a few scholarship awards out there.

Find a scholarship that only few know about

Sometimes, knowledge is key in winning a scholarship.  In your months of searching, you must have come across popular worldwide scholarships and flagship scholarships of popular universities.  These scholarships are great to apply to but extremely competitive to get. There is one type of scholarships that you might have better chances of winning: school-specific or department-specific scholarships. School-specific scholarships are good scholarships to apply to because they are targeted to your field of study and more importantly, fewer people know about these scholarships because they are not as easy to find as university-wide scholarships and not as known as popular scholarships. Generally, there is lesser competition in applying for these scholarships, thereby increasing your chances.

Don’t pass up small opportunities

Smaller awards can often be a useful stepping stone to winning major, prestigious external scholarships. Applying for these awards can pay dividends. The applications are often less daunting, the response times shorter, and the chances of success higher! For many scholarship competitions, any awards or scholarships that you have already won will work in your favor when your application is assessed. In general, having already received scholarships will increase your likelihood of winning another!

Related: Don’t apply to every scholarship

Follow the scholarship criteria

Every scholarship has its own conditions, criteria and terms. Read them very carefully and follow the instructions closely. First, check the eligibility criteria, which may be dependent on your program of study, citizenship status, minimum grade point average or progress in the program. Before spending time preparing an application, make sure that you meet these criteria. If you have any doubts or are unsure, check with the scholarship coordinator, as applications that fail to meet the eligibility criteria are usually rejected. Next, read the application instructions carefully. Do you need letters of support? Proof of enrollment? An official transcript? Get the ball rolling quickly so you can get these documents on time and give people sufficient time to write a letter of support.

Many graduate scholarships also ask for a description of your research project. The fact that space is limited does not make this task any easier. To summarize your project in a way that is convincing, clear and concise, you will probably need to ask your supervisory team, colleagues and friends to read it over numerous times.

Although many scholarships may seem alike, make sure you follow the specific requirements of each one that you apply for. It is essential that you not only provide the requested documents and follow the instructions, but also ensure that the content is consistent with the application and evaluation criteria. Showcase the parts of your file that particularly meet the award criteria and objectives. The evaluators must be able to clearly and easily find all the information they need.

Apply only for scholarships that are best matched to your qualifications, and if possible, whose priority fields of study are related to your degree/ research/ experience.

Stand out in your scholarship application

Since scholarship application is quite competitive, your application must stand out above the rest. This means you must not only meet the scholarship criteria set by the scholarship provider but exceed it. The key here is to know the specific criteria set by the scholarship provider and make it work to your advantage. Once you know their criteria, you can find creative ways to to highlight the strengths of your scholarship application.

For example, if you don’t have very good academic grades, you can highlight relevant extra-curricular activities in your personal motivation letter.  In another example, you can do a little extra research about the current areas of focus of the scholarship provider because sometimes,  students are chosen based on their chosen field of study or research – if it aligns with the scholarship provider’s core mission/themes.  It is also useful to know the profiles of previous scholarship recipients; it will give you an idea of the kind of student that the scholarship providers are looking for.

Plan ahead

For all these reasons, submitting a scholarship application can involve many hours of work — which is why it is essential to get a head start. So you won a scholarship? Congratulations! Don’t forget to tell, and thank, all those who gave you a letter of support or helped you draw up your scholarship application. Lastly, carefully record all the details of the scholarship you received, such as the date, amount, criteria, and the name of the award and the organization. You will need that information for your CV and your next scholarship application!


  • Look anywhere and everywhere for scholarship opportunities. Besides your local library, you can also look in scholarship books, in online scholarships database, or even at you or your parent/guardian’s employer.
  • Don’t leave any spaces on your applications blank. At the very least, if something does not apply to you, write “N/A” in the space instead of simply leaving it blank.
  • Before you send off your applications, have a parent, teacher or other trusted adult proofread your application. Even if you feel you’ve made no mistakes, they might find one you may have missed.
  • Keep a running record either in a spreadsheet or planner of all scholarships you plan on applying for, including their due dates. This way, you won’t accidentally miss an important due date.


  • Beware of scholarship scams. As a general rule of thumb, trust your instincts. If you’re on a website or reading an application that just seems off (even if you can’t pinpoint how), then it is best not to apply for that scholarship.
  • Avoid devoting your whole free time to applying. Instead, devote about an hour each day, or less if you’d like. This way, you can still spend time doing things with your friends, or other important tasks.
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