The Ultimate Guide To Finding The Right Study Abroad Scholarship For You (With A Free 8-Step Printable Planner!)
If there is one thing that I was literally forced to learn throughout these years of studies abroad is how to get things done. By learning about productivity, I understood that there is absolutely no project that you can’t carry out. No matter how big your dreams may seem, you can make it real by making time for it, breaking it down into small steps, and doing one thing at a time.
With this in mind, the intention of this post is to save you some work and to give you the steps to follow in order to find the right scholarships to apply for (so that you have absolutely no excuse to postpone such an endeavor!).
This exercise might take a couple of hours. But believe me, if you really want to find the right scholarship and get funded to study abroad, this is the way to go.
If you can’t do it right now, just schedule a gap in your planner. And if you happen to be free right at this moment, then take this precious time to finally build the life you want.
This post also comes as a free and downloadable 8-step printable planner with prompts and lots of writing space for you to reflect on what you really want out of a study abroad experience.
Are you ready to hatch a strategy for your scholarship application? Let's get on to it!
Step 1: Know why you want to go abroad
This is the first thing you need to figure out. There can be a million reasons why someone wants to go abroad, but finding yours is essential since it will define to what extent you are flexible about the destination, the duration of your stay or the kind of course/scholarship you will apply for.
For example, if your intention is simply to take a break from work and studying for a while as a way to be abroad, then you might not care much about the institution or course you are taking. Maybe even a language course would be a fit for you.
On the other hand, if you want to study abroad to improve your employability, then you might need to pick the institution/course more wisely.
So try to find your reasonS:
- Is it because you are tired of your job and want to take a break?
- Is it because you believe that a course abroad will add to your CV and improve your career?
- Is it because you just like and want to travel for longer than your job vacations?
- Is it because you found a boyfriend/girlfriend and want to join him/her wherever he/she is?
- Is it because you don’t think you fit in your own country and want to look for a better place to live with you family or start one?
You are the only person who can answer these questions.
Step 2: Know your limits
Ok, this is quite a hard step because you kinda need to make a self-analysis and looking at oneself is always difficult.
Despite looking like heaven-on-earth, living abroad, like everything else, has its ups and downs, being away from your family, having to lower your life standards and having to put yourself out there to make new friends are among the worst parts of such experience.
In this sense, you need to consider how willing you would be to take the downs of living in another country.
In this step, a good exercise is to ask yourself what your preferences and limits are, what you can't live without, and take decisions. For example, if you are very attached to your family, then it is very likely that you will have a hard time adapting. Still, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. It just means that you might reduce your stay abroad to some months.
Another thing to consider is that even if you save some money before moving abroad, you need to be prepared to live a much simpler life on a scholarship - meaning that you will probably need to live in a small or shared space, use public transportation and give up on many other luxuries which you might have in your current situation.
If you are the kind of person who can’t give up on luxuries and still wants to live abroad, then you will need to consider saving money before departure to add up to your scholarship grant.
Step 3: Define how long you want to be abroad
In connection with steps one and two, you are now ready to define how long you want to stay abroad: is it a couple of months, a semester, a year, two years, forever? The answer to this question will have a great impact on the kind of scholarship you will be looking for.
Step 4: Know your budget
Moving abroad on a scholarship may also involve some money upfront. It's important to know how much you're able to cash out and how flexible you can be in terms of scholarship amounts.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have any savings?
- Do you have a family to take care of?
- Will you have recurring expenses in your home country while studying abroad (e.g. mortgage, car loan, bills)?
- Do you need a full scholarship or do you think that only a tuition waiver would be enough for you?
- If you have a location-independent job, will you be able to continue doing that to complement your savings?
Step 5: Define where you want to go to
Now it’s time to define where you would be willing to go to. In my opinion, it’s the coolest step.
Here is the game: first, take a world map (be it on paper or on the screen). Observe it. Open your mind. Imagine yourself in different places, countries, continents. Don’t stop yourself. Dream big and crazy!
Don’t you feel excited? When I first did this, I felt so empowered. Actually, it was the first time that I felt the sensation that I was writing my own story and not just living an ordinary life.
try to guide yourself with the following questions:
- Am I very specific about my destination for whatever reason? (if yes, then you need to think no more)
- What are my dream places? Write them down.
- If I don’t find a scholarship in my dream places, would I be willing to go somewhere else?
- Do I want to go to countries where the languages I know are spoken or do I want to go to a place to also learn a new language?
- Do I want an exotic destination or an urban experience?
After answering these questions, make a list of the countries you think would be good destinations for you.
Step 6: It’s time to explore!
Now that you have mapped out your current situation and expectations, it’s time to finally make the search for scholarships which fit your minimal requirements.
You have different ways to do that:
Google your keywords: for example, ‘scholarship in Europe’, ‘undergraduate scholarships in the US’, ‘master scholarships in Italy’. Remember that English is the most international language but, for countries, making the search in the local language can direct you to national scholarships that might not have been posted in English.
You can also join Facebook pages dedicated to scholarships. Type in "study abroad" and/or "scholarships" on the Facebook search box.
If you are still a university student, go to the International Relations department of your institution and check on the partnerships that they might have with foreign universities. Also, ask them if they have any kind of funds for sending students abroad.
As you make the search, use our free 13-page printable planner to note down the potential scholarships you can apply for and other pertinent information such as application deadlines and document requirements. This is the first filter and an average list would have around 10 options.
Step 7: Make a short list
Go through the scholarships that you have listed before and make a short list of the ones that you think may be a good match. In order to identify if a certain scholarship is a good option for you, pay attention to details, such as:
- Do I meet the age/nationality requirements?
- How much does the scholarship pay? Is it enough to live in the country where the course is held? Does it include travel and accommodation costs?
- When is the next deadline for application?
- Does the course interest me? Would I be motivated enough to take it until the end?
- Does this scholarship demand me to go back to my home country at the end of the course? (If your intention is to grow roots abroad, then you should be careful about this detail).
We suggest you apply for as many scholarships as you can. An average short list would have at least 3 options. The more you scholarships you apply to, the more chances you have to land one. Don’t put all of your eggs in just one basket!
Step 8: Apply!!!
Congratulations! You have just taken the first step toward your dream of studying abroad and are now ready to move to the next phase of the process: the scholarship applications.
To make things easier for you, here's a free planner you can print out and write your reflections on. It's designed to give you helpful prompts so you can start thinking about the kind of scholarships and study abroad experience you'd like or need to have and so you can focus on those that really match your desires and life goals.
If you want to read more about scholarships, Icy has written great posts about how to apply for Erasmus Mundus scholarships (that can also serve for many other scholarships applications), reasons to study abroad with an Erasmus Mundus scholarship, and how to write an effective scholarship motivation letter.
You can also check out our library of other free resources for your scholarship applications.
Despite how hard it must look to get a scholarship, someone will get it. And this someone can be you! You will never know if you never try. And if you do, please share it with us!
Good luck, suerte, sorte!