Strategies To Overcome Fear And Apply For Your Dream Scholarship Abroad
Once I heard a friend of mine say that she did not apply for one of the best state universities in Brazil "because it was too competitive for someone who had attended a bad public school like she had". Knowing this friend so well as I do (she is actually one of the most professional people I know), I am sure that not only she would have been approved in such university but that she would also have been one of the best students from her batch.
So, what was the thing in between my friend and a high-quality university course that she deserved? Simple answer: the single action of trying!
I am telling you this because, just like in the story above, I have met a bunch of smart and well-rounded people who lost the chance of living a great academic experience abroad just because they chose not to try. They let their fear and insecurities speak louder and stick to their limitations instead of sticking to their strengths. "I can't get a scholarship because I don't have good high school grades" or "I will never reach the linguistic level they ask for" or "I am sure I can't compete with so many people who are much better than me"...the excuses are always the same...
So, if you are one of those who think that a scholarship application processes are way too competitive and that you would never have a chance, all you need to do to is to change your mindset and take some other strategic steps. Check it out!
Scholarships are not only for nerds or geniuses
First thing, instead of letting your mind to be populated by thoughts like "applying for a scholarship is too complicated and competitive" or "I am not worth it", just remember: someone, an ordinary person who is flesh and blood like you, will get it....so, why not you? That's it! It's so simple that it looks silly. Thinking like this has always helped me. When I tended to give up I just thought "someone will get it and this one can be me". Worked every time. Besides, scholarships are no genius thing. Believe, from all scholarship holders I have met so far, maybe only 2 or 3 were above average. The rest were normal people like you and me. The difference...again was that they tried! (I think I can't stress this enough!!). And they were strategic about it. And so can be you, by following the steps below.
Go against the flow
Instead of applying to the most popular scholarships and universities, try to find alternative options. Internationalization is a common practice in most universities around the world nowadays and the top-ranked universities are not the only ones to offer scholarships. This means that, if you are strategic enough, you will apply to a medium level university which probably doesn't receive as many applications as Harvard does. Of course this means that you will need to dedicate more to the search process, but, believe me, it's worth it. The strategy here is to find options outside of what everybody usually looks for. For example, if you want to go to Spain, probably the first regions that come to your mind are Madrid and Barcelona. The problem is that these are also the cities that come to everybody else's mind. So, in this case, if you determined that Spain is your destination, then you go and search for the other regions, preferably the least known and, inside these regions, map all universities you can, especially in the midsize-not-so-well-known-cities. Enter their websites. Usually, all universities have a section dedicated to scholarships. By going against the flow, you will probably have more chances.
Identify universities' needs
Let's be honest, universities are not charity centers. Despite the philosophical debate about the role of University in contemporary societies, the fact is that they have been under a hell of a pressure to publish more, to show more work, to deliver services to society. This means that they will probably give a scholarship (aka, give money) to those students and projects that demonstrate to be aligned to their research or internationalization objectives. The strategy, in this case, is whenever you find a scholarship offer that interests you, try to understand where it comes from and what objectives they have with the programme. For example, when I applied for my PhD scholarship, I first checked all the research lines that the research group was working on and the internationalization strategy of the university. Then I made up a project that was aligned with them and with my interests as well, of course. In the project, I all the time tried to show how my project would be useful for addressing the research gap and also the university's interests. It worked perfectly. Remember, they will not choose you based on your needs. They will choose you if you meet their needs.
Sell your product
Ok, going through a scholarship application process is like selling a product. In this case, the product is you. So, as a good seller, first of all, you need to know your product well and with this I mean not only its strengths but also its weaknesses. Make a list. Then, when 'selling your product', make sure you highlight your strengths and show how you compensate your weaknesses. (see also our posts on "How to Deal with Average Grades and Lack of Work Experience when Applying for Graduate Scholarships" and "Insecure About Your English? How To Tackle The English Proficiency Requirement For International Scholarships").
Be prepared to not get it the first time (aka, be resilient)
Applying for a scholarship is like applying for a job. You might apply to ten of them and get only one, or even none. If you get denied, don't lose the motivation. A lot of people have to try it many times. I know people who applied for the same scholarship for fours years until they got it. The trick here is to apply for as many scholarships as you can each year (but keep the quality, please). And, in case you get denied, reassess your application material to think of how you could have done better. If possible, try to find out about the people who got it and analyse their profile in order to understand what recruiters are searching for. Then reshape your application and try again the following year. (Check more about this topic in our post How to Deal with a Rejected Scholarship Application).