10 things you should know about applying for scholarships

10 things you should know about applying for scholarships

The Jamaican student's guide to snagging the best scholarships out there

Every year, thousands of students try to obtain funding for their tertiary education, many unsuccessfully. Below are a few key elements students should explore. 

1.   Have you received your acceptance letter? Hoping for a financial assistance with tuition is all well and good, but most donors will want to see proof of acceptance to pursue the course of study you have selected. That said, try be amongst the “early birds” when applying to colleges and universities; fingers crossed the scholarship deadline will be after you have received your acceptance letter.

2.   What is your GPA?Your grade point average is a tally of all your grades for all semesters and courses completed. A GPA of 4.0 represents a perfect score or “straight As” in most systems. Most scholarship donors will often request information about your GPA in order to determine eligibility. Your most recent progress report should have your GPA for the semester or year, if not, request a transcript from the institution you are attending/ last attended for your personal use.

3.   Do you know what your transcript looks like?Most students have no idea what their transcript (academic record) looks like; simply because usually when a request is made by a student, the transcript is sent directly from institution to institution. There is no law which states that you cannot request one for yourself. There is often a charge to request a transcript, but that is a small price to pay for ensuring that information being forwarded about your academic achievements is correct. Imagine missing out on a scholarship opportunity because of incorrect information on your transcript! Bear in mind though, that when applying for scholarships, an “official” one must be requested and should be sent to the scholarship administrator, directly from your school.

4.   Do you have a valid form of national identification? Some scholarship donors will need some form of national identification. Do not wait until the last minute to check the expiry dates on your ID cards. You would have know ahead of time that you will be seeking out scholarship opportunities, spend the time ensuring that your documents are in order. For students already “in the system”, example second year students applying for third year scholarships, students applying for third year scholarships, our college/ university ID might be acceptable. In Jamaica , the government issued IDs that are accepted include:

  • Voter's I.D.
  • Passport
  • Driver's License

5.   Can you prove your age and place of birth?Some scholarships are specifically for students in a particular age group. Donors may wish to see a copy of your birth certificate as proof of your age and country of birth. When was the last time you saw a copy of your birth certificate?

6.   Who are the top 2 - 3 persons I can count on to be good references?Typically, scholarship application forms request the names of two individuals that can act as a reference. These individuals should at some point, have interacted with you in a capacity that would allow them to be able to pass judgement on your character and tenacity. Some application forms will state exactly who should be used as a reference, others provide some freedom. The two most common include: a current/ past employer and a current/ past teacher or lecturer. Others may request that a Justice of the Peace/ Notary Public, Pastor or Doctor be used. Make a list of at least 3 individuals you can depend on! Let them know ahead of time that you may need their support.

7.   Generic essay outline in place?Often times, the essay component of the scholarship application is what determines who is awarded the scholarship and who isn’t. When all the GPAs and extracurricular activities and social involvement are similar amongst candidates, it is how one is able to express him/herself in writing or face to face that is the swings the voting. Essay topics range from explain your reasons for choosing a particular area of study, to explaining how you will be able to contribute to the development of your country when your course of study is complete. Spend some time researching essay topics on previous scholarship applications and create your own outline in the event you will be required to write about something similar when it is your time to apply.

8.   Have you identified your interview suit?Whilst this might not be a job interview, scholarship interviews are just as important. The same rules about dress, hygiene and grooming apply. Gauge the level of “dress up” by the donor institution and level of study for which the scholarship is being offered. Corporate organizations will usually have a representative from their company on the panel if the interview is being conducted by the school or third party organization. Academic achievements aside, they could very well be scouting potential employees. Step it up a notch in this case.

9.   Did you know you may be eligible to combine scholarships and grants to cover the cost of your tuition and books?Whilst some donors will stipulate that recipients of a particular scholarship cannot be the recipient of other scholarships, most donors pay attention to need. Try your luck at accessing several scholarships to cover your expenses. A $10,000 grant here and there can go a far way.

10.   Wishing to study abroad?Do your research ahead of time! Gather information about student visa requirements for the respective countries, and take note of the possible restrictions relating to employment during and after your studies have been completed. Colleges and universities in some countries value results from scholastic and college entrance exams such as: SAT, ACT, GMAT, GRE, etc. Find out which ones are likely to boost your chances for acceptance to your institution of choice. Also, take nothing for granted! Get the facts as to exactly what is covered under your scholarship to study abroad. Some scholarships may cover tuition, books, airfare, housing and a stipend; others cover tuition only.

Edris Whyte is an Internet Marketing Specialist and founder of www.studyinjamaica.com. Email edriswhyte@studyinjamaica.com 

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19 Jan 2011

By Edris Whyte