How to win a Scholarship: The Complete Guide

win a scholarship

Do you want to know how to win scholarships?  This is the complete guide!

Funding your education can be difficult if you don’t have enough money. But with a little effort you can win a scholarship to sort out all your educational expenses. There are scholarships for high school students, undergraduates and postgraduate students.

How to Win Scholarships

There are over one million scholarships granted each year but if you don’t know how to go about it, you are not going to benefit even from a single one of it.


Today, I’m going to show you how to win a scholarship in simple steps.
So you want to win a scholarship right? That’s why you are here.

Relax and get yourself a cup of coffee because you are going to read about 2000 words.

This is the complete guide to win scholarships.

After reading this, I can assure you that you have 90 percent chance of winning a scholarship. Since this article is too long, we have divided it into chapters.

We are going to look at;

Chapter 1.  What does the term “scholarship” means
Chapter 2. Types or forms of scholarship
Chapter 3. Requirements or eligibility for most scholarships
Chapter 4. When to apply for a scholarship
Chapter 5. How to apply for a scholarship
Chapter 6. Expectations / Outcomes

So let’s get startarted;

What does the term “scholarship” means?

Scholarship is an amount of money given in-aid to a student to study. A money given as a scholarship is not refunded or the student is not obliged to pay back the scholarship money.

Scholarship can be described in other terms as an allowance, award, grant, stipend, financial aid, bursary or subsidy. These are words that can used in terms of scholarship.

Scholarships are awarded by;

• Institutions (Universities/ schools)
• Organizations / Companies
• Governmental bodies
• Individuals (eg. Bill Gates scholarship)

Asian Development Bank scholarship

Apply: Asian Development Bank/Japan Scholarship Program


Types or forms of scholarship

Scholarships can be describe as full scholarship, partial scholarship, renewable and non-renewable scholarship.

Knowing these things will help you to choose the right scholarship else, you may win a scholarship but you would have to reject it because it’s not sufficient to cover the cost of study.

Let’s dive into these forms of scholarship.

Full Scholarship

Full scholarship covers all the expenses involve in studying a particular course or program.

Full scholarship- University of Queensland

Full scholarship usually includes the payment of monthly stipends, tuition fees, field work and trips, air ticket (in and out).


At times, some full scholarships also cover visa application fee, arrival allowance, health insurance, excess luggage allowance, thesis allowance, warm clothing allowance, family allowance (partner, child) etc.

Partial Scholarship

Unlike full scholarship, Partial scholarship does not cover all the expenses involves in the studies. Partial scholarship can only cover the tuition fee or only monthly stipend.

At times, the tuition fee can be 25%, 50% or 100% waived.

This is a snapshot from Heriot-Watt University website.

Partial scholarship

Partial scholarships usually does not include the payment of visa application fee, thesis allowance, health insurance, excess luggage allowance, arrival allowance, warm clothing allowance etc.

Partial scholarship

Some scholarships are paid as lump sum and the scholarship committee does not state how it should be used i.e. whether it should be used for the payment of tuition fee or as monthly stipend or for accommodation.

In this case, it is up to the applicant or the scholarship holder to decide what to use it for. But always it’s stated that, the scholarship should be used for academic purposes only.

This can be renewable or non-renewable scholarship.

Renewable scholarship

Renewable scholarship is a lump sum which is paid every year to the scholarship holder until he / she finishes the program.

Sometimes it can be paid for only two years or three years or throughout the study period depending on the during of the studies.

Non-Renewable scholarship

This is paid once, usually at the beginning of the study program. At times, the amount you received from non-renewable scholarship can sort out all the expenses of the studies.

If you want tuition free universities, you can skip and read:  Tuition Free Universities in Germany and costs of Living

Or read Study in Norway: Tuition free Universities in Norway

Requirements or Eligibility for most scholarships

Every scholarship describes its own requirements or eligibility but the following requirements runs through most of the scholarship applications.

• Citizenship/ country specific
• Academic qualifications
• Eligibility of the course chosen
• Language proficiency

Citizenship / country specific

Most scholarships are for international students. When a scholarship is for international students, it means that all students from other countries other than the country where the university is located, are eligible.

country specifics
University of Alberta


Some scholarships are for particular Countries. For example, if a scholarship is for students from Bangladesh, it means all other countries are not eligible. If a student from Ghana applies for that scholarship, his application is rejected Ab initio (that’s from the beginning).


scholarship for Bangladesh

Therefore, when you are applying for a scholarship, one thing you must check first is the citizenship else, you may waste your time applying for that scholarship.

Academic Qualifications

Every scholarship is either for High school students, Undergraduates, Masters, PhD or Post-Doctoral studies.
Sometimes, it can a combination of two or more of these qualifications.

If a scholarship is for masters, it means that students with Bachelor’s Degree qualification are eligible to apply.
In the same way, if a scholarship is for PhD, only students with Masters Degree are eligible to apply, in that order.

Aside these pre-qualifications, some scholarships are for excellent students, or on merit.

Others are based on proper description of Motivation letter, work experience, previous research experience, country needs on your proposed study.

Other scholarships are for sports, i.e. students with skills in various sports activities.

athletics scholarship

This scholarship is actually not for excellent students but it may be a help in winning the scholarship if you  have the athletic skills and a better grade.

Eligibility of the course chosen

Some scholarships requires you to apply for the course or program first. You may be rejected for the scholarship if you are not eligible for the program of choice.

Therefore, you must check the requirements of the program of choice before you apply.  Many universities may want you to have some basic knowledge on a program before you can apply.

For example, if you are applying for Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, the university may want you to have studied Mechanical Engineering or similar course in your Bachelor’s Degree or you should have some knowledge in Mechanical Engineering with working experience.

If someone studied BSc. History and apply to study MSc. Geology, the chances that he or she will be rejected is very high. Automatically, he or she will be rejected for the scholarship.

Geology at LMU

But if you studied BSc. History and applied to study MSc. Political studies, the chances that you will be accepted is very high and you also have high chance of winning the scholarship.

Note that some scholarships are for specific programs and if your chosen program is not among, you will be reject for the scholarship.

Some programs also requires pre-examination test such as;

  • GRE- Graduate Record Examination

GRE is written by bachelor’s degree holders who want to undertake their Masters (all fields) or Masters Students applying to study PhD

  • GMAT- Graduate Management Admission Test

It’s accepted by Business Schools and it’s required from students applying to study MSc. Finance and Business Administration

  • SAT- Scholastic Assessment Test

SAT is written by high school leavers who want to study bachelors abroad

  • LSAT- Law School Admission Test

This is a professional exams for Law students.

Having a good score in these pre-examination tests will give you a higher chance in winning the scholarship.

Language proficiency

Most universities will want you to have sufficient language proficiency before they will grant you admission.

If a program is taught in a certain language such as English, German, French etc. and it’s not your first language, you may need to get a good proficiency in that language before you can be admitted.

For English Language, you have to write either IELTS or TOEFL

IELTS- International English Language Testing System

TOEFL- Test of English as a Foreign Language

These examinations tells the university that they can instruct and examine you in English. The test cover Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.

English language proficiency

If the educational institutions in your country or your formal university uses English Language as mode of teaching and examination, you can apply for English Language Proficiency from your formal university.

This will be accepted by the university you are applying.

For French, there are a lot of Language institutions you can learn from.

For German, you can learn it from German Language centers around the globe.
Eg. Goethe-Institut

When to apply for a scholarship

Every scholarship has an opening date and a deadline. Having a foreknowledge on the requirements of a particular scholarship helps in gathering the relevant items for the scholarship.

For most scholarships, it is first come first serve basis. Scholarship committees may not consider your application when you submit it at the deadline date or when approaching the deadline.

There are scholarships that gives more than three (3) months application period. Those scholarships receives over 1000 applications for only 50 slots.

Here is an example from University of Melbourne


So in this case, applying it within the last week will render your application been rejected.
It is therefore advised to apply it as early as possible. Don’t wait till the closing date.

If you are the first person to apply it, good luck. But you must make sure you submitted all the required documents.

How to apply for a scholarship

Scholarship applications can be made online (most used) or through direct submission of documents by post.

Every scholarship describes how students should apply it. There are some scholarships that requires you to submit online as well as post.


In applying for a scholarship, make sure you have all the required documents.

If you are applying for an undergraduate scholarship, you may be asked to provide

  • High school certificate
  • High school transcript
  • Motivation Letter
  • Recommendations from your formal school teachers
  • Passport copy (scanned)
  • Language Proficiency

Most requested documents for Master’s degree scholarship application are;

  •  Bachelors Degree certificate
  • Transcript
  • Motivation Letter
  • Recommendations / Reference
  • Language Proficiency
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • Passport copy
TUM documents
Required documents to study Land Management at TUM







If it’s a PhD, you may need;

  • Bachelors Degree certificate
  • Masters Degree certificate
  • Transcript
  • Previous Research work / Publications
  • Description of Proposed study
  • Motivation Letter
  • Recommendations / Reference
  • Language Proficiency
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • Passport copy

If you are applying for a scholarship and you don’t understand something, feel free to contact the scholarship committee for clarification.

Contacting the scholarship committee will not affect your application in the negative way.

And it is also not a guarantee for winning the scholarship. It will just help you not to make a mistake in your application.

Note that one mistake can make your application been rejected.

When requesting reference from your lectures, please make sure that you also request for an open reference.

An open reference is not addressed to any specific university or scholarship Provider. It’s opened and you can used it for many scholarship applications.

This is good because you can’t always run to your lecturers for reference. Lecturers have limited time and may not want to do it for you on a second and third time. And if you are rejected for the scholarship, you can run a copy for another.

On this note, I will also advise you to apply as many scholarships you can because scholarships are competitive, you can’t rely on only one scholarship application.

Expectations / Outcome

Scholarship applications are very competitive. You can have the best grade but still be rejected. This can be a number of reasons which we have discussed.

Sometimes you may have the best grade, first to apply, work experience but poor motivation letter.

Therefore, knowing what the  scholarship committee needs from the application is a key to be a successful scholarship applicant.

Don’t be discouraged if your first application is unsuccessful. There are a lot of scholarships out there you can apply.

Never give up, notwithstanding, apply for many scholarships at a time by providing the right documents.

If you follow all the things we have discussed, I can assure you that, you are going to win a scholarship.


On summary;

  • Always decide whether you should go for full or partial scholarship; depending on your pocket
    Renewable or non-renewable etc.
  • Check the citizenship requirement
  • Check academic qualifications
  • Write a good Motivational letter
  • Language Proficiency
  • Note the Deadline and apply early
  • Supply all the required documents
  • Apply as many scholarships you can

There are over millions of scholarships you can apply in a single year.

Go ahead and apply, I wish you all the best and good luck in your scholarship applications.

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10 Comments on “How to win a Scholarship: The Complete Guide”

  1. Thank you so much. Have applied before but it did not work.
    Thank you

  2. How can an admitted students from a given institution or university apply for a scholarship opportunity over there to do aerospace engineering program.

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