If you’re an African student aspiring to study abroad, you’ve probably considered applying for scholarships. Scholarships give ambitious but needy African students the opportunity to study abroad.
While there are thousands of scholarships out there, most of them are highly competitive. Each scholarship can get thousands of applications—with a huge percentage of them from qualified candidates.
To increase your chances of winning a scholarship for your studies abroad, it’s important to put in your best efforts in the application process. To do so, it helps to know exactly what you might be doing wrong when applying for scholarships.
Let’s explore some of the most common scholarship mistakes and how to stop making them. Avoiding these mistakes will significantly increase your chances of snagging a scholarship.
What Is a Scholarship?
A scholarship is a financial aid award meant to help students pay for their education and other related expenses.
Scholarships have varying monetary value—ranging from as little as a few hundred dollars to the entire cost of your education abroad. The money from scholarships covers a number of costs associated with studying abroad such as tuition, books, technology fees, room and board, airfare, and more.
In many cases, the scholarship award money is remitted directly to your college or university. In other cases, it’s sent to the student’s account.
Scholarships differ from student loans as you don’t have to make any repayments. If you get a fully-funded scholarship, it means you get to graduate without student loan debts.
Top Scholarship Mistakes African Students Make
Here’s a list of the most damning mistakes students make when applying for scholarships to finance their studies abroad:
Mistake 1. Applying for Every Scholarship You Come Across
We get it. Getting a scholarship is a numbers game. You want to apply to as many scholarships as possible to increase your chances of winning.
However, the process of applying for scholarships can be intense and exhausting. Spreading yourself too thin by pursuing too many scholarships decreases the chances of winning. You’re more likely to make common scholarship mistakes that will have your application added to the “reject” pile.
Take your time to research the best scholarships that you qualify for. Which ones play to your strengths? Which ones offer the highest financial benefits? Which ones have the closest deadlines? Use that as criteria to list the scholarships you’re interested in in order of priority.
Resist the urge to apply for every scholarship you come across. Your focus should be on quality over quantity.
Mistake 2. Not Customizing Each Scholarship Application
When you’re applying for more than a handful of scholarships, you’ll be tempted to copy + paste your essays and answers to similar prompts. Long application forms with multiple essay prompts can be exhausting to fill out.
Since most scholarship prompts have common themes such as community service, academic brilliance, and creative abilities, you’ll be tempted to use the same essay for many of them. If you do this, don’t be surprised if your application gets rejected.
But just like with job applications, not customizing each application is a huge mistake.
Each scholarship is unique. Sponsors often have specific reasons for offering certain scholarships. That means they have a specific kind of student they’d like to receive their scholarship awards. Your goal is to demonstrate that you’re that student.
No, that doesn’t mean you have to write an entirely new essay for each scholarship. It’s ok to reuse essay ideas for different scholarships—as long as you’re careful to ensure it matches the donor’s prompt and their interests.
Research the sponsor and try to understand why they’re offering the scholarship. Use the story behind the scholarship to align yourself to the donor’s interests as much as possible. For instance, you’ll notice that sometimes, scholarships are named after inspiring individuals. You’ll want to demonstrate the values and qualities that made the scholarship to be named after that person.
Were they dedicated scientists interested in climate change? Or an athlete from a challenging background? Where possible, highlight similar values or experiences to show that you connect to that person’s story.
Mistake 3. Applying for Scholarships You Don’t Qualify For
In your excitement and rush to send in an application, you might overlook crucial eligibility criteria and special instructions. With each scholarship receiving numerous qualified applications, it’s almost impossible to win a scholarship whose eligibility criteria you don’t meet.
Even so, you’d be surprised by the number of students who send in applications for scholarships they don’t qualify for. This is one of the most common scholarship mistakes.
Before you begin the application process, read the eligibility criteria. Make sure that you perfectly match the eligibility criteria. For instance, if a scholarship has five points in their eligibility criteria, you must meet all of them.
Don’t forget to give the same attention to the application instructions. Which documents are required? If they’ve asked you to include a school transcript, it must be part of your application package. You don’t want to lose out on a scholarship due to missing out on small details.
Before pressing “Submit”, read the instructions all over again. It’s also a good idea to create a requirement checklist for each scholarship you’re applying to.
Mistake 4. Submitting Poorly-Written Scholarship Applications
While not every-one can be a highly-skilled creative writer, a well-written application goes a long way. Do your best to write compelling scholarship essays.
Many students make the scholarship mistake of selecting boring essay ideas or responding to prompts with uninspired writing. During the vetting process, such applications are likely to be tossed aside.
Put some effort into writing any essays that are required. Keep in mind the audience you’re speaking to when writing. Remember to “show, not tell.” For instance, a sentence such as “I draw inspiration from my parents,” is flat. Instead talk about specific situations and instances that provide powerful imagery to drive your message home. Your essay should paint a picture.
If you’re not confident in your writing skills, ask for help from your teachers, school counselors, mentors, or a study abroad consultant. They can help you pinpoint an essay idea, guide you on how to write it, and provide an extra set of eyes for proofreading.
On that note, yes, you must carefully proofread your essay. Typos, and grammatical or punctuation error can be the reason your application gets rejected.
Mistake 5. Not Checking Your Emails Regularly
Honestly, how often do you check your email? Every day, once a week, or every once in a while?
If you’re not in the habit of checking your email every day, start it now. Download the email app on your phone and set it to receive notifications.
Doing so will decrease the likelihood of missing important information from the scholarship committee. Many students have inadvertently forfeited scholarship opportunities because they didn’t see the email notifying them of their win in time.
In addition, make sure that your emails are highly organized. It’s easier to miss an important email when you have a cluttered inbox. With all the labor you put into writing an impeccable application, it would be a shame to forfeit your scholarship due to email carelessness.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most difficult thing about finding scholarships?
The most difficult thing about finding scholarships is not knowing where to look. If you’re an African student looking for a scholarship to study abroad, our comprehensive scholarship database was created with you in mind. Use the filter options to find the best scholarship opportunities for you.
What is the #1 way to increase your chances for a scholarship?
The best way to increase your chances for a scholarship is to make sure you meet the eligibility criteria and follow all the instructions. Put in your best effort to make each application truly compelling.
How do you write a good scholarship essay?
Anybody can write a good scholarship essay if they put in the work. Start early and ask for help from the right people.