How to apply for a scholarship to study abroad

Updated on: Mar 28, 2024
How to apply for a scholarship to study abroad
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If you’re looking to study abroad but worried about the costs, it’s worth looking into the possibility of applying for a scholarship.

The scope of scholarships to study abroad vary greatly, from full payment of tuition fees and living costs, to smaller payouts to cover costs for a year of study. 

However, many international students are put off the idea of applying for a scholarship to study abroad simply because they can be difficult to find, are often poorly advertised, and can be even trickier to successfully apply for. 

You see, scholarships on offer change from country to country, university to university, and degree to degree, from undergraduate to Master’s to PhD. 

Thus, the focus is on you — the student — to do the research and find out if there’s a scholarship up your alley. 

But fortunately, you don’t have to go it all alone! In this article we’ll take you through some general information to help you know more about where to find scholarships, and how to apply. 

1. Scholarships vs grants - what’s the difference?

Scholarships and grants are similar in that both are given to a student with no obligation to be paid back, unlike student loans. Free money, in short!

However, grants are usually given out according to a student’s financial needs i.e. they’ve been accepted into university but cannot afford the costs.

On the other hand, scholarships are usually given out to students who excel either academically, artistically, or athletically. 

However, there is sometimes a crossover where scholarships are given out to particularly high achieving students who also cannot afford to pay for their studies. 

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2. Who can apply for scholarships to study abroad?

Pretty much any international student can apply for a scholarship to study abroad, it just depends on them meeting the criteria stated in each individual scholarship. 

One of the most common is a merit scholarship, which is awarded for excellent academic results. As mentioned above though, athletic, artistic as well as research achievements (for postgraduate and doctoral studies) are also often rewarded with scholarships. 

There’s also been a groundswell of scholarships for underrepresented societal groups like women in certain fields, students of colour, and students from developing nations. 

So to sum up, anyone can apply for the right scholarship. It’s just a case of finding one that applies to you! Read the criteria, and if it’s a good fit, start applying! 

However if the criteria doesn’t describe you, we’d advise you not to waste your time. Scholarships are pretty competitive, after all!

3. How to find scholarships (general)

Thanks to the internet, a little bit of digging makes it pretty easy to find scholarships to apply to. You just have to know what to look for.

For example, if you’re looking to study engineering in New Zealand, you should simply search something along the lines of “engineering scholarship study abroad New Zealand”. Simple, but effective!

But your best option for more specific information should be the university you want to attend. They will almost always have information on scholarships on their own website.

However, your best bet is to contact them directly. Reach out, tell them your situation (the degree you want to study, where you’re from etc), and they’ll be able to get back to you with any relevant information, or at least point you in the right direction!

Outside of the universities themselves, there are plenty of government sponsored scholarships, both in your own country and in the country you wish to study in. 

Also read: How to get a 100% scholarship to study abroad?

4. Scholarship application requirements

Proof, proof and more proof — these are the requirements you have to fulfill no matter what scholarship you apply for!

Just as is the case when applying for a university course abroad, where you have to prove that you’ve got the right exam results as well as English language ability, there’s quite a lot of admin and documentation required when applying for a scholarship.

First, you have to meet the criteria (e.g. high achieving in a certain subject). Then, you’ll have to submit a number of documents along with your application. These change from scholarship to scholarship, but generally speaking, you’ll need the following:

  • Verified certificates of your previous education (e.g. first degree, school leaving exams)
  • Letters of recommendation (e.g. referrals from teachers, counsellors or employers)
  • Language certificate (see our comprehensive list of English language assessments here)
  • Letter of motivation (explaining why you’re a good candidate for the scholarship)
  • CV / Resume (check out out articles on how to write your CV5 CV structures you need to know about, and extracurricular activities to give your CV a boost
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5. Applying for a scholarship in the UK

When it comes to government-awarded scholarships, the UK is one of the best countries in the world for studying abroad.

Have a look at the website or UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs) to see what’s available and whether or not you are eligible. 

As well as this, universities in the UK have loads of scholarships for international students. As mentioned above, have a look at the university or department website, or better yet, send them an email to see what’s available. 

Finding a study abroad scholarship in the UK — A great starting point: Scholarships and funding - British Council

Something else to check out: UK vs US universities, which should you choose?

Related article: UK Universities with highest acceptance rates

6. Applying for a scholarship in the USA

There are quite a few government-awarded study abroad scholarships in the USA. The most popular of these is the famous Fulbright Foreign Student Program, which is exclusively for graduate students and young professionals (outside of the field of medicine), as well as for artists of merit.

But beyond the Fulbright program, there are lots of scholarships sponsored by the federal government (i.e. national government), individual state governments as well as NGOs. 

One of the most important things to note about getting a scholarship to study abroad in the USA is that most require you to take either the SAT or ACT test, and get a high score too! Check out our article SAT vs ACT: Which should you take? for more info!

Again, our best advice is to simply reach out to your university of choice and ask what your options are. 

Related article: 

7. Applying for a scholarship in Canada

To be honest, Canada doesn’t have quite as many available scholarships for international students as neighbouring USA, or indeed the UK, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand. This makes it quite a competitive field as so many students apply for the same one.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see what’s available! Through both state and national government, and especially through universities themselves, there are still plenty of scholarships to check out — most of which are offered for outstanding academic performance in entrance exams, high school studies as well as in English language exams. 

Finding a study abroad scholarship in Canada - A great starting point: Scholarships for international students.

Related article: 

8. Applying for a scholarship in Ireland

Despite being the smallest of the popular study abroad countries, Ireland offers hundreds of scholarship opportunities for international students. As is most commonly the case, the majority of scholarships to study in Ireland are awarded by the universities themselves. 

One increasingly popular option (though it’s only one of many) is the Government of Ireland International Education Scholarship. This is awarded to 60 high-achieving students from non-EU/EEA countries, and funds their studies for one full year (final year undergraduate, one year Master’s, or one year of a PhD research programme). 

Finding a study abroad scholarship in Ireland — A great starting point: Scholarships for International Students studying in Ireland

Related article: 

9. Applying for a scholarship in New Zealand

We mentioned in our article 6 top reasons to study in New Zealand that there are tons of scholarships for international students. This is partly because New Zealand’s university system strongly supports foreign students, who account for as much as 20% of the student population at some of its universities! 

We’re at risk of sounding like a broken record here, but once again, it’s best to reach out to your university of choice for information on specific scholarships that apply to you. 

But there’s another way too! The New Zealand government’s education board have made it easy to find if there are any potential scholarship options on their website (which we’ve linked below). Just enter your nationality and degree subject, and see your choices!

Finding a study abroad scholarship in New Zealand — A great starting point: New Zealand Scholarships

Something else to check out: The 5 best cities in New Zealand that offer a great student life

10. Applying for a scholarship in Australia

Just like New Zealand, the Australian government’s education board website is a great resource with a good search function for finding out if you’re eligible for a scholarship.

It seems the southern hemisphere countries are a bit better when it comes to this kind of thing! Check it out below and find out if there’s anything for you. 

Once again, there’s a broad mix of national and state government sponsored scholarships, while the majority come from universities themselves. 

Finding a study abroad scholarship in Australia - A great starting point: Scholarships to study in Australia

Also read: Australian Universities with high acceptance rate

11. Find study abroad scholarships easily with Edvoy

Helping international students find great scholarships is one of our main motivations here at Edvoy. We think you deserve a better, more efficient, and easy-to-understand way of finding and applying for scholarships. 

That’s why we created our very own scholarship database and search function! Check it out below. Simply adjust the filters to suit your needs and see what we have on offer at our partner universities.

OK so you’ve read this far. I guess that means you’re interested in studying a degree abroad? That’s great! Check out the huge range of courses and universities that we can help you apply for. Get started with Edvoy or click the button below!

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Sean, a freelance writer, copywriter, and editor hailing from Ireland. He finds fulfillment in delving into the world of...Read More

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