Getting a scholarship can be difficult. So many students from all over the world are trying to get scholarships in both American, European and Australian universities. However, there are a couple of ways for you to significantly improve your chances of getting that scholarship you always wanted. The steps below refer to Dutch universities, but can also be used for most other Northern European universities.
Get excellent grades
Getting excellent grades at the university in your home country most definitely improve your chances, as this is something universities will look at when evaluating candidates for scholarships.
Know what you want to study
It is extremely important to do your homework and find out which course you exactly want to study, which topics will be taught and who will teach them. Most of this information can be found on the universities home pages (also see our previous posts listing the most important universities of applied sciences and academic universities in the Netherlands).
Important: Don’t just apply for a scholarship! Know what you want to study before you apply as this will increase your chances of actually standing out. It will message to the evaluation committee that you are dedicated and have a goal. Do your homework! You will have to do this for each and every scholarship you apply for!
Get to know the people
Once you know who is teaching the different courses at the study you would like to attend, try finding them on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Try to discover what they like and which papers they wrote. Try to ask specific questions about their work or engage in a friendly debate with them. Make sure you leave the impression you have read what they wrote and that you are genuinely interested in the topic (which should not be too hard if you already decided which study you wanted to do). Show them you are passionate about the topics of the study. Once you are in contact with them, it is easier to mention you are looking into getting a scholarship to attend their university and you can ask if they have tips for you to increase your chances. Don’t forget, if they like you already then it will be easier for them to recommend you or mention you as a real prospect to the evaluation committee.
If you can’t find the professors on any of the social networks, don’t worry. You can still try to reach out to them through email and do the same as mentioned above. Just make sure you first build up a relationship before you ask for any tips. This will cost some time and effort but the value this brings to getting you that scholarship is priceless. For example, even if they can not give you the scholarship on their university, they may still recommend you for a scholarship to a similar study on a similar/same university.
Get to know the culture
Learning about the culture of a country you want to study will help you better communicate with the different universities and professors. It does not even need to be that hard. You could try to go on a short holiday in the Netherlands. If you can not afford that, no problem. Try finding forums of expats in the Netherlands, try reading up on Wikipedia, try finding different sites describing the culture of the country and communicate with pen pals in the country (you can find loads of people on Twitter or Facebook willing to communicate).
Make sure you speak the language
Of course you can not be expected to speak perfect Dutch in the Netherlands. Most likely, Dutch people will not even permit you to speak Dutch once they realize you are not Dutch (don’t worry, you will know what I mean after you live in the Netherlands for a while). However, it is important to speak really good English. Make sure your English writing skills are perfect. If you are not sure if they are, try to get a second opinion from someone you trust. Alternatively, you can go to several online classifieds boards or forums in different English speaking countries (e.g. Gumtree) to ask for help. There are plenty of people and websites on the Internet that can help you improve your writing skills. Just put a little bit of energy into it. No application is easier to reject than the one full of grammar or spelling mistakes.
Follow the rules
Most Northern European universities expect you to do some pre-work and follow the rules of the process. This means that asking (by email or on forums) for application requirements often goes unanswered. The reason for this is that most of this is available online. If you had just looked better at the website of the university you would have found them yourself. That said, if you can not find the rules to the application process (including the application papers/forms) it is okay to send of an email to the university asking where on their website you may find the application information. If you are friendly enough and to the point, you will most likely get a helpful answer. Respect that there is a process for scholarships and grants applications, mainly to keep it fair for everyone and to make sure the best ones get through. You can be the best one if you respect the process and ask about this process instead of asking them to send you all the information they can possibly have.
A lot of scholarships are hidden
Once you do your homework, you may find a number of smaller scholarships that are specific for the study you want to attend. Most of these scholarships can just be found on the university websites and most of the time just the pages specific to the study. It is much easier to get a scholarship if you are one of the few to apply for it. So here again. do your homework, be passionate and be great at your communication skills.
Yes, these steps all look like a lot of work. But you have to remember that getting a scholarship is not easy and you need to stand out from all those other potential candidates (most of which will not follow the steps above). If you apply the steps mentioned above, you will have significantly increased your chances of getting that scholarship you always dreamed about. With time, patience and hard work you can move mountains (or in this case, get that scholarship)!