Studying in the US is expensive! No wonder, every student who wants to study in the US wants scholarships. Here are 12 smart tips that will help you win scholarships for your MS program in the US.
#1 Applying for Scholarships
Many international students miss out scholarship opportunities as they fail to apply for a scholarship before its deadline.
These students spend a lot of time preparing for their GRE exam, carefully short-listing universities and writing powerful essays. But they fail to plan well so as to apply early, which results in missed scholarships. This is simply because there are no more scholarships left!
One of the biggest mistakes of international students is assuming that university admission deadlines and scholarship deadlines are the same. Very often they apply for their scholarship along with the rest of the admission application.
However, in many cases the two deadlines are different. Depending on the school, the deadlines may vary. In some cases, scholarship deadlines may be two months earlier than admissions deadline.
You have to clearly look for scholarships / financial aid vs admission deadlines. To be eligible, plan well ahead of time and avoid missing deadlines.
#2 Scholarship Eligibility / Requirements
There are a plethora of scholarships available for international students, each with its own eligibility criteria and requirements.
Unless you meet the requirements, you can’t apply for scholarships. Use Google to check up on financial aid / scholarships at your target universities and find out whether you meet the eligibility criteria.
#3 10th, 11th or 12th Marks
Your 10th, 11th or 12th marks mostly don’t matter for scholarships decisions. What you did 4-6 years ago, does not matter much to the university when they judge your academic abilities.
Most of the US universities only consider your undergraduate – B.Tech or BE degree – marks. Some Universities do ask for the 11th and 12th grade scores, but very few consider these scores while making a decision.
#4 Undergraduate GPA / Percentages
Academics are very important for making scholarship decisions.
If you have performed poorly in your GRE or GMAT and you have a high GPA, you still have a decent chance of earning a scholarship.
Most universities place a lot of emphasis on undergraduate GPA. They look at both – your GPA across every semester / year and total aggregate GPA (or percentage) across all four years. Moreover, the application is always judged holistically to decide on whether the scholarship is awarded.
#5 GRE / GMAT / IELTS / TOEFL Scores
Having a good test score – GRE, GMAT, IELTS, TOEFL – will always increase your chances of getting a scholarship.
If you are one of those students who doesn’t perform well in standardized tests, but earned a great GPA in your undergraduate degree, you still have a decent shot at scholarships. Your score has to be decent, but NOT bad.
#6 Leadership and Volunteering
Leadership skills and Volunteering are weighed significantly by universities when considering students for scholarships.
Demonstrate your ability to lead by stepping forward whenever you can.
Learn how to manage people, budgets, and / or projects. A typical leadership skill would be serving as a president or on the executive board for an academic or social organization in your undergraduate programs.
Volunteer to help others. Start a group to help others. You could conduct seminars and raise the awareness of school kids on issues like drug abuse, sexual abuse, adolescent health, online privacy and safety, etc.
These are very important because scholarships endowments are typically created to encourage students who have good ideals for society and take up leadership roles and help others and the community succeed.
So, being part of a social or academic organization in your undergraduate program or volunteering is key and you must include all of these certificates, if you have any, or at least quote your experiences in scholarships essays.
This is what distinguishes you from others who just have high GRE/GMAT scores and high academic percentages.
#7 Achievements, Publications and Recognition
Any achievements, publications or recognition are very important for scholarships.
Any achievements matter. This includes being among the top 5% in the class, oratory competitions, paper publications, winning any types of sports competition, top employee of the month, etc. Use these achievements to strengthen your scholarship application.
Make sure you provide documentation as evidence of your achievements with your scholarship application.
#8 Scholarship Essay or Statement of Purpose
It’s not easy to separate your scholarship application from the crowd. After all, even if you fit the criteria to a “T,” you’re still likely to be one of a number of applicants with similar grades, goals, activities and aspirations.
That’s where a great application essay comes in. The essay is your best chance to make the case for why you should receive the scholarship; it helps the scholarship provider learn about the person behind the application, and gives them a much more detailed look at your school and home life.
Most of the scholarships ask you to write an Essay on why they should give you a scholarship and to explain your situation or story along with your goals, etc.
You have to be genuine when you explain why you deserve a scholarship.
The essay should showcase your passion, your skills and your plan to accomplish your goal. It should explain how the scholarship can make a difference and make your journey successful.
If they are just asking for a statement of purpose, then you have to focus on what you have to accomplish and how you want to do it.
NEVER copy and paste anything from others’ SOPs. Try to read others and come up with your own ideas and write your story and goals.
Bottom line, your essay or SOP should be good and it should show your zeal to succeed and how you want to reach your goals and what it means to you and may be even your family and society.
#9 Recommendation Letters
Some scholarship applications ask for your recommendation letters from professors or anyone who you report to professionally. Find someone who knows you well and can give you a good recommendation.
Your recommendation letter should highlight your academic, leadership and people skills. The person recommending you should mention how he knows you and objectively assess your achievements.
#10 Finding Scholarships
When you start looking for scholarships, you may soon get overwhelmed, browsing various university pages like admission pages, department pages, etc.
Your life would become much easier if you know which university office awards the scholarships. Depending on the type of scholarship, different offices, mentioned below, award scholarships:
- Financial Aid Office: Typically Scholarships are offered by the Financial Aid office in most of the schools. You should either Google “<University Name> Office of Financial Aid” or look for the “Financial Aid” tab or link in the university website. Sometimes the Financial Aid office is listed under Current Students section or under the Students section. Also, once you get to the financial aid or scholarship office website, you will have to look for scholarships for international students. Every scholarship is different and you will have to look one by one or just look under the international students section. There is no rule that they will specifically list everything for you. You will have to look and apply for the right scholarship.
- Academic Departments: Another place to look for scholarships or fellowships is to look at the respective academic departments or schools you are applying to. In general, either there are research-related fellowships or any endowments created for someone specializing in the respective major related to that school. You should visit the department or respective school’s website and look for any scholarships or fellowships. While some schools may not list these under different departments, the information should mostly be found under the Financial Aid tab. If you cannot easily access scholarship information, you will have to use the Sitemap link or use the search option.
#11 Ask about Scholarships
You should always ask your target university about availability of scholarship, eligibility, application process and deadline. Even if you found the information on the website, chances are you will come across more comprehensive information.
You should find out who can provide you with more relevant information about scholarships.
You may search for “Graduate Admissions Coordinator” or “Financial Aid Coordinator” and email them, asking about scholarships. The titles may vary a little but you should be able to locate the relevant person.
In case you cannot find this person, just ask the Admissions office. Write a simple email with a subject like “Need help: prospective international student scholarship information” and send them your questions.
Keeping your email simple will increase your chances of getting some helpful information.
Overall, scholarships for international students to pursue MS in the US are very important. The key is to find the right sources and apply on time.
#12 Scholarships for Indian Students to Study in the US
Here are some scholarships on offer for Indian students who wish to study in the US:
- Chicago Booth School of Business – The India Trust Fellowship and Akhtarali H. Tobaccowala Fellowship are available for Indian students who apply to study a full-time MBA at the school.
- Fulbright-Nehru Research Fellowships – Offering funding to outstanding Indian students wishing to pursue an education at any level within an accredited US institution. See individual scholarships for specific criteria.
- S.N. Bose Scholars Student Exchange Program for Indian Students – Opportunities for Indian researchers at master’s level or higher to study a selected program in the field of science and technology at a university in the US.
- Stanford Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowships for Indian students – Scholarships for Indian students to study at Stanford Graduate School of Business on the MBA program. In order to be eligible, students must return to India within two years of completing their studies.
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You may also want to check out our article on An International Student’s Guide to Getting Internships in the US
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