Scholarship application advice I wish I had before

Not so long ago I watched a SciFi/Thriller series where an important part of the story was time traveling. This made me think. What if we could actually travel back in time? What would we say? What advice would we give? It’s not the first time I wish for this. So, if I could travel back in time this is the advice that I would give to myself.

Two years ago I was like many of you are right now. Counting the days until the application results were out, and figuring out the application process for the Swedish Institute Scholarship. I had twenty tabs opened in my browser. All of them had information regarding scholarships, financial aid for students, study loans, a tab to get a quote on one of my kidneys and every alternative I could think of.

A few months later, I got an email saying “…we regret to inform you that you were not selected to receive a scholarship this year.” Damn it! I didn’t get a scholarship. Luckily, my parents have always supported me, and they did a tremendous effort to pay for my tuition. A round of applause for them!

Fast forward two years and I realize there is so much stuff I would have done differently for my application. This does not mean that I regret some of the stuff I did. My point here is to give you guys all the advice that I would have given to myself when applying for a scholarship if I had the chance.

*DISCLAIMER* There isn’t a magic formula to get a scholarship. These are just some tips for you guys to improve your application. Also, the tips below are from my experience with the SI scholarship. Nonetheless, the main point can be extrapolated to any other scholarship.

Source: Credits: Jonatan Stålhös/

1. Plan B, Plan C, Plan D…Plan N

Sanjay made a really cool video (by the way, subscribe to our YouTube channel! We are posting more often now!) where he gave this really good tip. “don’t put all your eggs in one basket“. The SISS is a great scholarship. It covers basically everything. When doing my scholarship research this one was probably the most complete one, but there are more out there.

Anyhow, my advice here is: do not limit yourself to one scholarship. If you cover all the requirements for another scholarship don’t hesitate to apply.  Here is a link to other scholarships.

2. Do thorough research

This one goes together with the previous one. Imagine you are a crime detective trying to solve one crazy puzzle. It sounds silly but bare with me for a second. Now, if I had to apply again, I would investigate who is financing the scholarship (SISS is funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden and administered by the Swedish Institute (SI)), then I would look into the student profile they are looking for.

“Ideal candidates are ambitious young professionals with academic qualifications, demonstrated work and leadership experience, ambition to make a difference by working with issues which contribute to a just and sustainable development in their country in a long-term perspective, and a clear idea of how a study programme in Sweden would benefit their country.

I highlighted some of the keywords (in my opinion) to understand better what kind of student they are searching for. After knowing who is funding the scholarship, and who are they looking after then you have a good baseline.

At this point you have a good list of scholarships where you fulfill all the requirements and you understand the student profile of the scholarship.

3. Tailor your application

Like I said in the previous one. Gather as much information, arrange it, sort it, filer it and then understand it completely before even thinking about typing down anything. It sounds extreme, and it maybe is. My point here is that all the scholarships are different. Even the scholarships offered by the same institution are different. So, why would your application be the same for all of them? It only makes sense to shape your application exactly to what they are looking for. Don’t confuse this with lying in your application. More like understand the requirements, identify your qualities, and express them in such way that your application is targeted.

You don’t have to make twenty different resumes, you don’t need to be a pro at everything you do. What you can do, is highlight your skills in different ways and arrange your words such as the application is specific towards certain requirements.

4. Take your time!

I rushed my application. I was in such a hurry to click the submit button that I didn’t realize my application had a lot of flaws. My final and probably most important advice to you guys is: take your time to gather all the information you need, ask all the questions you have to ask, spend time writing your motivation letter, go through all the information available, ask your friends/relatives to read your application and to give you feedback, you can even ask someone at your current (or previous) university to read your application.

Three international students look at a laptop while working on a group project.
Source: Credits: Magnus Liam Karlsson/

In conclusion…

Step 1: Identify a scholarship where you fulfill all the requirements.

Step 2: Answer the following questions: Who is funding the scholarship? What qualities they looking for in a student? What are they expecting from a good candidate?

Step 3: Tailor each one of your applications. All the scholarships are different. It only makes sense that all your applications are different as well. This does not mean that you have to make twenty completely different resumes. But it’s not such a bad idea to highlight or mention different things in each one of them. Same goes for the motivation letters.

Step 4: Take your time for each application. A time investment can be noticed in an application.

That’s all I know. I hope you guys have a better chance than I had.


Written by Andrés

03 Feb 2018