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How to score International scholarships

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I graduated from Makerere business school in 2013, but I still haven’t found a job due the high unemployment rates in Uganda. Without money, I can’t afford to return to school to upgrade my skills in order to qualify for a better job, so am considering an international scholarship to help me out of my situation. Please give me advice on how to proceed.

Judith Tumushabe

from Bushenyi, Uganda


Dear Judith,

Let’s face it – international education is only a dream to most of us and a luxury enjoyed by the rich, leaving scholarships or bursaries (U.K) as the only way that most students can help finance their international studies without taking on too much debt. Although they are very hard to come by, with planning, research, and careful preparation, you can get scholarships to pay for part, or all, of your international education.

Scholarships for international students are highly competitive, and mostly available at the postgraduate level. Nevertheless, here are some tips and resources to help you identify possible scholarship opportunities.

Bursaries differ a bit from scholarships because the receiver is expected to be employed at the awarding institution for the same duration as the bursary.

A common misconception about scholarships is that they are only available for the smartest students with the highest grades, not true: there are scholarships out there for every type.


Academic Scholarships:

Academic scholarships are also often referred to as merit scholarships, though a merit scholarship can mean anything that has some level of contest to it. These are for the students with high academic scores and typically have the highest payouts and are considered very prestigious as they are often national awards.

Athletic Scholarships

For students with strong academics and physical skills, athletic scholarships are the way to go. There is practically a scholarship for every single sport, from volleyball to football; gymnastics to cheer leading. So, if you excel in anything physical, you should definitely pursue an athletic scholarship.

However, many believe that awarding scholarships based on athletic rather than academic purposes discourages concentration in class to focus on the field for sports.


Scholarships for Minorities

There are also many scholarships for minorities available, for instance people with disabilities, orphans and special social groups. Some of these are general and for all minorities as a collective whole, while others are catered to individual ethnic groups. It is also a good idea to apply for a minority scholarship if you are part or fully of a certain ethnicity. You will get to represent your culture and possibly win money.

Scholarships for Women

As with the scholarships for minorities above, there are also scholarships specifically for women. Since colleges were dominated by men for many years, scholarships have been created for strong, career-minded women that need assistance paying for university expenses. As a female, it is strongly recommended you pursue a scholarship for women. Moreover, scholarships for women are typically available in just about any field.

Creative Scholarships

For those artistic at heart, there are creative scholarships available to help you pursue your passion. Art scholarships, music scholarships and even dance scholarships usually involve an audition of some sort, and can help you get through art school or an art program at a university. Regardless of your creative field, you can rest assured that there is a scholarship out there just for you. However, you have to search extensively for these are very hard to come by.

Other available Scholarships

If you don’t fall in the mentioned categories, there’s still somewhere else to look. For instance,community services scholarships, research based services, Religious sponsored scholarships, private companies sponsored scholarships, non-profit organisations (NGOs) among others. Even though there aren’t very many of these off-beat scholarships each year, there are enough to attract significant attention from potential applicants, schools and even the media. Because of this, they may be a bit competitive.


  1. Search online for scholarships.

The best place to search is the internet, many websites have information to get you started, but be careful not to fall for a scam. Here are some reliable websites I highly recommend.

  • Scholarships for African students: http://www.advance-africa.com/
  • The International Scholarship Search: http://www.internationalscholarships.com/
  • International Student: http://www.internationalstudent.com/scholarships/
  • com: https://www.scholarships.com/main.aspx
  1. Avoid scams.While there are thousands of legitimate scholarship opportunities out there, there are also plenty of people who would be willing to take your money or steal your personal information. Here’s how to recognize a scam.
    • Don’t pay for scholarship information. Most of the information about scholarships is already available for free.
    • Be careful of application fees. In most cases, “scholarships” that require an application or processing fee are fraudulent. Reputable scholarships are there to help you out, not milk your money.
    • Be wary of “winning” contests. You may receive notification that you’ve “won” a contest or been “selected” for a scholarship that you never applied for. If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
  2. Offline resources.You can learn about scholarships in several ways that don’t require the internet. These free resources include foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups, organizations (including professional associations) related to your field of interest, and your employer or your friends’/parents’ employers.
  3. When and How to Apply.Depending on each scholarship’s deadline, applying can be done as early as a year before college/university starts. But if you’ve missed that window, don’t give up! Look at scholarship information to see which ones you can still apply for now. Each scholarship has its own requirements. The scholarship’s website or resource center should give you an idea of who qualifies for the scholarship and how to apply. Make sure you read the application carefully, fill it out completely, and meet the application deadline.
  4.  How to get the scholarship money.That depends on the scholarship. The money might go directly to your school, where it will be applied to any tuition, fees, or other amounts you owe, and then any leftover funds given to you. Or it might be sent directly to you in a check. The scholarship provider should tell you what to expect when it informs you that you’ve been awarded the scholarship. If not, make sure to ask.


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