Tips to get a scholarship abroad

Posted June 10th, 2015 at 1:47 pm (UTC-4)
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Students throw inflatable globes into the air as they celebrate graduation during Harvard University commencement exercises. (AP Photo)

Students throw inflatable globes into the air as they celebrate graduation during Harvard University commencement exercises. (AP Photo)

Hello everyone,

I am Triwik, an intern at VOA Learning English. I am also a graduate student in Communication and Development Studies at Ohio University, here in the United States. I got a scholarship for a two-year master’s degree from Fulbright. The Fulbright scholarship is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.

It is a challenge to get a scholarship abroad. But it does not mean that you cannot get it. Here are some tips that might help you get a scholarship abroad.

* The first thing to do is ask yourself: what program do you want to do?

Do you want to do a non-degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctoral degree? It is best to choose a program that matches your career.

My first scholarship was a non-degree scholarship to help me improve my journalism skills. Then I realized that it was not enough. After getting my undergraduate degree in Indonesia, I felt the need to increase my research skills by obtaining a master’s degree.

* After carefully choosing academic program that you want, you should start looking for information on scholarships. You can get the information from social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe to newsletters or join mailing lists. For information on scholarships sponsored by the US government, go to

* After you choose the scholarship program, it is time to get busy on the application. This can be very time-consuming.

Scholarship providers usually ask you to fill-out application forms. They will also ask for a motivation letter, which states the reasons why you apply for the scholarship; a resume or a curriculum vitae, which lists your educational background, working experiences and skills; a proof of language proficiency score and reference letter(s).

A reference letter is a letter provided by a person who can give vouch for your character and skills. For my master’s degree, I asked for reference letters from my former lecturer and employers.

As for the motivation letter, it is good to have a native speaker to check the grammar and the organization of the letter. I asked for an American colleague to check my mine.

*  The next step is strengthening your language ability.

If you are a non-English speaker who decides to study in an English-speaking environment, you will need to take English tests like TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language testing System). You can borrow study guides at the library or get them online. There are some websites that provide free test samples. To improve your speaking skills, you can ask your friends to practice English. I used to speak to myself in the mirror to practice my English. I was pretending to have conversations with somebody. It helped me a lot.

* There are some stages in scholarship application, from administration process to interview. In an interview, interviewers usually ask about your academic background, skills and work experiences; the reasons why you apply for the program; your chosen program/university, your future goals after finishing the program; your ability to handle issues/problems, and your strengths and weaknesses.

As for the number of interviewers, it depends on the program that you apply for. When I applied for journalism training in Germany, there was only one interviewer. But when I applied for master’s degree in the United Kingdom and the U.S., there were three interviewers – two Indonesians and one non-Indonesian.

* Send as many applications as you can to increase your chance in getting a scholarship.

It took me two years to get a master’s-degree scholarship. In 2012, I applied for three scholarships and I did not even get one. I sent five applications in 2013. To my surprise, I got accepted for two of them. I chose the one in the U.S. because I felt that I would learn more in the U.S., especially in the field of communication.

* Other important keys are strong motivation, determination, hard work and a never-give-up fighting spirit.

If you fail in getting a scholarship this year, you can always send other applications next year. A wise man once said that failure teaches success.

I always try to learn from my failure. When I did not get a scholarship in 2012, I improved my English ability, revised my motivation letter, and strengthened my professional skills.


So, what are you waiting for? A scholarship could be within your reach. Feel free to ask me if you have any questions.




Confessions of an English Learner is a place for you to practice your writing and share the joys and pains of learning the language. We will post a weekly prompt, to give you a chance to practice your writing and to comment on others’ writing.


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