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Steps on Securing a Scholarship. How I Got My DAAD Scholarship (for both Postgraduate and Undergraduate Applicants)

Having won a scholarship, here are the steps I took that led to a successful application.

Dianah Walubengo (Debra) sharing my scholarship journey

Dianah Walubengo (Debra) sharing my scholarship journey

Introduction: My Scholarship Journey

Receiving a "Congratulations, you have been selected....." email is the sweetest feeling one can ever have.

I am Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) scholar. This is a Germany-based scholarship that is sponsoring students from developing countries to study in Germany and the rest of the world.

Securing this scholarship was not a walk in the park. I had tirelessly applied for 9 different scholarships that were unsuccessful. However, I came to learn about DAAD on scholarship positions website and from a friend, who is a DAAD beneficiary .

Since most people are not aware of the scholarship application procedure and requirements, I felt it wise to share some useful information to students and other scholars. I believe this information will benefit those who will read it.

My DAAD Scholarship Award certificate

steps-on-securing-a-scholarship

General Steps on Securing a Scholarship

  1. You need to be conversant with the things that can lead to a successful application
  2. Where? Decide on where you want to pursue your studies in terms of country and University
  3. Do thorough search on admission procedures at the respective university
  4. Do thorough search on the existing scholarships
  5. Learn how to write an outstanding Statement of Purpose/Motivational letter and come up with one. Additionally, engage your referees to be sure of their support throughout your application journey.
  6. Actualization step that involves Making applications (admission applications first then scholarship applications)

1. You need to be conversant with the things that can lead to a successful application

These include;

  • Minimum academic requirements
  • Have a clear vision of what you want to pursue
  • You need to know why you want to pursue your studies.
  • You need to know your future career plans
  • How will attaining this particular scholarship aid in attaining your future career plans?

2. Where? Decide on where you want to pursue your studies in terms of the country and university

Here, you are required to:

  • Do thorough search and identify at least 5 universities offering your course. Have several options because you aren't guaranteed of an admission offer.
  • In addition, do thorough search to have an overview of the scholarships offered in the universities of your choice. This helps so that you don’t end up investing a lot of time and energy in making applications to universities with no scholarship opportunities.

Note: Some people prefer researching on available scholarships first since most scholarships state universities in collaboration with them. i.e DAAD and Commonwealth scholarships

3. Do thorough search on admission procedures at the respective university

You need to know the requirements.

Admission Application Requirements

i. Minimum academic requirements

ii. Statement of purpose/Motivational letter

iii. Reference letters

iv. Exam tests i.e. English tests, GRE exams

v. Application fees

vi. A Concept Note (P.h.D applicants)

vii. Supervisors from host University (P.h.D applicants)

Explanation

i. Minimum academic requirements

In most cases, 2nd class (Upper division) is the minimum requirement. However, some universities accept 2nd class (Lower division) with enough work experience.

ii. Statement of purpose/Motivational letter

In this application, an outstanding essay is a plus. There are main points that contribute to a good essay. These include;

  • Clearly state your vision - What you want to pursue.
  • Explain why you want to pursue your studies - Clearly show that your study will address existing challenges/solve a problem in your community, nation or globally.
  • Also include your future career plans - Clearly explain what you want to do after your studies. There should be a connection between these studies and your future career plan. For instance, an applicant intending to apply for a Food Science and Technology course can state that., "...after completion of my studies, I will set up incubation centers in my university for training people in food fortification to help curb macro and micro-nutrients deficiencies".
  • Also explain why that specific university – Convince them as the best university that will help you in the realization of your set goals. i.e The best research institution and with good award winning faculty.

iii. Reference letters

- Reference letters are supposed to be specific to you. Most are required to be directly done by your referees on the university websites. Despite of the confidentiality required, it is advisable to talk to your supervisor and tell them what you would like to be captured in the references. This reduces contradictions.

- Always feel free to guide your referees on any of your strong points you wish should be flagged out in a reference. Do not lie to your referees.

- Most professors are very busy. You could send them your CV, transcripts, and an MS word template of the letter to make things smoother.

- Reference letters should also be up to date.

iv. Exam tests

- English tests include;International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) among others. This is an important requirement for admission application. English test are mandatory for most, if not all US universities.

- However, some universities in the UK waive English test if you provide an English proficiency proof through a letter from your university stating that all your studies were done in English.

- Graduate Record Examinations (GRE exams) are requirements for some universities. These are mostly required by the USA universities.

v. Application fees

- Some universities charge application fees. Mostly, USA and the UK universities do this to prevent non-serious applicants from applying and hence exerting extra work load on the administration. The fees vary from university to university.

vi. A Concept Note

For PhD. applicants, you will be required to provide a concept note showing that you have conducted some preliminary literature review and established a gap, which the proposed study aims to fill

vii. Supervisors

PhD. applicants will also require supervisors from the host university. Conduct a preliminary search on the university website to find a staff whose research interests converge with your anticipated study topic. You may then establish relations by sending mail to find out if they can be your supervisors.

4. Do a thorough search on the existing scholarships

There are many legit scholarship websites. The common websites include;

  • Scholarship positions
  • Study portals
  • Scholarships.com
  • College board
  • Sallie Mae

Note: I have provided a link to the most common website below

- Be keen on the type of scholarships so that you don’t end up applying to scholarships that you aren’t eligible to.

- Take note the deadlines of the scholarships of your interest.

- Also take note of the requirements.

Scholarship Requirements

i. Minimum academic requirements

ii. Admission letter

iii. Statement of purpose/Motivational letter

iv. Reference letters

v. A Concept Note (P.h.D applicants)

vi. Supervisors from host University (P.h.D applicants)

Explanation

Scholarship requirements are similar to admission requirements. However, they have some small variations.

i. Minimum academic requirements

- In most cases, 2nd class (Upper division) is the minimum requirement. However, some scholarships accept 2nd class (Lower division) with enough work experience. Good grades are another plus.

- Funding agencies prefer to fund applicants with a good track record to ensure their money is being well invested

ii. Admission Letter

Admission letter to the university/ your course of interest is an essential requirement.

NOTE: You need an admission letter first before applying for a scholarship.

iii. Statement of purpose/Motivational letter

- Just as in the admission application, an outstanding motivational letter is key when applying for scholarships. This reflects main points just as in the admission application essay.

- However, there is a small variation whereby if it is an economy-based scholarship intended to support students from a poor background, you need to paint a picture of a candidate with clear set goals but financially unstable to bring their goals to realization. Let them see that despite of your poor background, you still managed to emerge top.

iv. Reference letters (just as the admission requirements)

v. A Concept Note (just as the admission requirements)

vi. Supervisors from host university (just as the admission requirements)

Points to note while applying for scholarships

  • You need an outstanding statement of purpose/motivational letter
  • Take note of the requirements and the eligibility criteria of that scholarship - Be sure your country is eligible for a particular scholarship. Scholarships are specific to students from specific countries. If your country is not listed as eligible for the scholarship, don’t waste your time applying for the same.
  • Also, take note of the age limits in admissions to certain Scholarships - You need to check whether your age is eligible. Most Scholarships don’t offer opportunities for applicants above 35 for Masters’ Degree and above 45 for P.h.D.
  • Make sure you understand the limitations of a scholarship, what they can provide. Some Scholarships only offer Tuition fees without monthly stipend for upkeep. If you cannot raise your own money for upkeep in a foreign country, don’t apply for such. Majorly focus on fully-funded scholarships.
  • If you are applying for a partial scholarship and you do not have the means to take care of your upkeep, find out about work-study options available for foreign students in the country of destination. Some countries allow for 3 hours per day during university days and 8 hours per day when the university is closed. This will be reflected in your VISA tier.
  • For short study courses of less than 6 months, in most countries, your VISA will indicate that you are not entitled to work or recourse to public funds in that country.

5. Learn how to write an outstanding statement of purpose and come up with one. Additionally, engage your referees to be sure of their support

After clearly knowing the requirements, start learning how to write a motivational letter and finally come up with an outstanding one since it's a sole "selling point" for both admission and scholarship applications.

Learn through;

  • Making a lot of draft write-ups and seeking guidance from mentors who have successfully acquired scholarships
  • Do online search on writing an outstanding motivational letter since many people have done a lot of blogs and vlogs on this.

Points to note: A motivational letter has a huge role to play in your application process. Have a story; an original one. Do not plagiarize someone else’s work.

6. The actualization step that involves making applications (admission applications first then scholarship applications)

- Start with making course admission applications first before applying for scholarships. Apply to as many universities as possible because you can never know which university will offer you admission. Make sure you write an outstanding essay and submit all the requirements in time.

- After acquiring your admission letters, apply to as many available scholarship opportunities as possible. An outstanding personal statement is also very important here.

  • This needs full dedication, persistence, and no giving up.
  • Apply for everything!!! You may mostly get "Nos" but keep your head up.

Variations/Additional requirements for P.h.D applicants

The procedure is more or less the same as masters' degree application but with some variations. The variations include:

  1. Additional requirements for P.h.D. applicants are concept note and supervisors from the host university.
  2. Applicants alternatively look for on-going projects and apply to them by writing a concept note that proposes to cover a section of the funders' agenda. (This applies to some masters' degree applicants as well)
  3. Most universities, more so in the USA, offer internal scholarships where after getting admission to a course, you work in the university as a graduate assistance thus sustaining your scholarship. There are graduate, teaching or research assistantships. In most cases, it's usually not fully funded. They often waive tuition, housing or some other fees. Although, there are some programs that offer a full waiver.


Undergraduate/Bachelors' degree applicants specific requirements

Bachelors' degree applicants follow all the 6 steps explained above only that their application is not as detailed as the postgraduate applications.

Undergraduate Admission Application Requirements

i. Minimum high school/secondary academic requirements

ii. Statement of purpose/Motivational letter

iii. Supporting documents for all the stated achievements

iv. Reference letters

v. Language tests (English, Germany, Dutch etc)

vi. Application fees (Some universities, not all)

Explanation

i. Minimum High School/Secondary academic requirements

- Applicants MUST meet the set standard academic entry requirements; they usually vary from university to university.

- In most cases, B+ and above, for Kenyan system and an equivalent qualification for other countries is the minimum requirement.

ii. Statement of Purpose/Motivational letter

Undergraduate degree essays are usually "guided". An outstanding essay is essential.

  • You need to explain how your anticipated undergraduate degree will enable you make a difference in your future (i.e. Help contribute to the society)
  • Also show you hold outstanding leadership, extra-curricular achievements within your community and your previous school. Here, your contribution to voluntary work in your community gives you an upper hand.
  • Also explain how you will contribute to the university during your study. i.e. State that you will participate in the university games, be a student leader among others.

iii. Supporting documents for all the stated achievements

Applicants are required to provide evidence of all the stated achievements during the application as supporting documents. In most cases, certificates of awards.

iv. Reference letters

Provide letters from referees to support your application. Usually, the referees attest to your ability and also, portray you as a smart student fit for that particular course.

v. Language tests

- Language tests include; English (IELTS, TOEFL) among others), Germany (B2), Dutch etc depending on the country and the anticipated mode of study.

- Just as in postgraduate applications, some universities will waive your English tests if you provide an English proficiency proof from your secondary/high school stating that all your studies were done in English.

iv. Application Fees

Some universities will charge application fees. The amount varies from university to university.


Undergraduate Scholarship Application Requirements

i. Minimum high school/secondary academic requirements

ii. Admission letter (You need to apply for admission first to acquire admission letter for scholarship application).

iii. Statement of purpose/Motivational letter

iv. Supporting documents for all the stated achievements

v. Reference letters

Note: The explanation is same as the admission requirements

Detailed information on my youTube channel

SUCCESS!!!

steps-on-securing-a-scholarship

Comments

Nathan Masachi on October 16, 2020:

It's really helpful.

Thanks for making it easier for me

Thanks dear for information on June 18, 2020:

It is really encouraging. Keep it up.

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