July 25, 2008

Scholarships and Financial aid: What are they and why apply?

A scholarship or study grant is an award of financial aid to a scholar for access into an institution, for the purpose of furthering their education.

Other names by which it is known are studentships, financial aid, and the like. A scholar may be an undergraduate or a postgraduate student.

Types of Scholarships
The different types include:
  • Merit: this is financial aid for which financial criteria is determined by the ability of the student; e.g. athletic, academic, artistic or other abilities.
  • Need: financial aid for complete or part tuition, with or without living costs, for which the financial situation of the student and their family is the primary factor in determining the recipient.
  • Institutional: awarded by a specific institution e.g. college or university to a student planning to attend that institution
  • Government: Governments often award scholarships to both their own and foreign students. Government scholarships often cover all fields and courses of study
Others include qualification for financial aid by race, religion, or national origin before additional factors are then taken into consideration to filter out applicants, thus as to determine the final recipients.

Notable examples are the Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship, the Commonwealth Scholarship Plan, and many others that fall into this category.

Why apply? The reason for scholarships to Africans
Some of the brightest minds are of African origin, but problems of social and political unrest have largely contributed to the underdevelopment, rampant poverty and backwardness of the African continent, resulting in untold hardships, sicknesses and deaths.

Most scholarships, therefore, are a unique opportunity for Africans to travel abroad to earn better skills that would benefit and make a great difference, not only to themselves and their families, but also to their communities and the countless millions dying everyday in Africa.

From the African point of view, therefore, earning a scholarship should mark a big turning point in the life of the African scholar and his community.

Sources of scholarship awards
Bear in mind the various potential sources of financial aid to the student:
  • Local scholarships: Including the federal and various state ministries of education, non-profit organizations, community foundations and scholarships, labor unions, religious groups like churches, mosques, etc; universities and such like these.
  • Guidance counselors: Can be a great resource of information on local scholarships.
  • Volunteer organizations: Offer aid to students whose background or chosen field overlap their area of interest. E.g. the pharmaceutical association of Nigeria may aid an exceptionally distinguished student(s) of pharmacy, etc.
Others are libraries, newspapers, the yellow pages, and Internet search engines like the Google search (see above and below on this page).

IMPORTANT: Do Not Forget This!
Please bear in mind that required documents are an important part of your application, and will play a key role in helping the scholarship board/jury answer the questions: “What is special about this candidate? Does this candidate stand out from others? Why?” Please keep these facts in mind at all times as you prepare your application.

Prepare each required document with dedication and great care, stressing, where required CVs, letter of motivation, etc; what makes you unique like past achievements, part of your personality, etc.
Updated: November 2012

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