July 2, 2011

Undergraduate scholarships - important facts

Undergraduate scholarships
How are you going to pay for your education? Undergraduate scholarships, financial aid and funding for study abroad and international study abroad programs are amongst the most important issues for all students having to pay for their education, whether it be closer to home or in another country.

While scholarships are commonplace for graduate-level study, students seeking financial aid for their first degrees can find the task much more difficult than those applying for a Masters or PhD programs.

Recent statistics released by the Institute of International Education illustrate how competitive the world of undergraduate scholarships actually is. In the academic year 2005/06, an overwhelming 81.5% of the 172,744 Bachelor's students studying at US colleges and universities used personal and family funds to pay for their education. Only 11.4% or 19,693 Bachelor's students received funds from their host US institution, this in a university system where there is a widely held belief amongst prospective international undergraduate students that US institutions represent the best opportunity for winning a scholarship!

Undergraduate scholarships for study abroad
But such reports don't tell the whole truth. The task of locating an undergraduate scholarship to help with your student finance for your period of study abroad need not be impossible. Excellent students, offering good academic qualifications and well-rounded applications always stand a chance of obtaining some kind of financial aid or scholarship if a university has funds to offer its incoming undergraduate student. Universities in Australia, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, The Netherlands, the UK and the USA all offer prospective undergraduate students financial aid, based on either their financial circumstances or academic ability.

List of Scholarships
see also Scholarship Boards
However, what separates undergraduate financial aid schemes from their graduate equivalents is the level of funding that is awarded to individual students. The likelihood of a student being awarded a scholarship to cover all of their tuition fees and living expenses is very rare. Universities in Australia, The Netherlands and the UK are far more likely to offer smaller awards, such as bursaries and partial scholarships, to incoming
international students, dependant on their own institutional goals. A review of just a handful of university websites unearths a range of awards: the University of Melbourne in Australia offers eighty new international students every year a tuition fee reduction of US$4,000 in the first year; the University of Manchester in the UK offers partial scholarships centrally and from individual academic faculties, varying between US$2,000 and US$8,000 a year; and the National University of Singapore, offers international undergraduate students attractive financial aid packages that include 100% tuition fee waivers and living allowances of up to US$4,000 a year.

Scholarship applications
Another area that makes undergraduate scholarships different from their graduate counterparts is the way in which a student generally applies for the awards. In most cases, a candidate is considered for a scholarship at the same time that their admissions materials are also reviewed by a university, thus there is no need to complete additional forms or be aware of other deadlines. Competition tends to be intense, not least because there tend to be far fewer undergraduate awards available and so either the quality of your application, or your financial circumstances, depending on the criteria of the particular scholarship, has to be clearly demonstrated. Remember, you will not be the only student being considered for a scholarship, so your application has to stand out from the masses through its unique qualities.

As a prospective undergraduate student it is important to recognize that the opportunities to win an international scholarship are limited. But that's not to say that it is impossible - top universities and colleges all over the world are still offering financial aid to students to encourage them to choose their institution or a particular academic subject for their first degree. As more students choose to study abroad, so has the number of awards increased and your chance to get some measure of funding is far greater than ever before.

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