Advice on how to make the most of your funding application.
Give yourself plenty of time to gather information, references and other documentation - and don’t leave the preparation of your application until the last few weeks before the deadline. Many awards require you to have been offered a place at the University before your application can be considered. If you intend to apply for funding, whether awarded by the University or from an external source, you should aim to apply for admission to the University as early as possible to be confident of securing an offer of a place before making your application for a funding award.
Most scholarship applications will ask candidates to state the programme of study or research topic which they intend to pursue. If you are successful in receiving a scholarship the offer of the award will probably be conditional on you enrolling on the programme/research area stated on your scholarship application. Before you submit your application for a scholarship you should explore all the options and ensure that you select the right programme for you from the outset and that you satisfy the entrance requirements for that particular programme.
All funding agencies will have their own criteria for deciding how their resources should be allocated. It is worth taking the time to familiarise yourself with these and to make sure that your application clearly addresses the particular requirements of your targeted source of support. If you are applying for a University of Edinburgh award, then you must obviously intend to study at the University and not at any other institution.
Remember that your scholarship application represents the entire and only picture the selection committee will have of you. If you are required to complete a paper application, always type or print your details neatly in black ink when completing your application form. Avoid coloured paper, elaborate fonts and glossy covers as it is likely that your application materials will be photocopied first before forwarding to panel members for their consideration.
Take time to complete your application in full and avoid any ambiguities. If you feel a question does not apply to you, then you should make that clear on your application. Never leave a question blank. Remember that every question is there for a reason and the panel could look unfavourably - even suspiciously - at any application that has not been completed in full. Be honest and use the application form to explain any gaps or delays in your previous studies.
Applications submitted after the closing deadline, are usually not considered. Remember that the whole scholarships process is very competitive and there will always be considerably more applications received from similarly qualified candidates than the amount of funding available. Equally, do not leave your application until the week before the deadline. If you do, you risk having your application turned down if there are inadequacies which the University could have helped you to resolve if you had given yourself sufficient time.
Most externally funded awards will require you to submit one or two references in support of your application. I suggest that you ask for these references well in advance of the funding deadline date and that you provide some basic details to your referee on the kind of information that would be useful to include. Please remember that a reference from an academic who knows you and your abilities well is much better than a reference from a senior Professor who may not know you as well.
It is likely that you will be required to submit a personal statement in which you should set out your achievements and goals, as well as indicating how the award will benefit you in your studies. This statement will be read closely by panel members and can help to set you apart from the other applicants. Take your time writing this and make sure that your statement reflects you and your accomplishments as clearly as possible.
Before you send your scholarship application it is advisable to make a copy of your application and all supporting documentation. This will be a huge help in the rare occasion that your application goes missing as having copies will make it much easier to resend your application to the funding body should this become necessary.
You should have invested a reasonable amount of time investigating the funding source, checking your eligibility, completing the application, and gathering all the required documentation that you need to submit with your application. Spend that little bit of extra time before submitting your application to check your spelling and to ensure that what you have said is in fact what you meant to say.
This article was published on May 18, 2010