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How Did You Prepare to Apply for Scholarships?

This week we've been answering questions submitted by Homayoon (see question 1 and question 2). His final question was about scholarships. Homayoon has shared in the past that this has been his greatest struggle when it comes to pursuing a degree in the U.S., saying:
I recommend that everyone who wish to study at U.S, He/She must get preparation for a couple of years at least (those who apply for scholarships). This [preparation] must be especially for writing skill because when you are not a top and excellent English writer, you cannot ...covey and communicate your knowledge and thoughts to others. Therefore, finding and winning a scholarship was and is the greatest challenge for me in my academic life.

So he asked us to share experiences about how to get a scholarship.
Can anyone share their experiences about how to get a scholarship? What you have done before start to submit your scholarship application?

In a past post, our bloggers talked about the scholarships they have and how they got them, so make sure to look at "Exploring Financial Aid and Funding Options" to hear some of their personal stories.

Nareg Seferian

This is certainly a key element. I shall repeat what I mentioned before: go online and find money. It is not impossible. A lot of colleges and universities offer financial aid anyway, and that may or may not involve filling out a separate application for that purpose. Besides that, there are government grants, both your home government and the US government, and private foundations. Many of the private foundations are specific to countries, regions, religions, or ethnicities. Finally, there are private loans you can take from banks and other organisations. It is well worthwhile 1) searching online generally, 2) talking to the financial aid office of the college or university you are applying, and 3) talking to someone at your US Embassy or EducationUSA centre. It's their job to help you, Homayoon, so take advantage of it.

Anna Malinovskaya
Anna is a Russian student at Mount Holyoke College

The biggest help on this question came from EducationUSA office, which shared with me a list of schools that offer need-based financial aid to international students. But I also had to do a lot of research on my own, selecting the schools that offer need-based financial aid to not only international freshmen but also to international transfers. I e-mailed each school I short-listed to make sure I am eligible for financial aid. One school said they normally do award need-based financial aid to international students but this year they have insufficient funds, so I crossed it off the list. Another school I contacted said that the competition for transfers is very tough and they normally award financial aid to 2 or 3 international transfers out of 120-150 candidates, so I had to reconsider if I still wanted to apply to that school. After I made sure I am eligible for financial aid at each school on my list, I tried to compare myself to other applicants and predict at which schools I stand a bigger chance of being admitted.

Sebastian Sanchez

Again, it is always helpful to try and find help from institutions associated with the U.S. in your country, specially the U.S. government since there is a lot of educational aid that comes from the public's budget. That was precisely my case, I applied through the Institute of International Education, an organization designed to increase the multicultural and multinational scope of education. This is the one that administers famous scholarships such as the Fulbright program, among others. But then again, this is only one of the many ways to apply for financial aid, other common way is applying directly through the university of your choice, most of the schools in the U.S. have scholarship programs administered by the school itself. But again, try to find aid in your country with organizations that have ties with the U.S. In many cases the U.S. embassy itself has much information in that matter.