international scholarships
Abdi Shariff-Hassan, a scholarship recipient of UMass Lowell, pictured at the university's Honorary Alumni Award Ceremony in 2018. Source: Gail Oskin / AFP

For many students, the thought of studying abroad is a dream. However, the financial burden that comes with receiving a quality education overseas is not one all students can bear. Outside of just tuition fees, there are many other considerations such as rent, food, and transport — all of which contribute to high expenses. 

Thankfully, there are thousands of international scholarships and financial aid options available for students from all around the world. These often act as a major support for many, with over 71% of college students depending on some form of financial aid to further their studies. 

Despite so many available options, many students do not apply for scholarships simply because they do not think they will receive them. As a result, students are hesitant to apply because they fear rejection. But why do many feel this way?

Here, we debunk the many myths and misconceptions surrounding international scholarships and the chances of securing one for yourself. 

5 common myths about international scholarships and why they simply aren’t true:

1. Scholarships are only meant for the geniuses

One of the most common statements you will hear when applying for a scholarship is that you have to be at the top of the class with the highest grades. While having high academic scores does give you a better chance of winning a scholarship, it is not the only way. With so many universities offering scholarships and financial aid options for international students, everyone stands a chance.

For example, not all scholarships are based on academic achievement. There are many needs-based and extracurricular scholarships available that measure a student’s abilities beyond just academics. At Harvard University, 55% of students receive need-based scholarships. One in five students pay nothing to attend — essentially making their education 100% free.

Only a small percentage of institutions choose recipients based solely on their grades — in reality, the selection process involves the consideration of many other criteria. This includes everything from hobbies and talents to where the recipient lives. 

Every scholarship has different conditions and requirements, making it important to go through each option carefully before you dismiss it as unattainable. 

Scholarships and loans often give students a path towards an international education. Source: Maddie Meyer / AFP

2. Only minorities are entitled 

It’s becoming more and more common to see scholarships available that are specifically targeted to minority groups. Who exactly is included in this? To categorise minorities, gender, race and sexual orientation are usually considered.

To support diversity and provide equal opportunity, leading universities around the world maintain pools of scholarships and financial aid for select minority students. This helps level the playing field for students, especially those from disadvantaged or more rural backgrounds.

However, this does not mean that students from minority groups stand a higher chance of receiving a scholarship. In fact, only 28% of all scholarships go toward minority students in the US.

3. It’s not worth the long and tedious application process 

Applying to study abroad may seem confusing — and international scholarships are no different. On top of being difficult to obtain, such applications often come with a lot of paperwork, making the thought of applying seem a huge chore. Due to this, many students give up on applying — and miss out on the opportunity of landing a scholarship in the process.

The reality, however, is that these processes are not always as long and gruelling as you think they are. In fact, applying for a scholarship may actually be easier than applying for a job.

Though the application process differs based on the country and institution you’re applying for, most will ask for similar information. This includes basic personal details, past academic scores, references, and personal statements. International students may need to present proof of their English proficiency, though some universities are starting to waive these requirements

These application processes are usually done via email or directly on the website of the scholarship of choice. And if it still seems difficult, remember the financial stress that will be lifted from your shoulders — which more often than not makes the struggle worth it. 


Scholarships allow students who are not financially able to further their studies and succeed. Source: Jon Cherry / AFP

4. Applying for one scholarship is enough

No matter how promising your chances look, it’s never a good idea to limit yourself to just one international scholarship application to cover the entirety of your education. 

Students expect to be able to apply for a single scholarship that covers their entire tuition fee. Though this may be the case for a few lucky students, the majority of the time it is not. You will likely have to resort to many scholarships to cover your expenses. If scholarships are not enough to meet your needs, there are other financial aid options to consider such as grants or student loans. 

The most popular and publicised scholarships receive many applicants, while many smaller, lesser-known scholarships do not receive as many applicants. Applying for these smaller organisations with less competition will usually increase your chances of receiving a scholarship. 

5. Writing an essay is required when applying for a scholarship

Essays allow applicants to express more of their personality, achievements, and reasons for applying, which then helps institutions to evaluate each in a more comprehensive manner. As such, many institutions do require you to submit one as part of your scholarship application.

However, if you are someone who has trouble expressing yourself in words and fear that writing an essay will lessen your chances of attaining a scholarship, do not worry. There are a number of scholarships that do not require you to write an essay when applying. These are based solely on academic scores, extracurricular activities and your financial status.

While they do have other requirements, the Niche $2,000 No Essay Scholarship, Dakota Corps Scholarship and $2,000 Nitro Scholarship do not need applicants to write an essay.