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What is Scholarship – How to Apply, Types and Requirements

Updated on 01 April, 2024

Kanika Pruthi

Kanika Pruthi

Sr. Content Writer & Study Abroad Expert

A scholarship is a financial assistance/aid tailored to help aspirants cover the costs of their undergraduate, postgraduate, and other academic degrees. Scholarships are not similar to student loans, i.e. they are not repayable. Students may receive money in their names or the institutions may receive the same in some scenarios. This money is used to cover tuition fees, living expenses, and other costs. 

Scholarships are provided on the basis of specific eligibility criteria including financial situation, academic accomplishments, and more. They are given by educational institutions, private individuals, government authorities, businesses, charities, organizations, and foundations. They are mostly need-based or merit-based.

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Read More: Difference between fellowship and scholarship

List of Scholarships for Students:

Here is the list of scholarships available for eligible applicants:

  • Merit-Based: These are offered on the basis of the academic, artistic, and athletic abilities of students. Requirements vary across providers of scholarships.
  • Country of Origin: There are scholarships offered to international students planning to attend courses in a particular country.
  • Special Backgrounds: Some scholarships are given on the basis of parameters like gender, race, medical history, religion, etc.
  • Subject-Based: These are awarded by government bodies and educational institutions to students specializing in a particular area/field of study.
  • Program-Based: These are presented by educational institutions as per the personal and academic accomplishments of applicants.

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Scholarships Available for 12th-Passed Students

Inlaks Scholarship:

One of the most famous undergraduate scholarships for Indian students is the Inlaks scholarship. Individuals can get assistance from various fields through this scholarship. These scholarships are given to students who want to study full-time at prestigious European, American, and British colleges.

Chinese Government Scholarships:

The Indian-Chinese cultural exchange programme permits Indian students to apply for full-time degrees at Chinese colleges. Students must have completed their 12th grade and passed the entrance tests to apply for these scholarships. They must have a percentile of above 60% in the 12th grade an

Wilfrid Laurier University Merit Scholarships:

Wilfrid Laurier University offers several foreign scholarships for Indian students. Students must have completed their 12th-grade exams to apply for the award. However, this scholarship has stringent standards, including above 80% in class 12th and outstanding scores on English language proficiency examinations. A candidate’s complete tuition expense is funded through these scholarships. Individuals receive an additional USD 1000 to 2000 based on their academic performance.

Monash International Merit Scholarships:  

This scholarship is available to Indian or other overseas students who receive admission to Monash University in Australia or other partnering universities. For the length of the programme, the selected participants will earn $10,000 AUD per year. To be accepted for such scholarships, candidates must have 85% of their academic records.

Tata Scholarships For Cornell University –

This scholarship is provided to more than 20 students who wish to study abroad after completing their 12th grade. It allows candidates to attend Cornell University in the United States of America to study. The Tata Group has contributed more than $25 million to help Indian undergraduate students study at Cornell University. An individual must be eligible for need-based financial aid in addition to being an Indian citizen.

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How to Get a Scholarship?

If students are wondering how to get a scholarship, they should know that they are not only awarded to those obtaining high scores or GPAs. There are varying eligibility criteria depending upon the institution/organization/individual/foundation awarding the scholarship. 

Here are some general criteria that one may keep in mind:

  1. Academic Performance: High GPAs/academic scores automatically qualify students for various types of scholarships.
  2. Diversity-Based: Scholarships often have various eligibility criteria like belonging to a particular gender, community, orientation, affiliation, etc. Female applicants may have special scholarships as well.
  3. Financial Aspects: Those with insufficient family income may find need-based scholarships. Source of income proof will be required along with considerable academic prowess.
  4. Extra-Curricular Abilities: Leadership positions in extra-curricular activities and clubs/schools/colleges may help aspirants be considered for various types of scholarships. Contributions to society are essential in this case.
  5. Essay-Based: Some scholarships are awarded on the basis of writing skills or essays.

How Does a Scholarship Work?

Maximum students are confused about the working of the scholarship process and how they can avail it. As we have mentioned already that scholarships are financial aids to help students complete their education or manage their study expenses. It can be a one-time scholarship or a renewable scholarship that covers your entire expense for the duration of your study. 

Scholarships arrive from different sources such as universities, charities, clubs, organizations, businesses, foundations, and more. There are even scholarships for applicants living in any particular town or place so it’s best to understand the scholarship policies and the finances it will cover before applying.

How Can Scholarship Money Be Spent?

Some scholarship providers have stringent guidelines for how the money should be spent, while others are open-ended regarding spending scholarship money.

Below are a few things on which students can spend their scholarship money:

1. Tuition

Most scholarships require students to spend the award money just for tuition. Because tuition will be the most significant expense, it makes sense for the students to spend their money first on this component of their college expenses.

2. Room and Board

If students win a scholarship that does not specify that it must be used for tuition only, the award money can pay for room and board. Room and board are what students pay to live on campus and eat with the college meal plan. 

3. Education Expenses

Students require other materials for their education that include supplies, textbooks, and technological needs, like laptops, tablets, and printers.

4. Living Expenses

If a student lives off-campus, this may include their apartment rental or groceries. However, living expenses can range from transportation to health care if they live on campus. Students may also use the award money for healthcare needs, like co-pays or prescriptions. But it needs to be checked with the scholarship provider if their award covers living expenses.

General Tips On Getting Scholarships

  1.  Check university websites carefully for scholarships.
  2. Advance preparation is important. Make a note of interviews, questions, application forms, and other aspects beforehand.
  3. You should work hard to achieve high grades along with taking part in extracurricular activities.
  4. Stand out from regular applicants, cultivate diverse interests, get involved with local community initiatives, etc.
  5. Leadership skills and social contributions are highly valued by scholarship providers.
  6.  Letters of recommendation also help students obtain scholarships on the basis of various criteria, particularly academic, extra-curricular, and others.
  7. Read instructions with care and make sure you do not miss out on any vital document or eligibility guideline. Ask for clarifications if required.
  8.  Make sure you write a compelling cover letter for a scholarship essay with proper formatting, excellent spelling and grammar, and a powerful introduction.
  9. Keep your expectations realistic since this is a highly competitive space. Many candidates meeting full scholarship guidelines often miss out. Do not let this demotivate you from applying to other places. There are no limits on scholarship applications and awards alike. You can build a full scholarship by getting a couple of smaller scholarships as well. Rejections can be frustrating, particularly if you are a deserving candidate. However, pick up the pieces, keep applying, and maintain a positive outlook.

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Grant vs. Scholarship – Key differences

The grant vs. scholarship debate encompasses several aspects. While both grants and scholarships offer specific financial assistance to students, they have their own eligibility guidelines/criteria. People often confuse the two terms although they have subtle differences. Both scholarships and grants mostly have specific requirements for continuing to get funding. This includes maintaining a certain grade/GPA and so on.

On that note, here’s taking a closer look at the major differences-:

1. Funding Sources

Scholarships are provided through multiple sources including organizations, individuals, educational and other institutions, charitable/religious organizations, community bodies, alumni, foundations, and more. Grants are mostly given by central or state governments and other governing authorities.

2. Eligibility Criteria:

Students may usually have eligibility for both scholarships and grants if they are a part of any recognized university, college, or other higher educational institute. Central and state government grants have specific criteria, i.e. applicants should be citizens of the country. Scholarships have varying requirements like getting a certain score/GPA, societal contributions, membership in any particular community/background, financial hardship, etc.

3. Merit Factors:

Scholarships are usually given on the basis of extra-curricular or academic merit. They need an application that clearly outlines why the individual should get the scholarship. Grants take into consideration the financial requirements for working out merit and getting financial support. Recipients of government grants will have to fill out specific application forms which are not based upon academic achievement, skills, and extracurricular activities.

4. Definition:

Grants are mostly disbursed by a single party, i.e., the government department, foundation, corporation, or trust to a recipient. Scholarships are financial aids offered to students for higher education. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of varying criteria.

5. Recipients:

Grants may be given to students, nonprofit organizations, businesses, educational institutions, etc. Scholarships are given only to students.

6. Categorization:

Grants do not have any categories while scholarships may be merit-based or need-based. They are also student-specific and profession/career-specific at times. Merit-based scholarships evaluate academic, sporting, extra-curricular and leadership skills/achievements. Need-based scholarships are based on the background and financial position of applicants. Student-specific scholarships are open to individuals belonging to a specific gender, race, religion, family, medical history, or other criteria. Career-specific scholarships require applicants to pursue a specific area/field of study.

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Need vs. Merit-Based Scholarships

Merit-Based Scholarships

Merit-based scholarships are given to students who have excelled in academics or extracurricular activities. The amount of compensation is dependent on the aspirants’ overall academic performance, which includes grades on common entrance exams like the GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS, and GRE, as well as extracurricular activities and sports. Athletic, creative, or musical talents, to mention a few, are all eligible for merit-based scholarships. For benefits like this, aspirants must contact each school individually. If authorities believe an applicant for a non-academic merit scholarship is a good fit, they may be requested to contact their coach or department head after admissions.

Candidates should keep in mind that merit-based scholarships are provided only based on a candidate’s academic performance or other abilities or contributions, not based on their family’s financial situation. Academic background, past rankings, and general academic track record are all factors institutions consider before awarding a grant.

Need-Based Scholarships

As the name implies, need-based scholarships are given to students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. Candidates are given these scholarships to allow them to finish their studies despite not being able to meet the financial requirements. Students get need-based financial aid in the form of grants, and it should be the goal of every candidate to maximise this type of aid before pursuing other forms of assistance.

Candidates applying for scholarships would undoubtedly face a stringent admissions process, as any university offering them the chance to study for free would only want to select the best. As a result, candidates should be well prepared to take additional tests or provide supplementary documents in order to be considered for financial aid. Candidates must have all of their documents in order and be willing to go through any additional procedures that may be required.

Primary Sources of Scholarships and Grants

For scholarships and grants, there are four primary sources:

  • Private scholarships
  • State Grants and Scholarships
  • Federal Grants
  • School Scholarships and Grants

Here’s the detailed breakdown of each type of scholarship and grant for better understanding-

1. Private Scholarships:

Foundations, civic bodies, religious groups, charities, award functions, companies and organizations award private scholarships. They are the minor source of money, though the majority believe they are the most significant source of funds.  

2. School Grants and Scholarships:

You will get the school grant and scholarship at the time of your acceptance to the university. The decision will depend on your test scores and grades. When the applicant’s financial aid form is under review, the chances of the applicant getting the merit aid and assistance lies with the discretion of the university officials.

If assistance is required, the university will give a need-based grant apart from the scholarship. If you do not qualify for the scholarship, you will incur the full tuition fee for that particular course. Please calculate the entire costs and the assistance offered by the university to avoid any confusion.

3. Federal Grants:

Federal grants are tough to receive as you’ll have to demonstrate your financial situation to be eligible for the same. You will have to fill out a form to qualify for the federal aid, Free Application for Federal Student Aid. There are many types of grants that fall in the federal grants category-

  • Pell Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
  • Veteran and Military aids
  • Federal loans

4. State Aid:

At least one scholarship is available for the residents in every education agency. These are primarily available for local students, and international students are not eligible. You can learn about them and connect with your admissions counsellor or officials to gather more information about the application process and apply for it.

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Requirements for Scholarships

Getting a scholarship will help you in ways more than just one. Scholarships are offered to students with exceptional academic records, and if you meet the requirements, apply for one or be realistic about paying the total fees. If you are trying for a scholarship, connect with an advisor from the university you have already applied to get more insights. 

While applying for the scholarship, here are the documents you will have to submit to be eligible for consideration-

  1. Correctly filled scholarship application form
  2. Diploma/transcript copies
  3. Passport/ID copies
  4. Letter of motivation or Statement of Purpose 
  5. Letter of recommendation
  6. Updated resume
  7. Required test scores for English proficiency exams like TOEFL and IELTS etc.
  8. Essay related to the scholarship (depends on the scholarship or grant you are applying for)
  9. Your updated portfolio
  10. Parent’s financial status proof
  11. Health documents 

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Finding a scholarship is not as challenging as it sounds. The very first step is to look into country-specific scholarships. Connect with the university you are applying to and find out if they offer any subject-specific or general scholarships or grants. Here’s a little guide on how you can find scholarships-

Do proper research:

Find scholarships that meet your needs and the ones you can qualify for. Find out the scholarships offered in the particular university by private organizations and the government. Please find out about the scholarship providers and research what they are looking for in the applicants. These facts will help you find the right option. 

Look out for the scholarships you can qualify for:

Only apply for the scholarships where you see yourself eligible. Check whether you meet the eligibility requirements. Do not apply if you don’t meet the criteria, as this will only crush your hopes, and the application will get rejected.

Apply for more than one scholarship:

The chances of getting a scholarship are slim as there are numerous applicants. Always apply for more than two scholarships to increase your chances of availing one for yourself. Apply for a scholarship that will meet your needs. Some scholarships only cover tuition fees, while others cover living expenses. 

Scholarships vs Bursary

Scholarships are financial awards given to students based on their academic records or sporting achievements. In contrast, a bursary is a financial award given to students based on their financial needs and requirements. These monetary awards help reduce the course fee and remove the debt burden as you need not repay the amount.


To receive a bursary, you must submit a financial disclosure form and meet the demography and geographic requirements. There are two types of bursaries available- mean tested bursary for students whose parents earn below the particular amount per annum. The other is a performance-based bursary which is a scholarship. 


These are granted to a student based on their academic excellence. All the grades a student has earned in their academics will be considered in the process. In most cases, students are eligible for scholarships based on their previous academic records. If not, students will have to do a little research and apply it independently. 

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Scholarship vs Sponsorship

As mentioned, a scholarship is a financial aid offered to students based on their academic excellence, whereas sponsorship is given to students to gain returns. Scholarships help students pay for their education, but sponsorship is like an aid, supporting the student, any event or a cause and can be in the form of money or product.

Scholarships encourage students to pursue higher education and provide opportunities for students who cannot study due to financial constraints. In contrast, a sponsorship mainly focuses on building a brand, and it is a powerful key for marketing and building identity. Please note that sponsors can also provide any scholarship. Some legal documents might be included in sponsorship, but scholarships do not have anything legal. 

Now that you have a complete understanding of how one can avail yourself of scholarships create a list of institutions to apply for them. Note down all specific criteria and requirements alongside. The insights mentioned above will surely help you prepare better.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get a scholarship?

Apply for a scholarship that suits your needs. Check whether you qualify for the scholarship or not. Apply for more than three different scholarships and submit all the documents required to make your application more credible. Connect with universities during your application process and find out if they offer any monetary aid.

Who can apply for scholarships?

To apply for scholarships, you should have an acceptance letter from a recognized university and have health insurance and other documents required to meet all the requirements.

What is a fully-funded scholarship?

Fully funded scholarships cover all the student costs. The fully-funded scholarships are the first choice among students as they pay for everything for the entire duration of your studies. However, there’s high competition for such scholarships.

What are the most common scholarships?

1. Academic Scholarships
2. Employer Scholarships
3. Military Scholarships
4. Need-based scholarships
5. Scholarship for extra-curricular
6. Athletic scholarship
7. Community service scholarship

How do you answer why you should be considered for this scholarship?

Offering scholarships to any student requires critical thinking and analysis. You need to show that you are passionate enough and willing to contribute to society to secure your chances. Let your persistence and passion shine through your answers. Mention why you have applied and that you are strong enough to overcome obstacles in your life. You should present yourself as worthy of the scholarship.

How to apply for scholarships?

Once students have found a study abroad scholarship for which they can apply, they should start preparing the documents.

  • Register for the scholarship by completing an online application.
  • Students should check their inbox to make sure they have received the confirmation mail.
  • Write an appealing personal statement or an essay that convinces the reader of your skills and potential.
  • Students should get official proof of their low income.
  • Students need to submit the acceptance letter from the university.
  • Students need to wait for the results, and if selected, the university or college usually receives the money directly to cover the tuition fee (or a part of it).

How to get scholarships to study abroad?

Ask for help – Students should contact the study abroad office at their university, as well as their professors, the financial aid office, and their academic advisors, to inquire about any scholarships or grants that they may be aware of.
Research – Students should do their research well as there are many different scholarships available such as location-specific grants, program-specific grants, subject-specific grants, student-specific grants, organization-provided grants, and government-funded grants.
Contact the grant funder directly– The only way to know the details of the scholarships is to contact the funder directly.
Take proper time– It can be easy to feel the need to rush through applications, especially if students are applying to a number of them. Students should read and follow the directions for scholarships to study abroad and leave themselves enough time to complete all of their applications.

What are merit scholarships?

Merit scholarships are offered on the basis of the academic, artistic, and athletic abilities of students and requirements vary across providers of scholarships.

What are need-based scholarships?

Candidates from financially disadvantaged backgrounds are given need-based scholarships. These are awarded to candidates to allow them to complete their education in spite of not being able to meet the financial requirements.

Which countries offer full scholarships?

Germany, Norway, Finland, Austria, and Iceland are a few countries that offer full scholarships.

Kanika Pruthi

Sr. Content Writer & Study Abroad Expert

Kanika has 5+ years of experience as a writer and content developer. She has written for a wide range of industry verticals, including hospitality, restaurants, non-profits, finance, IT, HR, technology, payroll, and education. She has worked as a creator for a few leading companies and has also helped brands grow through her creative writing.

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