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Tips on scholarship applications

Research and apply for scholarships as early as possible, just like your study abroad programme and visa, as many of the funds may be on a first-come, first-served basis and not on competitive merits.

It can be overwhelming when you start to go through this list but find a way to stay organised because it is worthwhile. Create a goal to apply for a few scholarships every week and keep track of deadlines on a calendar. Also, set timely reminders, as it would be a shame to miss out on an opportunity just because you delayed submitting your application!

1. Apply early and frequently

Submit your applications early to be considered for every scholarship. You would also want some breathing space in anticipation of something going amiss. The US Department of Education's Federal Student Aid provider encourages students to start applying for scholarships as early as the summer after their junior year1 (Grade 11, Form 6 in Malaysia or Year 12 in the UK). In fact, you can apply for scholarships every year, all year long, even while you're still attending university.

It would help if you remembered to get your banking needs sorted before your scholarship money comes in. It will usually be deposited straight into your local account, and the university can directly debit your account for your tuition fees. With HSBC Premier, you can even open an overseas account prior to arrival2 before you leave Malaysia.

Learn more about opening an overseas account with HSBC Premier

2. Fulfil all the criteria before you apply

International student scholarships' eligibility requirements can sometimes be complicated. Therefore, it is advisable to connect with someone offering the scholarship to make sure you qualify before applying. If you have trouble with your scholarship application, maybe you were applying for federal aid instead. While both will help you pay for school, federal student aid does not usually apply to international students, so make sure you choose correctly during your application.

At HSBC Premier, we can assist by providing you with our overseas education support comprising our full range of international banking and educational services, including complimentary meetings with professional student advisers and career coaching services.

3. Utilize databases, and your research gets easier

"Scholarship search engines", otherwise known as databases and connection services, can help you quickly find and apply for multiple overseas scholarships from hundreds available online. The filters may be based on:

  • countries
  • subjects or programmes
  • governments or organisations
  • your academic, athletic or artistic merits
  • your background (for example, ethnicity, religion or gender)

Funding may also be available directly from the university you want to attend. But, of course, you can always contact them for more information as you may even be able to submit both your scholarship and college application to save time.

4. Beware of scholarship scams

Be aware of fraudsters or scammers attempting to steal your identity and/or money when searching for scholarship funding.

The best way to avoid being scammed is complete everything yourself, from filling your scholarship applications to submitting them directly to the universities.

You should be cautious when someone:

  • offers to apply for you
  • tries to make you pay any application or registration fee
  • calls to say you were selected for a scholarship that you never applied for

You should also be sceptical when attending scholarship seminars and find yourself being pressured to pay on the spot or risk missing out on a "limited opportunity". A genuine scholarship will never request money upfront.

The most important way to get financial aid for applications to US universities is through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which you should apply yourself and not through other parties.

If someone or a company charges you a fee with the promise of financial aid, they may exaggerate your personal details to acquire more funding. So, besides just being scammed or defrauded, you could be liable for a fine of up to USD20,0003 for submitting false information on your FAFSA application.

5. Apply for all of them regardless of size

There's usually a misunderstanding that bursaries or grants are awarded only to those in need, and that scholarships are for the academically gifted. Also, applying for programmes that offer larger awards are usually more competitive. Your chances might be better if you try for a few smaller scholarships that might otherwise go unnoticed but are realistically achievable.

Are you still worried that you are merely one of many applicants? You'll be surprised to know that scholarships worth millions of dollars go unclaimed every year in Canada.4 According to the Scholarship Hub, a UK-based database of more than 3,000 scholarships and bursaries, students are missing out on a whopping GBP150 million in financial aid.5

That money is available for any student, so why not you?

6. Find the scholarships right for you here

Australia, the US, the UK and Canada continue to be the most popular countries for international students. If you're beginning to search for scholarships, contact the schools or organisations directly, or visit their government's websites.

  • Study Australia – For Australian scholarships
  • EduCanada – For non-Canadian scholarship opportunities
  • EducationUSA – To leverage on US scholarships
  • Gov.UK - For UK scholarships on higher education for international students

It is important to note that any financial aid you use for tuition, books and fees will usually be tax-free. But, if you're planning to utilize your scholarship money for living expenses, such as rent or travel, you should add them to your gross income when filing your taxes. Be advised that this will vary depending on where you're studying.

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Important notes

1U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid online.

2Subject to host country/region's approval.

3Importance of submitting accurate information, Federal Student Aid online.

4Top 15 Unclaimed Scholarships in Canada. Study Abroad Nations.

5Students could be missing out on scholarships. The Student, Times Higher Education.

6Total Relationship Balance (TRB) includes any: Deposits in Current Account/-i, Savings Account/-i, Time
Deposits, Term Deposits-i, and/or Investments in Unit Trust funds/Shariah-compliant Unit Trust funds,
Structured Investments/-i, Dual Currency Investments/-i and/or Direct Retail bond, and/or Cash value from
Family Takaful/Life Insurance products with investment-linked and savings components.

7Account Fee waiver until full and final settlement of home financing.

8Account fee waiver as long as you fulfil the qualification criteria.