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How to Write The Perfect Scholarship Application (and Cover Letter)

This article is sponsored by University of Technology Sydney

If you’re thinking about applying for scholarships in Australia, you’re in luck. There are numerous undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships, available through educational institutions, government bodies (such as the Destination Australia scholarship and Australia Awards scholarship), private businesses and more.

We know that applying for a scholarship can be a stressful experience, especially as it’s something you want to get right the first time. To help you feel confident in your application, we asked the Manager of International Scholarships at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Kelly Soo, for her top tips on putting together the perfect scholarship application.

How to apply for a scholarship in Australia 

Before applying for a scholarship 

  • Do your research

Kelly recommends starting your research early. Once you identify a particular educational institution that you’re interested in, it’s a good idea to begin looking at the different scholarships that are available

You can start by browsing your chosen educational institution’s website. There is usually a dedicated scholarships page that provides all the information you need. As there are often several scholarships on offer, you can use the search tool to narrow down the criteria and find the scholarships that best suit your strengths, background and area of study. 

Kelly notes that many scholarships do not require a separate application – you may automatically be considered when you apply for a course. By doing your research, you will know what types of scholarships are available and whether you have to submit a separate application for each one. 

  • Check that you meet the requirements 

Kelly encourages applying for course admission before any scholarships. Once you have been accepted into your chosen studies and meet the scholarship requirements, you can start the scholarship application process. 

The selection criteria for a scholarship can vary from scholarship to scholarship. Some are based on academic merit. Others are based on your country of citizenship and other factors. Make sure that you understand and meet the requirements before submitting an application. 

If you’re applying for an academic merit-based scholarship, there will likely be a minimum grade, GPA or Weighted Average Mark (WAM) that you have to meet. Kelly suggests doing a rough calculation with the results you have to see if you meet this requirement, or simply using the scores obtained from your home institution.

  • Can I still apply if I don’t meet all of the requirements? 

Kelly explains that the method used by each institution to calculate academic grades may differ. If your grades are very close to the requirement, you may still have a chance. Alternatively, you can always contact the institution to clarify your probability of securing the scholarship. 

  • Apply within the application period 

It’s important to apply during the allocated period or you risk having your scholarship application rejected. You might consider preparing ahead of time. This gives you more time to put together the best application possible.

The application period should be advertised alongside the scholarship on your educational institution’s website.

Preparing the scholarship application

  • Where can I find an application form? 

In most cases, you can download the scholarship application form from your educational institution’s website. Make sure you understand the application process in advance as some may be paper-based forms that you need to pick up from your institution. 

  • What does the application involve? 

The application form will have a set of questions for you to answer. Depending on the scholarship, you may have to provide a written statement or a cover letter, produce a video addressing certain questions, or even attend an interview. 

Kelly notes the application form will usually offer guidelines on the number of words required, or the format of a video, if needed.

  • Do I have to answer all of the questions? 

In some cases, the application may have questions that are optional. If this occurs, you may choose whether or not to provide that information. However, it is usually in your best interests to answer all of the questions.

  • How to answer application questions 

Address all questions as accurately as possible. According to Kelly, the scholarship selection committee generally looks for a well-rounded response. For example, at UTS, they look for students who will thrive and do their best academically and in the university community.

  • Keep your answers clear and concise 

Kelly recommends keeping your answers short and to the point. She says the challenge for many students is to get their point across, with impact and within the word limit. Make sure you have a clear structure, use formal language, and always check your spelling. 

  • Refer to real-life experiences 

You should consider using examples of real-life experiences to support your answers. Kelly suggests looking for examples that showcase your leadership experience, service to the community and any activities or achievements that represent who you are. 

  • Let your personality and passion show in your application

When preparing your application, Kelly recommends thinking about what makes you stand out from other candidates. This may be something to do with your personal background, interests or life experiences. Ultimately, your application should give the scholarship panel a sense of who you are. 

Writing the cover letter 

Many students worry about putting together the cover letter portion of an application. Kelly recommends making sure that your cover letter follows a clear structure and that your spelling and formal language use are correct. 

Kelly’s next tip is to ensure you highlight your strengths. She asks students to consider why they deserve the scholarship. You should always relate these points to the theme of the scholarship. 

You should also use the cover letter to express your plans for the future. Perhaps explain how this particular scholarship will help you achieve your goals. 

Can international students apply for scholarships in Australia from overseas?

If you’re currently overseas, you should still be able to apply for scholarships in Australia. Kelly says some are specifically designed for commencing international students based overseas, as well as for students who may already be in Australia. 

Kelly explains that there shouldn’t be a difference in the application process between those in-country or overseas, unless stated otherwise. She asks students to read each scholarship application process and its requirements carefully before applying. If you’re in doubt, you can contact the educational institution directly for clarification.

(Photos courtesy of Kwa Nguyen)