How to Write a Winning Study Abroad Scholarship Essay

Studying abroad is a big and expensive part of many students' education, and scholarships can help with that. Here's how to ace those study abroad scholarship essays.

Studying abroad is a dream opportunity that can have so many benefits, some of which you may not even realize as you head into your application or daydream about having the chance to go. The most obvious benefit is that you get to experience a different culture, different people, or a different way of life. This is fascinating on its own and could be considered reason enough to start your application. Add to that the opportunity to freshen your perspective with a change of scenery, make new friends, potentially pay lower tuition and living fees, learn a different language, and broaden your understanding of the world, and you’ve got something all students should at least think about doing while at university.

Of course, study abroad isn’t as easy as signing a form and away you go. Most of the time, you’ll need to have some financial support from an institution before you can go galloping off. To earn this, you’ll almost always have to write an essay and compete with your peers for the opportunity. So, here are some tips for making sure that it’s you getting on that plane and not anyone else.

Read the prompt carefully

The most classic error students make with any essay is not answering the question. This goes for travel abroad writing as much as anything else. “You can write the most incredible essay full of perfect demonstrations of your intelligence and passion, but if it doesn’t answer the question, it won’t get considered at all,” says Jake Cole, an educator at Writinity. You’ll also write a more informed essay if you really understand the parameters of your question. You might easily be vague in how you respond if you don’t really know what you’re responding to. A good technique is to reread the question several times, highlighting operative words when they occur to you as a way to keep things under control.

Related: How to Read a College Application Essay Prompt

Surprise your reader

It’s easy to write formulaic essays—an intro, a few body paragraphs, a conclusion, and you’re done. A study abroad essay is unorthodox by nature, so you definitely don’t want to limit yourself in form or substance. The other thing you’re up against is how much competition there is for each spot in the program. The people who make decisions will read hundreds of essays, and you want to make sure yours stands out so come decision time, they haven’t forgotten yours exists. Take an approach to your essay that’s different from what you suspect others are going for. Use your alternative approach as a connection to how strongly you feel about the application. It’s easy to dash off a standard essay, but it’s difficult to slowly piece together something more unusual and specific. It shows care and attention, two traits they’ll want to see to prove you actually deserve the scholarship. 

Run your essay past the right people

It’s easy to get too insular as you work on an essay. They tend to take a good amount of time, and most people prefer to work in isolation. This means you could write an essay for six hours without even stopping to let your own mind have a subjective overview, let alone get an outside opinion. “Whenever I write anything extended, I will always run it past people around me. In the case of a scholarship essay, past winners, parents, people from where you are hoping to transfer to, and your professors are going to be your biggest resources as you try to put something of consequence together,” explains Kaya Gopal, tutor at DraftBeyond and ResearchPapersUK. Always get second, third, and fourth opinions on your content to make sure you’re in the best position to avoid getting lost in your own work, which can definitely happen if you aren’t careful.

Related: Secrets to Writing an Amazing Scholarship Essay 


This is always important! Making mistakes in a standard essay is bad, but you’re fighting so hard in a study abroad scholarship essay that if you aren’t vigilant about the small things, those judging your work will be eager to cut you out to save themselves the trouble. Proofreading is a complex process. It’s harder than just passing an eye over your work. There are different layers to it: Does your essay’s logic stand? Have you done everything you said you’d do? Is it structured correctly? Is all the spelling correct? The grammar? The syntax? Each of these details is as important as the rest. Again, getting these things correct helps demonstrate to readers how committed you are to your application and how much work you’re willing to put in to be accepted. Conversely, if you fail to proofread, it comes across like you don’t care about your application.

Do your research

Before you write your essay, you need to research the country, city, and institution you’ll attend if you get the scholarship and, in a different sense, you need to research yourself. Researching yourself means knowing why it is that you actually want the scholarship and how it will be instrumental in making a difference in your life. This means taking some time for reflection.

Related: List: The Experts’ Choice: Terrific Study Abroad Programs

Studying abroad is such an incredible opportunity, so you have to do everything in your power to ensure the application you put in to secure funding is as strong as possible. Hopefully these tips will help as you think about writing your essay.

Find scholarships to fund your study abroad goals with our Scholarship Search tool.

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