What are scholarships and who should apply?

This is the first of three chapters about Applying for Scholarships. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Introduce the concept of an academic scholarship

– Explore the five common grounds for awarding scholarships

– Complete worksheets that check knowledge and understanding and improve English proficiency

Chapter 1

Most students will have heard of the term ‘scholarship’ and should have a general understanding of what one is. For many, this word will evoke an image of a gifted scholar or athlete who has earned a funded placement at university based on their talent. However, while these popularised scenarios do happen, students may be surprised to learn that a wide-variety of scholarships are now available. As such an award could mean the difference between continuing your education or dropping out, we’ve developed a three-chapter short introductory reader about how to secure these potentially life-changing funds. To understand more, Chapter 1 explores what scholarships are and who should apply for them, with Chapters 2 and 3 then discussing the difficult (but achievable) process of applying for and securing one.

So, what is a scholarship?

Generally speaking, a scholarship is an educational award that supports a student through their studies by offering a financial grant that doesn’t have to be paid back. This is a key difference between a scholarship and say an educational loan. While a student loan may have favourable repayment deadlines or slightly lower interest rates compared to normal bank credit, borrowing is still costly and seen as a burden. In contrast, a scholarship is intended to be a means of offering support to students  and a method of ‘giving back to the community’. A scholarship could offer:

  • full or partial tuition for an undergraduate degree
  • full or partial tuition for post-graduate masters or PhD
  • a one-time payment to support your studies, from between USD500 to USD5,000+
  • assistance with housing and educational materials for the duration of your studies


Who can apply for scholarships?

Whether or not a student can apply for a particular scholarship depends on a number of variables, usually dictated by who is offering the academic award. A scholarship may be awarded by any sized organisation for example, from large international corporations to small local foundations or even charities (or the institute you plan to study at). Such requirements may be in place to show that fair access to education is being offered, diversifying the student body at an otherwise exclusive campus, or a certain company may wish to ensure that talented athletes or musicians are representing their interests on campus and in extra-curricular events. More altruistic is when corporate scholarships are less strict in their requirements, simply intending to demonstrate that their company is giving back to society. Whatever the purpose for the scholarship is, there are commonly five grounds for awarding this type of financial support, each of which we’ve discussed below.

1. Academic Excellence

Many scholarships are targeted at students who are exceptionally gifted in a chosen area of study. However, while these are occasionally awarded based on academic achievements alone, it is actually more common for this requirement to be in conjunction with a particular social demographic, such as your:


  • gender
  • nationality
  • ethnicity
  • religious beliefs
  • existing financial support


Unfortunately, this may mean that even if you’re top of your class, you may not fall into the right social categories to be awarded financial support through a scholarship. It’s therefore important that you study the requirements carefully before applying.


2. Athletic Excellence

Scholarships for the most physically capable are more common in sports-focused nations such as the USA. In such countries, university football teams may earn significant amounts of money for their academic institutes, meaning that obtaining top-quality players is well-worth the waiving of a few tuition fees. Should you have particular athletic talent in a popular sport and study in a country that prizes athletic competition, this may be one avenue you wish to pursue. However, as with any sport, success is highly competitive, and continued results will no doubt be expected.

3. Unique Talents/Skills

Similar to having a talent for sports or academia, these scholarships are most commonly offered to students who have a stand-out skill that may also contribute to or better the university’s profile. Commonly, such talents may include the ability to play a musical instrument, paint to a professional level or perform on stage to large audiences. As with athletic scholarships however, receiving such a financial award will almost certainly come with the stipulation that the receiver performs when requested and maintains their area of talent.

4. Military Affiliation

While military benefits vary greatly from country to country, there are a number of nations around the world in which a serving member and/or their families may receive tuition for various educational qualifications, including undergraduate degrees. This is certainly one area to research should your family happen to have affiliations with the military. Naturally, continued service following the qualification will usually be expected post graduation.


5. Field Experience

Finally, subject-specific scholarships may also be offered in conjunction with academic excellence, usually funded by associations or companies that will benefit from your research. For example, the Siemans Foundation promotes engineering scholarships across the USA while the American Association of Certified Accountants targets their scholarships at up-and-coming talent in accounting. Having prior experience in a particular field may therefore benefit you in obtaining a scholarship.


Considering the requirements listed here, it may not be obvious at first whether you have an exceptional or unique enough situation to qualify for a scholarship. To find out more about whether or not you’re able to apply, continue reading with Chapter 2.

To reference this reader:

Academic Marker (2022) Applying for Scholarships. Available at: https://academicmarker.com/careers-advice/applications/applying-for-scholarships/ (Accessed: Date Month Year).

1 of 3 Chapters Completed


Once you’ve completed all three chapters in this short reader about Applying for Scholarships, you might then wish to download our Chapter Worksheets to check your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

Chapter 1 explores the topic: What are scholarships and who should apply? Our Chapter 1 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

Chapter 2 explores the topic: Am I able to apply for an academic scholarship? Our Chapter 2 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

Chapter 3 explores the topic: Which top 10 tips secure an academic scholarship? Our Chapter 3 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

To save yourself 2 Marks, click on the button below to gain unlimited access to all of our Applying for Scholarships Chapter Worksheets. This All-in-1 Pack includes every chapter, activity and answer key related to this topic in one handy and professional PDF.

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Autumn 2022