Tips for Success

Don't let wories about finances prevent you from studying abroad: you may be able to secure partial or full funding for your journey with the many need-based or academic-based education abroad scholarships that are available. You need only to apply! Get your applications started as soon as possible and be a competitive candidate.

Prioritize Your Requirements

Every scholarship varies in its requirements and criteria for acceptance.  Make sure you understand the specifics of the scholarships that you are applying for, and put in the time and effort required to have a competitive application.  It might help you to make a list, prioritize the requirements for the scholarship, and create a planning timeline.

Request Letters of Recommendation Early

Some scholarships may require a letter, or letters, of recommendation. A letter of recommendation requires considerable effort on the part of your recommender, so be respectful of the individual’s time and other obligations.  Be sure that you give your recommender plenty of time to put together a great letter of recommendation for you.  

The Penn State University Fellowships Office also recommends, whenever possible, to follow these guidelines:

  • Each recommender should be familiar with you, your goals, and your ability. Avoid requesting letters from high school teachers, graduate instructors, or faculty who do not know you well enough to write letters.
  • Discuss your plans with your recommenders in person. Communicate to them why their letter would be valuable and important, and invite the writer to ask any questions about your candidacy or your eligibility. Inviting a writer to discuss perceived inconsistencies or unperceived strengths will only make you a better candidate.
  • Provide your recommenders with a copy of your personal statement or application essay, and resume or CV if needed.
  • Give your recommenders enough time to write by asking them at least one month in advance.
  • Provide your recommenders with clear and accurate directions, for example:
    • What the letter should address.
    • When the letter is due.
    • How the request for a letter of recommendation will arrive.
    • How they should submit the letter.

Personal Statements and Essays

An essay or personal statement is often the key component of your application. The Penn State University Fellowships Office is a resource available to help students shape their essays, and provides these helpful tips for your writing:

  • Identify a central idea or theme you wish to convey.
  • Keep it as simple as you can. Use language you would use naturally; imagine you are writing a thoughtful statement for a trusted mentor or friend.
  • Employ specifics. Help your readers remember you by using specific names, references, or anecdotes.
  • Avoid clichés: Make sure your draft reflects some thought, fact, reflection or experience of your own. Take care not to rely on stock phrases or expressions. For example: the phrase "suddenly, I realized" may not sound like a cliche phrase, but the theme of epiphany is one of the most common themes that students rely on when writing application essays of all kinds.
  • Look for the “story”: Your life has been a journey, full of twists and turns, insights, and achievements both made and not yet fulfilled. Your basic challenge in writing a compelling personal statement is to tell the story that makes sense of some component of your life. You are the one who knows your story best.

Penn State Resources

In addition to the University Fellowships Office, there are a number of other spaces at Penn State that exist to support both your professional and your academic work: