By Bharatendu Agarwal
Pursuing an LL.M. from a foreign university is quite an expensive affair.
The costs involved, in-fact, are so steep that several aspirants drop their plans only because of the complex financial dynamics involved. Therefore, needless to say that managing finances for the year of study abroad is of fundamental importance.
As stated in the applying for an LLM Abroad article, scholarships are generally of three types – those offered by:
1. The university in which the application is being put in;
2. The education council of the country in which the university being applied to is located; and
3. Trusts/foundations located in India or abroad.
Scholarships can further be divided into three categories:
1. Need based – where the final decision is based purely on the candidate’s financial requirements (assessed after considering parent’s income and financial history);
2. Merit based – where final selection happens entirely on the basis of the candidate’s caliber, academic and extra-curricular achievements (parent’s income and financial history play no role whatsoever); and
3. Merit cum Need based – where the selection criteria involves a combined consideration of the candidate’s achievements and potential coupled with his/her financial position.
The application process for each scholarship, its nature along with the type of assistance provided differs.
For example, some scholarships may offer to cover only the cost of tuition (partial or whole) or travel expenses (to and from country of residence); others may also offer a monthly sustenance cost or facilitate accommodation. A full scholarship is one that provides coverage for either all or most of the aforementioned aspects.
Landing a scholarship is not easy; securing a full scholarship is even more challenging. This is simply because of the skewed applicant to scholarship ratio (number of students seeking scholarships is always higher that the amount of funding available).
The natural consequence of this is that the competition for procuring scholarships is tough. Unlike university applications, where the decision is purely application based, scholarships may also require shortlisted candidates to appear for an interview; thus, making the process even more taxing.
While the competition for scholarships is high, securing one is not an impossible task.
A few reasons why even the most meritorious candidates lose out is because of:
1. Not exploring all possible funding opportunities;
2. Targeting the wrong scholarships;
3. Applying only for a limited number of scholarships;
4. Completely missing out on scholarships because of early deadlines;
5. Treating scholarship applications lightly;
6. Not doing justice to the application on account of being exhausted by university applications;
7. Not streamlining the application accordingly to the scholarship’s needs; and furnishing inadequate documentation.
Not performing proper research for all available funding and scholarship opportunities is unforgivable. One should tap into all available (re)sources. Every year some new funding opportunities arrive, hence one should always be on the lookout for scholarships other than the popular and widely known ones.
Certain scholarships may be restricted to women or to people belonging to a particular religion, community, geographical location or even societal membership.
Subject to availability and eligibility, targeting such scholarships is more advantageous because of the limited applicant pool. Usually applicants completely overlook this aspect simply because it never occurs to them.
In the earlier article (click HERE) it was mentioned that one should restrict university applications to a modest number because:
(i) it was not a numbers game;
(ii) one can only study in a single university at a particular time; and
(iii) more applications amount to higher costs.
Speaking, however, it the context of scholarships none of the reasons are applicable. The situation is rather totally opposite.
All scholarships whose eligibility criteria is fulfilled should be applied for. As scholarships award different monetary sums, universities and donors permit students to cover their costs by clubbing several scholarships. Hence, the more applications you put in, higher the probability of securing at-least some sort of funding.
This is of course subject to the fact that each application is meticulously drafted. Applying for scholarships should not be considered as additional expense rather it should be valued as an investment against which one stands to gain significantly.
Scholarships, particularly the prestigious ones, tend to have strict timelines and sometimes even pre-date university application deadlines. They also do not have multiple application rounds.
Some universities only consider those applications for scholarship which are submitted in the first application round; others do not even require having a ‘conditional offer’ at the time of applying and seek only the list of universities being applied to (this happens mostly where the award amount is fixed).
Being lackadaisical and starting scholarship research late, more often than not, leads to situations where one completely misses out on the scholarship opportunity. Hence, it is extremely important, especially for those candidates whose ability to pursue the Masters is dependent on securing a scholarship, that scholarship research is done thoroughly, structurally and timely.
Applying for an LL.M. is a tedious task and separately applying for scholarships makes it even more gruelling. As the entire process is spread-out over a period of four to six months (or even longer) there are bound to be low points, moments of saturation and exhaustion.
Somehow these lapses in concentration and focus have a tendency of cropping up when one is working on scholarship applications; primarily because scholarship forms seek additional motivational letters, various sorts of information, have unorthodox questions and are often lengthy owing to their ‘Question – Answer’ format.
Consequently, the quality of application suffers. Inability to do justice with the application, on account of the aforesaid reasons, is one major reason why applicants fail.
Hence, candidates looking to fetch a scholarship need to stay on their toes and should have enough fuel to run the entire race. Competition for scholarships is fierce and there is no margin for error.
When several scholarship forms are filled one naturally comes across same or similar set of questions. One blunder inexperienced candidates are prone to committing is not differentiating between ‘same’ and ‘similar’ questions.
An answer which is drafted for one application may not necessarily apply verbatim to a question in another application which is seemingly similar. In fact, it may not even apply to the exactly same question. Why? – because each fund/foundation/donor has a different philosophy.
The reason which inspires one trust fund to disburse money can be entirely different from the motivations of another foundation.
Hence, an answer which may be ideal for one application may not even strike a chord in another. Candidates need to be mindful of this and should, as a matter of principle, before approaching questions try to understand the underlying ideology of the scholarship granting institution.
Candidates tend to overlook these finer nuances and undermine the importance of streamlining their application which eventually leads to unfavorable results.
Scholarships which are awarded on the basis of the applicant’s need seek, other than a letter explaining financial need, documents like most recent tax certifications, proof of parent’s income (salary slips or employment contract), bank statements etc.
Inability or omission to furnish any of the prescribed documents renders the application incomplete leading to outright rejection. Therefore, applicants should be particular to clearly understand which documents are sought so that they can be gathered expeditiously as it may require liaising with parents, banks and others.
Other than not committing the mistakes discussed above, candidates should:
- Ensure that they are eligible for the scholarship before applying for it;
- Follow respective guidelines strictly;
- Ascertain whether their application for the scholarship offered by the university is considered automatically or needs to be applied for separately (by filling a special scholarship form or writing additional essays);
- Visit the ‘Financial Aid’ section on the website of the university being applied to (as it may provide useful leads);
- Not hesitate to write to the university’s admission section enquiring about any new grants, scholarships or alternative sources of funding which might not yet be public;
- Keep a sharp eye on deadlines and apply as early as possible;
- If applicable, practice for interviews;
Despite doing everything correctly and to the best of one’s ability there can be instances of failure. In such situations candidates have to decide whether or not to go ahead for the LL.M. by taking an education loan. While this decision is largely personal and subjective, it is generally not advisable to take a huge amount of loan because over the years the amount multiplies on account of high interest rates.
Taking a hefty loan in the anticipation of being able to repay it on getting subsequent employment involves substantial risk. In spite of securing a high paying job, repaying a fat loan amount takes considerable effort.
For the benefit of applicants an elaborate (but non-exhaustive) list of scholarships (along with direct links) is provided below:
- Narotam Sekhsaria Scholarship
- Inlaks Scholarship
- Aga Khan Foundation
- C. Mahindra Scholarship
- J.N. Tata Endowment
- Debesh-Kamal Scholarship
- TOEFL® Scholarship Program
- B.D.Endowment Fund
- Education Grants offered by Tata Trusts
- D. Sethna Loan Scholarships
Eligibility Specific Scholarships
- Vishwa Konkani Study Abroad Scholarship
- National Overseas Scholarship for SCs
- National Overseas Scholarship for Students with Disabilities
- Government of Andhra Pradesh’s NTR Videshi Vidyadharana for BC & SC/ST Students
- Jain Jagruti Higher Educational Financial Assistance
- Interest Subsidy on Educational Loan for Overseas Studies for OBCs
Region Specific Scholarships
- Goa Education Trust Scholarship
- Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship
- GREAT Scholarship
- Felix Scholarship
- Chevening Scholarships
- Official Scholarship Guide for Indian Students by the British Council
Specifically for Oxford & Cambridge
- Rhodes Scholarship
- Oxford-Indira Gandhi Graduate Scholarship
- Oxford India Centre Scholarship
- Gates Cambridge Scholarship
- Cambridge Society Mumbai Scholarship Fund
- The Oxford and Cambridge Society of India Scholarship
- Fulbright-Nehru Master’s Fellowship
- AAUW’s International Fellowship for Women
For European Countries
- Eiffel Scholarship
- Ile de France Master scholarship
- The Emile-Boutmy Scholarship (Specifically Sciences Po Paris)
Useful Online Resources
- LL.M. Guide’s Scholarship Search
- Ministry of Human Resource Development’s Scholarship Page
- Scholarships for Development (scholars4dev)
- Scholarships in India
- ScholFin’s Website
Bharatendu Agarwal is an Admission Consultant who graduated from NLU, Jodhpur in 2013 and went on to pursue the prestigious ICAL Programme from Stockholm University, Sweden. A brief profile is available here.
While he provides professional assistance to LL.M. aspirants, with the current series of articles he intends to empower applicants to be able to go about the process independently.