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By Smitha Verma gives you the lowdown on availing some of the best scholarships provided by educational trusts and companies for postgraduate studies abroad
  • Published 28.08.08
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An overseas degree doesn’t come cheap. Scholarships don’t come easy either. But a bit of planning and loads of research can help you get funds for studying abroad. Take the case of Rupal Kulkarni from Mumbai, one of the two winners of the HSBC India Scholarship 2008. Her meticulous planning, research and academic background helped her bag a fully-funded scholarship for a masters in developmental studies from the London School of Economics.

“A lot of scholarship applications open one year prior to the start of your course. So research properly and apply early. It will give you plenty of time to plan your scholarship applications and essays,” says Kulkarni who cleared a rigorous five-stage selection process that involved writing a statement of purpose (SOP), review by an internal panel, two rounds of internal interviews at HSBC and a final interview conducted by eminent people from different walks of life.

Career counsellors would also ask you to plan in advance to get the best deal. Do extensive research on the nature of the aid you require and select a couple of scholarships. “Applying to every scholarship won’t land you anything other than losing focus and wasting time. Apply in response to a notification only if you meet the eligibility criteria,” advises Delhi-based career counsellor Pervin Malhotra.

Several educational trusts, companies and other organisations have scholarships for Indians hoping to study abroad. Most of the scholarships provided by educational trusts would ask you to first secure admission, or at least apply to the university where you have a good chance of getting selected. Once you are selected for the scholarship, you are asked to submit proof of admission.

The scholarships provided by Indian educational trusts fall into two categories. One is a loan scholarship — such as the J.N. Tata Endowment Scholarship programme — where students are given a fixed amount as an interest-free loan which they return once they start earning. The K.C. Mahindra Scholarship for Postgraduate Studies Abroad provides financial aid of Rs 95,000 that has to be paid back in four years.

“We provide anywhere between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 4 lakh to the candidates selected. They can pay back the loan after they start working,” says Nawaz Mody, director, Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Mumbai. Annually, 120 meritorious students are awarded the Tata scholarship after undergoing a rigorous selection process. This scholarship is for graduates and mid-career professionals.

There are some scholarships which are region-specific such as the De Souza Trust Goa Scholarship (for Goan students only) and HSBC India Scholarship. Both these scholarships are for postgraduate studies in the UK. The two students selected for the HSBC India Scholarship receive a full scholarship of up to Rs 21 lakh for each year of their study in Oxford, Cambridge or the London School of Economics.

The Debesh-Kamal Scholarship for studies abroad provided by the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Calcutta, selects four students for financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh each. Some scholarships, like the Bharat Petroleum Scholarship for Higher Studies, are given out on the basis of an applicant’s economic background.

Then there are scholarships that are subject-specific. The A.M.M. Arunachalam-Lakshmi Achi Overseas Scholarship, which is actually an interest-free loan, is awarded for postgraduate studies in engineering, technology, science, humanities, medicine and business management. The Inlaks Foundation scholarship provides aid for up to two years for courses other than engineering, computer science, urban planning, business studies, medicine, public health, Indian studies and history. Its focus is on subjects that are off the beaten track.

One of the most important aspects of availing a scholarship is identifying the right one that suits all your needs. For any scholarship, regardless of the amount and stature, there will be hundreds of applicants. “Depending on the course you are looking at, how much aid you require, where you want to study and what kind of programme you want to pursue, you can refine your search,” says Sakshi Ojha, who is currently pursuing a masters degree in journalism and media under the Erasmus Mundus scholarship in the European Union.

Most organisations notify the public in national dailies about their scholarships. Logging on to websites such as www.scholarshipsin india.com, www.educationobserver.com, www. finaid.org, www.collegepossible.org will give you an idea about several other scholarships provided by different universities and countries. But don’t rely completely on the information provided by the website. Sometimes the websites are not updated; so it is advisable to call the concerned foundation or organisation and get all the relevant details.

The organisations short-list candidates on the basis of their academic background, references and personal essays or SOPs. Give yourself sufficient time to complete the application and to gather all the necessary documents such as certificates and letters of recommendation.

“It is important to be honest about your achievements and crystal clear about your future goals. Your SOP should be genuine and should reflect why you are choosing a particular area of study,” says Sangeeta Mahapatra, who had applied for domestic scholarships and is now set to join the University of Missouri-St Louis, US, for her masters degree in communications.

Any kind of internships or social work that you do while in college will act as a bonus. Also, other grants and financial aid provided by your chosen university will act as a plus point in loan scholarships. “While applying to a university never shy away from asking for a financial aid,” asserts Malhotra, as many domestic scholarships may not cover your entire expenses abroad.

Once you are short-listed for the interview update yourself on all the latest happenings. The interview panel may ask you questions related to your academic background and chosen stream of study. “We were questioned on personal matters as well as academics. Current affairs and our opinions on issues and policies were also touched upon,” says Kulkarni, who studied commerce in Mumbai.

What you expect to do with your degree should match what the foundation expects of its winners. “We give preference to candidates who are keen to return after their stint abroad and work for the betterment of our nation,” says S. Ganapathy, manager, K.C. Mahindra Educational Trust, Mumbai.