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Soren Madsen - February 2016


The scholarship-question: How can you get paid for studying abroad?

In many European countries higher education is free or made very affordable through subsidies. Many young talented people therefore forgo an opportunity to learn and study abroad because they are put off by tuition costs. I decided to do something about that. First I did this for my own education and thus having learned the ropes of the industry I now help others achieve success as well.

In 2013 I decided to raise money to study for a MBA degree and live two years in Thailand to broaden my horizons. All together I have received enough student grants - not loans - to study for a MBA degree and live two years abroad. At this point I knew that my skills with earning grants was something others could benefit from. I have helped over 300 students raise money to study overseas.


What’s the secret? What are the keys to achieve success with earning student grants?

Naturally, applying for grants that match your profile and project will increase your chances of getting funded. However, I also received many grants that I only remotely qualified for. I recommend applying for multiple grants whose institutional mission match your profile while also applying for grants that may not at first look like a perfect match.


Why is it also important to apply for grants that may not be a 100% fit for you?

To increase your odds of getting fully funded it is important to allocate your grant proposals among various foundations on numerous bases. Plan for the disappointment if you receive more rejections than you had expected. Many private foundations must by law donate a certain percentage of their total assets annually through grantmaking. Thus, they need you as much as you may need them.


So, where do you find these sometimes rather obscure scholarships and grants?

Some countries have particular wealthy charitable foundations. Funds in your home country may not necessarily be the best or your only option. I recommend to not only look at websites but also use some offline resources - there are some printed directories for grants and scholarships that can actually give you a competitive advantage. Many grants go unsought because people never find them. Regardless of your country of origin, you can qualify for grants.


How do I as student identify a strength that may make me eligible for a grant?

First, I recommend identifying grants in niches that very few people but you know about or have a chance to apply for. Here are some tips to identify such grant niches:

  1. Geographic criteria: Grants eligible for people from your hometown or province, and at the school or destination you plan to study.

  2. Demographic criteria: Grants eligible for people of your age, gender, social status, family size and background, income, occupation, education, religion, race, and nationality.

  3. Motivational criteria: Grants eligible for people who seek to solve specific tasks and to educate themselves within certain industries and sectors matching your profile and career aspirations.

To give you an example: I used a couple of those printed directories. Among many other categories, I found grants specifically earmarked for “artisan families”. My dad is a carpenter who completed his training in 1982. I applied for nearly 20 student grants in this niche and received 40,000 DKK ($6,000). Some of them were not directly related to the funds stated purpose, “training the next generation of carpenters”, however, even awards in the range of $700-1,000 add up.

Ok, now that you have done all the research and have found some scholarships that you really want to apply for: what’s next in the process?

Each foundation has a stated set of criteria for applicants. Write your application so that it matches issues that are important to the funds. At one point I had over twenty different standard grant proposal templates in use. As I personally applied and received grants on numerous bases, I could therefore more quickly apply for funds with different mission purposes.


What are some writing tips to convince the grant-maker that you are the right candidate?

Identify as many possible personal strengths and qualifying factors you can and then match them to the criteria that make you eligible for the grants. Go through as many grants and scholarships as you can, and select your personal strengths strategically to target funds one by one to win the highest possible return.

What are the biggest mistakes students make when applying for grants?

The most common mistake students make is that they are not aggressive enough in their approach to foundation fundraising. Reaching for maximum awards from many funds is at least as important as good writing techniques. Some students fear a situation where they have to repay money received in excess. I’d say it’s preferable having to repay the difference between the amount you received and value stated in your budget rather than not getting fully funded at all. What do you have to lose?

Some grants and scholarships are bound to certain conditions. What are important terms to check upon receiving a grant?

A grant basically translates into free money. The main difference between grants and loans is that grants do not require repayment. If the grant comes with several strict conditions I would consider to drop it immediately. The process of how student grants are awarded is vague for most due to the various types of student scholarships. I recommend looking for student grants and scholarships issued as cash awards directly to students.

Written by
Soren Madsen
Founder and Advisor at