This article was originally published on our blog in Spanish. You can find the original article here.
Surely, at some point in your life you have had to seriously consider your economic affairs while you were still studying, perhaps it is even happening to you right now. When you are a student – especially when you reach postgraduate stages – you begin to consider how you are going to pay rent, next year’s tuition, food, and going out on Saturday nights. There are many expenses and, although often as a student you have the financial support of your parents, they cannot take care of you forever, especially if you study abroad, in countries or cities with higher cost of living…
The first answers that come to mind are always the same: work or ask for scholarships. Everyone has heard stories of students working part-time as pizza delivery people, delivering flyers on the streets or doing surveys. And in all these stories the same pattern is repeated: a student without time, without money, and who also has to work for a meagre salary to be able to continue studying.
Scholarships, both recurrent and feared, remain an issue in which students are often not as aware as they might or would like. Usually, they move by word of mouth, you learn of a scholarship because another friend has asked, because the whole class is asking or because they have arrived at the university mail forwarded from the rectorate. The most common ones are requested, the ones that are massive, in which you can get in the middle of the package without a great resume. Today, in Spain, scholarships from the Ministry of Education in Spain (MEC scholarships) in all its variants are the most requested from the university degree level, but they are not the only or the best ones. Sometimes, they are not even the easiest to obtain since practically all the students ask for them.
In this post, we are going to give a first approximation – a bird’s-eye view of how scholarships work in the world today. If you are interested in the subject, continue with the following posts in which we will talk about automatic search engines, automated alerts to your mobile phone, Facebook pages to follow, the requirements that usually appear in the calls, and much more.
MEC grants, which normally pay tuition if you have approved everything and a variable part depending on your personal conditions of travel, are Level 1 of the complicated game that may involve funding your higher studies. Even counting on them, you always depend almost entirely on the help of your parents. In addition, the number of these scholarships and their economic contribution falls drastically as you advance in your academic life. At the top step, the MEC PhD scholarships are almost a utopia to which few fortunate aspire to access, even though they may all possess outstanding resumes and other additional merits.
True, scholarships have requirements, and this is normal since they are usually designed to reward who deserves it or who does a good job. If what you were thinking was to ask for a scholarship with which to be able to party more days a week, you are going to have it complicated. However, in spite of what is usually believed, it is not necessary to have an exceptional curriculum to be awarded a scholarship since there are many types.
In future, posts we will talk more about each kind of scholarship, where to find them, and the kind of requirements that are usually asked for. To get an idea on the ground, there are multiple institutions that grant scholarships, some in a timely manner and others on a regular basis (usually annual). The Ministry of Education is one of them, the calls are published every year in the Official Bulletins for post-compulsory scholarships (MEC degree scholarships), Master’s degree (MEC postgraduate fellowships), and doctoral degrees. In addition, depending on the branch of study that interests you. They also call for scholarships for artistic, religious studies and even for teacher training (although this is a bit far in the game for now). As you can see, MEC grants are very generic.
To think that the Ministry of Education is the only institution interested in students is a serious mistake. Many foundations have their own scholarship programs. Usually, each foundation has a “reason to, exist” and its scholarships work accordingly. A foundation dedicated to promoting mobility among Ibero-American countries, for example, will have scholarships for study and research within these countries, such as the Carolina Foundation.
A foundation has among its rules not to obtain a net benefit from its actions, but to reinvest it in the plans of the foundation itself and thus to constantly improve some aspect of society. These activities have also been promoted by the governments of many countries, granting tax incentives to large companies to create institutions such as the Mutua Madrileña Foundation, which among other things offers postgraduate scholarships for students whose parents or relatives have been Mutualists for more than a certain number of years.
Neither do I want to imply that only the government and foundations grant scholarships. The reality is that the local government (local councils) as well as the regional governments (autonomous government), as well as other institutions, private companies and even associations or research institutes can take out some interesting calls. Do not worry now about opening links and save them in our favorites that will come in the posts in which we will concentrate on all the foundations and agencies that may be useful in the future.
Now, the important thing is to realize that there are not only large and well-known scholarships, but there are also more modest ones that can be sometimes even more interesting, more flexible when accepting applications and much less crowded. In fact, as a personal experience, I once received a scholarship to work as a fellow at my university. It was only 8 hours a week, the salary was low, but it was great to be before even finishing the race and it helped me a lot for other scholarships in which, having worked before, my curriculum already stood out above other students that only had the university degree.
The call was for 2 seats which, despite its usefulness, only 5 people responded. I was not even selected at first, but one of the applicants who had ‘won’ finally declined the offer and it fell on me, the third on the list. It is clear that it is not only academic skills that grant scholarships but also perseverance, knowing how and when to ask for things and do well.
Even if you are not sure if the scholarship in question is going to be the one you want or you will be able to accept, if there is any loophole that is useful to you, ask for it.
You are always in time to reject it once you have been granted. Calm, for applying for a scholarship you are not automatically compromising yourself to enjoy it if you are accepted, you will always need to accept before you formalize it. The important thing is to know how to search, find what can be useful, ask and when in doubt, always request.
I hope that with this post you start to feel a little less desperate about your economic future. Only with a curriculum in which you show your strengths and ambition, you can achieve many things. See you in the next posts, in which we will go deeper into the profile requested by the calls, the documentation that you will have to present and many more ideas and websites to inform you.
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