Taking the plunge and going to school abroad, given the inherent clash of cultures is exhilarating despite occasional setbacks. Aiming for international student scholarships adds to the challenge but is worth the effort. I know firsthand that such aspirations definitely push international students to reach new levels.
Here in Vancouver, BC, there are annual Vancouver School Board (VSB) District International Student Scholarships. Specifically, the top competitive scholarships include: the Most Outstanding Awards for each grade level from 8 to 11; Outstanding Academic Award (Killeen Award); and Outstanding International Student Award (Bob Fitzpatrick Award).
During my very first year 2016-2017 in Vancouver, thankfully, I was able to win the Most Outstanding Grade 10 Award. As a grade 11 student during 2017-2018 school year, I received an honourable mention for the same type of award. Thus, I would like to share my experience with scholarship essays, my own understanding of winning these kinds of opportunities and some personal advice/tips. Although I had an average of 97 in Grade 10 and 98 in Grade 11, it is honestly not just about having top grades. Both times, I was surprised by my results because there are so many exceptional students. I believe my breadth of experiences was central to winning the scholarship.
Most school district international student scholarships, including those of the VSB, usually look for well-balanced academic and non-academic achievements, as well as involvement within school and extracurricular activities. All of this has to be effectively conveyed in the application essays. Having high academic achievement as a baseline, when writing these kinds of scholarship essays, I would recommend:
1. Writing about at least one strong non-academic field
As you are competing with those who all excel academically, try to include this one non-academic area that you are confident that you have put your passion into and have made some achievements. For me, it was music. I described my musical involvement in and out of school which advanced my communication and teamwork skills. Highlight interpersonal skills whenever possible.
2. Encompassing personal aspects in the essays that set you apart from others
Scholarship essays are fundamentally the displaying of yourself for the officers to judge whether you are exceptional or not. Including personal experience, memories, values and opinions that authentically reflect you and define your life as well as your educational goals and ambitions are, without a doubt, a bonus.
3. Showing clear correlations between extracurricular activities and pursuing fields
Personally, more than half of my extracurricular activities orbit around business, where my desired career lies. Through making these connections, I was able to reveal that business has already stemmed its branches into my personal life. Showing that you are prepared and are constantly seeking ways to immerse yourself in the field you are pursuing plays a significant role in winning scholarships.
4. Emphasizing your potential
While highlighting your strengths, it is also crucial to briefly convey in the essay that you are still learning and improving by engaging in new challenges. In my opinion, scholarships are not rewards for your current status but more like an investment in your future. Therefore, providing proof of your potential that extends to your future years is a cherry on top.
Winning scholarships in the pool of competitiveness may seem extremely satisfying, but do not forget that the investment in your potential is really an expectation that you will fulfill an implicit promise to continue contributing to society. Thus, staying humble at all times is most essential.
Lastly, international high school students including me are living exciting lives yet there are fewer scholarship opportunities. Nevertheless, these chances to shine are motivating foreign students and planting a heartfelt sense of accomplishment within the winning individuals. I hope this article helps you and encourages you to aim higher!
~ Written by Tina (Jueun) Jang, Point Grey Secondary School