Tips on applying for scholarship grants in Germany

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University of Freiburg

From time to time I get asked for advice on my blog (and the short-lived Pinoy Scholars blog) about applying for scholarships grants to pursue graduate studies in Germany and other European countries. Other than the ‘Study hard!’ mantra I could dispense, I never really came up with a conclusion on how I got awarded a DAAD scholarship for my graduate studies at the University of Freiburg in Germany. So I tapped into the minds of  members of a Facebook Group called Filipino Students and Alumni in Germany. As the group name implies, they are Filipinos who are students and alumni of German universities. Many of them have themselves undergone the nerve-wracking applications for funding, without which a German education would have been impossible. I posted a question to the group, which, after being ‘seen by 40’, got some practical responses by direct replies or private messages on Facebook. I’m breaking down some of the answers below into themes

On applications, research proposals and supervisors:

My tip would be to write a really good and thought-out research proposal, preferably one that was written together with the supervisor. Getting a supportive supervisor that will put in a good word for you is a plus. -Manjo Loquias, DAAD scholarship for a PhD in Math at University of Bielefeld, October 2008 to December 2010.

I saw your message on the FSAAG page. It’s my first semester here in Konstanz as a PhD in Economics. I got a small amount of funding from the state of Baden-Württemberg. I didn’t directly apply to the Baden-Württemberg scholarship, I just applied to the University of Konstanz and may have indicated that I needed funding (I don’t remember quite well anymore)… I don’t really know what it was that made them decide to grant funding to me. One thing that must have been particularly striking was that one of my referees (who now teaches in UP but took his Post Doc in Konstanz for a year) wrote his recommendation letters to Konstanz and Mannheim in Deutsch. I can’t say that’s a good tip because advisers in the Philippines who can write letters in German are not easy to find. -Vigile Marie Fabella, PhD in Economics student at the University of Konstanz

I think that the EC Erasmus Mundus PhD grant does not apply to those who have resided in the EU for more than x number of years – unless you’re transitioning from a Master’s Erasmus Mundus grant to the PhD level. I’m quite sure of this, but perhaps they have changed the policy.-Salvador Santino ‘Santi’ Regilme, Jr. DAAD scholarship in ‘Public Policy and Good Governance’ at the University of Osnabrueck, 2008 to 2010.

Applications are about first impressions first. make sure one follows the directions to the letter. if not possible, ask the contact person nicely (and get their names correctly). as always, the rules of letter writing etiquette should apply. no cute or pabibo b******t… You got to have something on hand to back up your applications just in case. This may be a writing sample, copies of your documents from your application portfolio and so on. Have someone read your application (especially if there are statements of purpose, writing samples or letters of intent). Here, first impressions matter. If there are typos and mistakes, then you reduce your chances. also make sure that you choose your recommendation letter writers carefully. Just because you are chummy with your letter writer doesn’t mean that he will write a glowing letter. -Andrew Adrian Yu Pua

So, you secured that scholarship grant? Sehr gut! Let’s Prost! to that. But it doesn’t mean celebrating the Oktoberfest in every month of the year. The amount you’ll get will most likely be a just little more than enough to pay for rent, books, and the occasional rest and recreation. Andrew Adrian Yu Pua offers some more money-pinching tips:

It is possible to save up to half of your stipend if you know how to cut corners. this means that you have to exploit legitimate free travel options given by the school. if living alone, finding a basic 12-18 m² apartment should be a priority. you can share but it depends on your tolerance for other people. Find the Asian stores as early as possible because they give cheaper options. Also know that certain cuts of meat are cheaper (for instance fattier meat products are usually cheaper than nonfat meat products; the reverse is true for the Philippines). Or you could opt for eating in school and supplementing with veggies and fruits at home.

Use the library. you do not have to buy new books all the time. Because of the large secondhand book market (mostly ex-library books — some of which are stolen by others!!), buy from that market. Use amazon.de or ebay.de.

Finally, you are in Germany to study. Sure you could have fun. You could sample everything that Germany has to offer including the booze. But have the presence of mind to forgo certain fun options for other pursuits. Because of the grant, you might be able to save up for emergency purposes. Although, it is unlikely that you will get sick in Germany (given the practice you have in the Philippines), it pays to have some funds around if you need to move to better housing, apply for other schools in the future, etc. if time permits, get a research or student assistantship to supplement your grant. That’s another source of money.

When I was a student in Germany, I worked as a student assistant and also took on odd jobs (and got fired in one without me knowing it) to supplement my stipend. If all else fails and you still want that German diploma…

There are also possibilities for self financing. Many universities in Germany offer free education and it is possible to come here on your own accord. This opens up other opportunities for course choices and maybe lifestyle choices. -Gabriel Caballero

I have a couple of classmates who  worked in Indian and Japanese restaurants (guess where they’re from!) to put themselves to grad school. They would work afternoon or evening shifts on top of group works, assignments, and rest. It is difficult, but possible.

Here a couple more information and links:

If you check out the webpage http://www.bit.ly/fsaag , you will find there a document on basic steps in applying for a degree program in Germany. It based on common experience and may vary with other students. The main scholarship provided for foreign students in Germany is the DAAD, but there are also other possibilities to get a scholarship. As this is commonly asked by many, I also provided a document about scholarships on the website. -Jingky Lozano-Kuehne

You can also check thishttp://www.expertsasia.eu/index.asp -Moises Neil Villaflor Seriño

Got some more tips and questions? Please share them below in the comments section.

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4 thoughts on “Tips on applying for scholarship grants in Germany”

  1. One of my American friends got the DAAD undergrad scholarship for her semester abroad, which I had also applied for but didn’t get. Her advice to me was: Tell them exactly what you’re going to do in Germany, and why you can’t do it in America. Tell them what you’re going to learn in Germany that you’ll bring back to America with you. Be as specific as possible, and emphasize previous experiences in Germany if you have them, and why going back will help you further your career goals. They don’t care much for your romantic fantasies about new cultural experiences and memories made. I used this advice in my most recent scholarship application, and was one of 10 students who got it!

    1. Congratulations! That’s a very sound advice. In my case in applying for a scholarship for my grad studies, I believe I justified why I chose to study in Germany over the US.

      Thanks for sharing your own (friend’s) tip!

      Cheers.

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