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Five Differences Between Managing International Scholarships versus Domestic Scholarships

Scholarship America is often asked by organizations: Can we offer our domestic scholarship program to students in other countries? This is a great question, because an organization may choose to expand its program by offering it in other countries. However, the program will benefit from a thorough review of program criteria to keep it relevant for international as well as domestic applicants.

Here are five reasons to review and update your scholarship program before launching it globally:

1) Academic years vary from country to country.

The timing of your current scholarship program may not be ideal when you expand it internationally. For example, since summer is in December and January in the southern hemisphere, students in Australia and Brazil do not start their school year until late January/early February. In countries such as Japan and South Korea, the school year starts in April or March, and students have breaks after each semester. It’s also important to consider a scholarship program’s application deadline to avoid international holidays whenever possible.

2) International school systems are not the same as the United States.

Consider the timing of when a student completes secondary school, as well as the required academic path afterward; they may differ from the U.S. For example, in Russia, tenth grade is the last year of mandatory education. In eleventh and twelfth grades, students have the option to either continue to study for university entrance exams or go to vocational schools to learn trade skills. In Costa Rica, students begin college at age 15. In the German school system, there are five different kinds of secondary schools that children 10 to 11 years old can choose to attend. These various secondary school paths lead to academic higher education, advanced technical training or a trade.Be mindful that eligibility requirements for a scholarship program specific to U.S. high school seniors will not transfer well to an international program and could cause confusion. Examples of terminology that other countries may use for secondary school or high school include middle school, vocational school, preparatory school, sixth form, gymnasium and lyceum. The exact meaning of these terms can also vary from one country to another.

Contact Scholarship America for more information on creating an international scholarship program.

3) Grading scales vary.

While the most common Grade Point Average (GPA) scale in the U.S. is 4.0, some countries use a 5.0 scale, and others use a 10.0 or 20.0 scale. In Costa Rica and Nicaragua, grading is based on a 100-point scale. If your scholarship program uses a GPA minimum based on a 4.0 scale, some thought needs to take place around how to evaluate and implement its global equivalent.

4) Funding for postsecondary school varies by country, and will therefore impact scholarship need and level of participation.

Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden are examples of countries that have very minimal or no tuition fees for postsecondary education. If you want to expand your scholarship program to students in other countries, make sure to understand the need for assistance in the countries. You’ll have a more realistic outlook on level of participation by doing so.

5) Acceptance into universities varies internationally.

In some countries, a student has to pass an exam to get into a school, or they need to receive the highest points on an exam to be accepted. Some schools only conduct exams once a year, so if a student does not meet those requirements, he/she will not be attending that school. The varying acceptance requirements between countries can sometimes be challenging for a scholarship program: If an applicant receives an award and is not accepted into their university of choice the first year, they may want to delay their award distribution in hopes of being accepted the following year. If this happens, your organization can definitely handle this situation, but it is something to plan ahead for, to make sure you have the proper processes in place.

These criteria for creating international scholarship programs may seem like a lot of work, but taking your domestic scholarship program global is doable. Walking through each element, and making sure your program is relevant for eligible students in various countries, will ensure greater success for your organization. If you have questions about expanding your domestic scholarship program to other countries, we can help – contact Scholarship America!