Third level education, once the reserve of an elect upper class and academic elite, has become accessible to the masses during the last few decades, with more comprehensive free second level education available along with financing options for third level education. This is a trend that applies to most of the western and, to a lesser extent, the developing world but a higher number of graduates means more competition, and many students are feeling the pressure to attain higher and higher academic accreditations and accolades. This pressure is exacerbated by the fact that tuition fees are an enormous investment; countries have seen the costs of a third level education increase dramatically in recent years with the average cost of a degree in the United States rising by 15% between 2008 and 2010. Tuition, accommodation and living expenses for most students in the US will enter the tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a bachelor’s degree; the reality, then, is that more students have to excel not just academically but all-round, in order to obtain and maintain a university scholarship to afford this higher education.
Traditionally, the concept of the scholar evoked the hermit-like bookworm dedicating his life to the pursuit of academic excellence. However, as time and our academic institutions have progressed the scholarship has become a common stepping stone on a career path broader than academia. The conditions on which scholarships are awarded now vary dramatically; along with academic prowess, family finances, extracurricular commitments and sporting achievements are now all potential deciding factors in the selection process of many of the world’s most sought after scholarship programmes. Where does the financing for these generous scholarships come from? Historically, scholarships were set up at the bequest of wealthy donors to the colleges - with many programmes named after notable donors or prestigious alumni of an academic institution. More recently however, big businesses have hopped on the bandwagon with multinationals like Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Telefonica all offering generous bursaries. While the majority of scholarships and bursaries available to students are of a relatively modest figures, there are a lucky few who will be the recipients of some major college cash. If you're applying for university soon, or know some who is, and you're considering where to hang your hat have a look, first, at 5 of the biggest university scholarship payouts available in the world today.
5 Dell, $20,000
Multinational computer giant Dell is the first of many examples of private enterprises giving back through education. Every year, Dell awards 250 undergraduate students an average of $20,000. That means Dell donates about $5 million annually towards undergraduate studies. Applicants must be high school seniors with a minimum GPA of 2.4. As well as emphasising academic potential in their scholars, Dell also require students to prove significant financial need. It's a one-off payment of $20,000 and is available to undergraduate students in the United States.
4 Buick, $25,000
Ever year car manufacturers, Buick - now part of the General Motors group - offer one hundred lucky students the educational opportunity of a life time: the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program offers selected students a $25,000 scholarship. It's renewable for up to 5 years of study, meaning that there's in fact a potential $125,000 up for grabs. Students are selected based on community participation and financial need, with special consideration given to first generation college attendees, women, minority groups and children of parents serving in the armed forces. The scholarship is available to U.S. undergraduate students in engineering, science and technology, with the fifth year’s bursary offered to students specialising in 5 year engineering programmes. Naturally, recipients are then encouraged to put their well-earned skills to use at the General Motors company.
3 Davidson Fellows Scholarship, $50,000
Founded in 1999, the Davidson Institute is a privately controlled foundation that seeks to foster young academic talent. The Davidson Institute runs a number of scholarship and training programmes, but the most prestigious and high-ranking of these is undoubtedly the Davidson Fellows Scholarship. This scholarship offers undergraduate students who “think outside of the box” a serious leg up in their academic field. Since 2001 only 206 students have received the scholarship, with awards of $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 USD available every year. Criteria for the scholarship is, as you'd expect, phenomenally high; the Institute stipulates that work submitted for consideration should have the potential to enact some positive change in society as a whole. Better get your thinking caps on, then...
2 Rhodes Scholarship, $50,000+
The world-renowned prestigious Rhodes scholarship is one of the most sought-after and lucrative awards in the academic world. Established in 1903 at the bequest of Cecil Rhodes, an Oxford-educated British business man, the Rhodes Scholarship is available to only the highest-ranking post-graduate students at the world’s best universities. Selected students spend a year at Oxford University, with exchanges available between universities in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, the Caribbean Commonwealth, India, Pakistan as well as several African nations. The scholarship covers all tuition and accommodation costs for students, flights to their host university as well as a generous stipend of $21,884 based on the figures for 2013-2014. Needless to say, this is a highly sought-after award and applicants must demonstrate not only the required (very high) grades to study at graduate level at Oxford but also exceptional talent and academic potential. The application process requires a number of personal statements, lists of referees as well as a detailed interview process, to ensure that only the very best students are selected. This may seem like an awful lot of work, but with the scholarship valued at a minimum of $50,000, and recipients all but guaranteed success as a result of the prize, this seems a fair price to pay. If among the lucky elite Rhodes scholars, you'll be joining a club whose alumni include Bill Clinton, Kris Kristofferson and Edwin Hubble.
1 1.Gates Foundation, $1.5bn
Although the individual awards received by students of the Gates Foundation’s Millennium Scholarship may not the highest on this list, the size and scope of the programme has landed the scholarship the top spot on our list. The Gates Foundation - the philanthropic project of Microsoft's Bill Gates and his wife Melina - founded the Millennium Scholarship Programme in 1999. Since then, over $1.5 billion has been paid out to help students reach cover the costs of third level education, with 1000 students annually in receipt of the award. The programme is open to students across the United States who have a minimum high school GPA of 3.3, with special consideration given to those from minority groups. Those selected must display their academic expertise as well as having made significant contributions to their community and having taken part in leadership initiatives. Funding is not limited to any particular academic field, and the amount each student receives varies depending on their individual circumstances. As with all the scholarships listed here, the number of applicants far outstrips the number of scholars. There's plenty of money up for grabs for the enthusiastic academic, but you have to be an all-round all-star to make the cut.
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