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Application advice

Durham University and external organisations offering funding opportunities receive significantly more applications than the number of awards available. Meeting the essential eligibility criteria does not guarantee that an application will be successful. Applicants who are ultimately awarded funding display additional qualities, separating them from the crowd. The following tips are suggestions for ways an applicant can enhance their application to maximise their chances of submitting a successful funding application.


Apply only if you meet the essential eligibility criteria

Although meeting the essential criteria won’t guarantee an award, not meeting one or more of the essential criteria is likely to mean an application will be rejected. As such an applicant should read all funding requirements carefully prior to submitting an application to maximise time and effort and ultimately their chances of securing funding.


Identify key dates and application deadlines

In most cases, awards are not allocated on a first come first served basis; therefore be mindful of application deadlines and don’t rush an application. Imposing a personal deadline of 2 weeks prior to the stated deadline will give an applicant the opportunity to proofread and make any necessary amendments. In addition, it will also allow an applicant to gather any additional documents required by the funding provider, particularly if an applicant is relying on others for information such as when a reference is required.


Complete the application in full

The majority of application forms will have mandatory fields as well as a requirement to provide supporting documentation. Not only should an applicant provide everything that is requested, they should also maximise the space provided; if there is a maximum word count, use the full allocation. However, do not supply things that are not requested or submit lengthy submissions that are incoherent just to fill the word count.


Structure, spelling and grammar

Once applicants pass the first stage having met the essential eligibility criteria, applications are compared against one another and ranked in order of eligibility. Although not the most important factor in the assessment process, the ability to submit an accurately presented application gives a positive impression of the applicant. Prepare an initial draft submission, spellcheck, proofread and then ask a friend, teacher or parent to proofread as well. Leave the application for a few days, then go back and add additional information you missed first time. Double check everything again and then submit the application. Presentation counts. How information is communicated, is just as important as what is communicated.



Thoroughly read guidance documents and establish what the scholarship panel are looking for. There could be stipulations regarding academic achievement, personal experience or career aspirations. Understand what the funding providing is aiming to achieve by providing the award; what are their motivations? Tailor an application to the expectations of those assessing it.


Ensure the application is submitted correctly

Prior to submitting an application, make a copy and keep it in a safe place. If an application goes astray or there are any queries about what you submitted, you have a copy to resubmit or consult. When you do submit an application, check to see if you should receive an email confirming receipt. If there is any doubt, email the stated contact address and request in writing that your application has been received and will be considered.


Ask for help if you need it

If you need additional information about how to apply or clarification on application requirements, contact the funding provider for further information. They certainly won’t write the application for you; however a discussion can sometimes be more effective than reading guidance materials.