Student support: Just do it (

It took a little while for Hannah Geller to get over herself. It was probably also due to the fact that she didn’t know too much about gifted organizations, foundations and scholarships. None of this was ever discussed in his school. What she regrets.

Above all, her reluctance to apply for a scholarship was due to the self-doubt that tormented her. In 2018. “One of my main concerns was that I thought scholarships were only for the smartest of the smartest and I don’t count myself among them,” says the 23-year-old. So she thought. And after. For days. Especially since she struggled with the path that would ideally take her further. She had to nominate herself for the scholarship. There was no other way for her. And it cost him a lot. Ironically, at the famous German National Academic Foundation, the largest organization for the promotion of gifted students of this type in Germany.

It was weird to even consider applying for a scholarship, she says, “because I felt a little vain.” Today, of course, she sees things differently, more relaxed. “But looking back, I have to say: Of course, that’s nonsense. »

Today she can formulate sentences like this because she did: After graduating from high school in Weimar in 2016, she is now studying human medicine at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena – and is a scholarship holder of the Studienstiftung.

In fact, Hannah Geller only got a taste of the world of foundations and grants through a good friend of her mother’s. The man, she said, always spoke enthusiastically about the non-material support he received as a fellow. But otherwise, especially at the beginning of his studies in Jena, there was hardly anyone who told him about scholarship programs and everything related to them. Especially not at school.

Hannah Geller studies human medicine in Jena.

Photo: Private

This was not only a disadvantage for her, Geller says, but also for many of her classmates at the time. “In retrospect, I can think of several people in my class who would definitely be good candidates for Studienstiftung. »

There are three different ways to obtain such funding: First, young people can be nominated by their schools for admission to the foundation. Second, examination offices or professors at universities may recommend students for admission. And thirdly, young men and women can apply for admission to the foundation on their own if they are studying full-time in the first or second semester, regardless of the subject. Only students in the arts and design streams cannot come to the foundation through this third route because a specific nomination and selection process has been created for them.

Self-applications are particularly important for young people from the eastern Länder of Germany, because the foundation’s experience has long shown that schools located between the Baltic Sea and the Thuringian Forest make significantly less use of their right of appointment than the schools. in western Germany. The general secretary of the Studienstiftung, Annette Julius, pointed this out last September. At that time, a study by the University of Jena was presented, which shows that students from East Germany are numerically disadvantaged compared to their West German peers when it comes to scholarships from various organizations for the promotion of gifted students.

According to the study, the causes of this imbalance are multiple, one of which is in schools. “While around 50% of schools in West Germany submit proposals to us within a year, in East Germany it’s only around 25%,” Julius had said. This is also due to the fact that teachers in the East have less experience with scholarships than in West Germany.

However, if you apply for a scholarship yourself, you can easily make up for this shortfall. No one should be afraid of such a proposition of self; So says foundation spokeswoman Isa Lange, and Hannah Geller can confirm it based on her own experience. If only because the two-step selection process doesn’t rely on grades or specialist knowledge and it’s fairly easy to get started. Once you have overcome yourself and made the decision. All you need to do first is register on the Internet and thus show your interest in being admitted to the foundation.

Instead of final results and exams, says Lange, the foundation attaches particular importance to the social commitment of its scholars. “We are looking for people who can contribute their special talents and skills to others and from whom we can therefore expect special long-term performance in the service of the general public.” Or, in Geller’s words: “It’s not about quotas or grades, but It’s about how you behave socially, about things that interest you beyond your studies.” For her , these are, for example, art, photography and languages.

Anyone who registers first takes part in a computer-assisted test. It tests the skills the foundation deems important for successful completion of a degree program. For example, it tests a person’s ability to interpret tables or to plan their studies and career. Anyone who has obtained a certain number of points in this test is then invited to a selection seminar. According to Lange, between three and four in ten self-applicants do so regularly.

The seminar is then personal. There, candidates must prove in one-on-one interviews and group discussions that they are intelligent, genuinely interested in interacting with others, curious, and have the stamina to process intensively on topics they hadn’t found before. foreign. Undoubtedly, this is also an obstacle. But not insurmountable. “Overall, the probability of acceptance for freshmen has averaged about 25% over the past few years,” Lange explains, “whether it’s a personal application or a a suggestion from a school”.

For Geller, the selection process meant little stress, on the contrary, she really enjoyed it. Anyway, she likes to do tests like those on the computer, she says. She already knew this when she took a demo version of the test on the Internet while preparing for the exam. It also helped overcome initial self-doubt.

Since becoming a scholar, Geller has enjoyed the various seminars and classes she can attend through the foundation. Shortly before the start of the corona pandemic, for example, there was one in Münster on the topic of diseases and art. That way, Geller says, she can think outside the box in medicine, which is to say, do something she finds extremely rewarding. It is clear to her that she wants to work as a doctor after finishing her studies. Whether in nuclear medicine or psychiatry, she still hesitates. But her interest in things outside of medicine is so great that she is now studying another subject at the University of Jena: art history.

Of course, financial support also makes things easier. “I don’t need it,” she said. “But of course studying is more relaxed that way, and I don’t have to work as much on the side. I’m very grateful to you.”

Despite the success of her scholarship application, the young woman once again had to overcome her inhibitions. A few months after being accepted into the foundation, she had to apply for an extension of her scholarship. “This time I had to ask someone to write how great a student I am,” she says. “It was even harder for me than applying myself.” She had to submit two letters of recommendation from college professors. But in the end, she managed to overcome herself again and did it too.

Self-doubt – no matter what phase of your studies – is apparently nothing that should prevent young people from applying to the Studienstiftung or another organization for the promotion of gifted students. This is also supported by a study to which Lange refers and according to which many prospective scholars in East and West said they initially had reservations about applying for the Studienstiftung. According to the survey, this applies to around 31% of East German scholarship holders and even 38% of West German scholarship holders. “We interpret these differences as an indication that young people who doubt their suitability for the Studienstiftung are more encouraged – for example from parents or teachers – in West Germany to apply for the Studienstiftung despite these doubts than in East Germany,” says Long.

Whether East or West, whether young men or young women, whether physician or historian: Hannah Geller’s journey to the scholarship shows that it is worth overcoming your doubts – and trying.

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