Massume very good grades at an elite university, social commitment and an interest in microeconomics, Michelangelo and mathematics in equal measure, then put it all in one person. Indeed, there are people who are “exceptional” in every way. It is not uncommon for such versatile talents to grab the coveted scholarships from major gifted student bodies, which supported nearly 26,000 students in 2013. But is it only highly gifted people who are also volunteers have a chance to receive a scholarship?
At least that’s what many students are convinced: according to an Allensbach study commissioned by the Reemtsma Begabtenförderungswerk, only one in five students applied for a scholarship in 2014. According to this, 80% did not even receive information from the everything. Even among high school graduates with “very good” and “good” final grades, only 14% inquired about the possibility of such support.
The main reason: students think their grades are just too bad. According to the survey, 44% are of the opinion that their social commitment is not enough anyway, and 38% of the respondents say they do not even know who to contact to obtain a scholarship. So most of them give up before they even try.
Scholarships are not just for the educated elite
But with all hasty doubts, one quickly forgets that in addition to the 13 large state-funded organizations for the promotion of gifted students such as the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes or the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, there are alternatives where students that don’t fit in the “The one with the asterisk”. Online platforms such as Mystipendium.de or e-fellows.net have hundreds of foundations awarding scholarships and often offer several scholarship programs at the same time.
The scholarship pilot, the scholarship database of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, also lists more than 1250 offers which can be filtered according to training phases, subjects or target regions.
Mystipendium, on the other hand, is a non-profit initiative founded by Mira Maier in 2011 with the aim of dispelling the myths surrounding the awarding of scholarships. The database lists about 2100 funding entries. “Small foundations in particular often don’t have a website,” says Maier. She wants to show that not all programs are for the educational elite, but there is something for everyone – if you look around.
Stuck, college dropouts, startup failures
We want to speak to people who are different, who deserve a second chance, who have had experiences beyond success and who have reflected on them.
The private Zeppelin University (ZU) in Friedrichshafen, for example, promotes people with weaknesses: those who get stuck, dropouts, people over 30, those who have failed in their foundation, or people with dyslexia. Since 2013, twelve of the so-called anti-nerd scholarships are offered for a bachelor’s degree at the university, which is fee-paying, each winter semester.
“We want to speak to people who are different, who deserve a second chance, who have had experiences beyond success and who have thought about it,” says ZU spokesperson Rainer Böhme. In the past, it was mainly students who showed impressive and at the same time idiosyncratic developments and promoted the diversity of the university.
One of them is Jan Hendrik Bohn. The native of Giessen has been studying sociology, politics and economics at ZU since February. It was only through the university itself that he came across the anti-geek scholarship. He could never have financed the baccalaureate, which costs 30,000 euros at the private university, without financing.
But with an average Abitur of 2.7, the 31-year-old would have struggled with many scholarship providers. “So I didn’t want to ask my parents if they would pay for my education after I dropped out of medical school and started my career in business,” says Bohn.
Academic work can also be funded
While alleged failure or resume breaks play a decisive role in the case of the anti-nerd scholarship, in the case of others, a particular need is at the center of the award. This means, for example, chronic illnesses, poverty or the loss of parents. For example, the Rosa Schneider Foundation supports the needy children of Bavarian doctors, especially orphans. The Emilie Porzersche Foundation pays needy daughters of Bavarian civil servants 300 euros per semester for three years.
“But these are often also individuals who identify with the destiny or origin of the respective candidate”, explains Maier, founder of Mystipendium. In Mainz, for example, Jewish singing students are supported.
In some cases, the selection criteria are so tight that only a handful of applicants are eligible for funding – which can significantly increase your chances. Those who deal with artists in their scientific work who have been little researched before receive money from the Letter Foundation, for example. The Yak Camel Foundation in Kiel exclusively supports biologists who conduct research on domestic yaks, wild yaks, double-humped mountain camels and wild camels living in the mountainous regions of Asia. And the August von Platen Foundation at the University of Siegen provides funds for scientific work dealing with the subject of homosexuality.
Country doctors sought through grants
In addition, many commercial companies also award their own scholarships. The Ikea Foundation supports work on the theme of living culture. It is not uncommon for rural medical practices to try to attract young doctors through scholarships. Large companies such as the car manufacturer BMW or ThyssenKrupp also have funding programs and provide their scholarship recipients with a personal mentor for the duration of the support.
“Of course, many of them do this in order to attract potential newcomers to their team as soon as possible or to make their lesser-known company more popular,” explains Maier, founder of Mystipendium. At this stage, candidates should therefore bear in mind that a commitment to the company during or after their studies is mandatory. It is estimated that 6,000 students alone receive industry funding.
However, scholarship holders represent only a small proportion of all students: according to Allensbach’s study, 4% of students aged 18 to 29 currently receive a scholarship. According to Maier, the founder of Mystipendium, this is also linked to the fact that the masses apply for just under one percent of all the foundations that exist as a whole – and more exotic alternatives are not considered.
ZU student Bohn is glad he found out about the anti-nerd scholarship back then – and that there are offers that aren’t just for the average person, but for the whole. He hopes that the path he has now taken will finally be the right one for him. In any case, he is satisfied so far, including with his comrades: “We scholarship holders are very heterogeneous and that is precisely why we form a fairly friendly group.”