AndAnd 1000 euros per month, extra money for internships and research abroad, contact with well-known scientists or managers and access to several expert events. All this is interest free. Roland Hein manages one of the most sought-after scholarships for German students. Headmasters, university professors or chairs of examination offices advise future scholarship holders of the German National Academic Foundation. Hain is the head of the selection process at Studienwerk.
Most of the time, those who have already attracted attention in school with excellent performances end up on the advisory list. But alone is not enough. “It’s not just about getting the best grades,” Hein said. “But it’s also about doing something that goes beyond good grades.” These include, for example, a special commitment, student co-responsibility or participation in a club.
There are no specific criteria for any commitment made by Studienstiftung. “We do not value volunteer work,” said Hein “If anyone practices the piano every day, they must have less time for school newspapers. But he may be in charge of the orchestra. That, too, counts, “said Heine.
More than 5000 first year students apply
The German National Academic Foundation is the oldest and largest organization for promoting talent. There are a total of 13 such institutions in Germany, aimed specifically at students with good grades and doctoral students. Aspiring doctors, business economists, lawyers, sociologists or humanities students – all subjects are addressed. A range of assistance from living expenses, book financing or funding a research project or contributing to a location abroad.
In addition to the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes, there are party-affiliated foundations or scholarship providers from different religious communities. Among them are the Protestant Studenwark Viligust, the Catholic Kusanuswark and Ernst Ludwig Erlich Studenwark for Jewish students and graduates. This week, the Avicenna Study Center for Muslim Academics accepted the first 65 scholarship holders.
The National Academic Foundation was founded in 1925 in Dresden. He receives funding mainly from the Federal Ministry of Education, the federal states and municipalities, but also from former scholarship holders and private donors. More than 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students are currently being sponsored. About 2,900 new candidates are accepted every year. 5,000 to 6,000 first-year students apply for scholarships. In addition to the nomination process, students can also apply directly to the Foundation. To do this, they must pass a general academic aptitude test. About 30 to 40 percent advance and then take part in the regular selection process.
Debate among fellow contestants
Studienstiftung currently counts 50,000 alumni. Most have made careers in science, business or government jobs. For those who are among the scholarship holders, the experience of the alumni can open the door to jobs in Germany and abroad. “Scholarship holders are encouraged to do things that are not usually part of the curriculum, such as internships abroad,” Han said.
The personal selection process follows the proposal. The foundation examines five points: intellectual ability, willingness to perform and motivation, communication and pronunciation skills, social skills, social commitment, and interest outside the subject. Applicants are interviewed on a weekend, in separate interviews, and by various members of the selection committee.
There is controversy even in small groups of candidates. Each applicant must present his or her position on a specific topic in a presentation, and then a discussion takes place. It’s usually less about sports clubs, school newspapers or orchestras. Instead, the “big problems” are often debated: stem cell research, energy change, racism. Here, too, the subject or political position is not assessed. “It’s irrelevant,” Hein said. “What matters is how someone discusses, justifies their position, responds to others and includes them.”
The Ministry of Education provides 200 million euros
For the promotion of meritorious students, about one percent of the students have to be supported by 13 organizations. The Federal Ministry of Education says, “Your job is to develop young people who have not only outstanding skills, but also potential for special social commitment.” Not just financial aid, but non-material assistance as well.
The ministry provides around 200 million euros each year for scholarship payers. In 2013 alone, about 26,000 students and about 4,500 doctoral students were supported. Since 2005, the cost of financing and thus the number of scholarships has been steadily increasing.
The SPD-affiliated Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation (FES) also shows that there is a need for financial injection for the course. Each year more than 5,000 students apply for the desired grant. “The need for scholarships continues to grow,” said Johanna Nisito of the FES Student Support Department. “We have a lot of applications and we want to support more.”
Like Studienstiftung, the requirements for candidates are high: outstanding achievement, strong socio-political commitment and personality. The application is not based on a suggestion, but students and doctoral candidates should contact the Foundation directly. “Applicants have to agree with us,” Nisito said. The Foundation does not necessarily rely on the involvement of SPDs such as Juosos or Falcons. “Candidates should think politically, have a certain thirst for knowledge and bring tolerance and openness.” Of course, FES candidates should be able to identify with the principles of social democracy.
Assist in time management and career planning
You can also apply to CDU-affiliated Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation, Heinrich-Böll-Foundation (Greens), Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation (Left) or Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation for Freedom (FDP). The party-political orientation of the foundation.
About 46 percent of FES scholarship holders are so-called first-time educators and students from abroad. “Such a mix would certainly be suitable for applicants,” Nisito said. “Our idea is to be a stepping stone, but also a successful course of study and support for your own committed biography.” After all, if you are talented and committed, you need to be organized. The foundation not only wants to help financially, but also with time management and career planning.
We notice very quickly whether someone is stacking too much or too little
FES staff quickly decides if an applicant is eligible through an online application. More documents will then be requested. It includes, for example, two expert reports from university teachers, certificates, evidence of commitment outside the university curriculum, but a detailed letter of inspiration and information about the financial situation. “We quickly notice that someone is stacking too much or too little,” Nisito said. Once this hurdle is overcome, two personal interviews are followed. A selection committee then makes the final decision of acceptance or rejection.
The children of workers and educators have the same opportunity
Despite the high demand of talented companies, the chances of being accepted in the circle of scholarship holders are not hopeless. But vice versa. There are other reasons that prevent many suitable candidates from applying “Many technical college students think that, for example, scholarships are only for university people,” said Nisito.
Also, talented companies have to deal with a lot of superstitions. “The StudentStiftung still has an elite image,” said Roland Hein. He is concerned that some students, despite doing well, do not apply to the program. Even some of those who were recommended do not apply. “They don’t trust themselves to pass the application process.”
Students without academic parents have the same opportunities as academic children. “It’s not about being from a professor’s family and being able to present your thesis eloquently,” Hein said. Rather there is a demand for candidates who are not afraid to think outside the box at the university.