Becoming a Mastercard Foundation Scholar

As Africa’s largest scholarship and leadership initiative, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is a global initiative designed to develop the next generation of transformative leaders by enabling highly talented, service-oriented young people, primarily young Africans, to pursue higher education and cultivate their leadership potential.

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is more than just a scholarship. We work with education institutions, NGOs, and the Mastercard Foundation Scholars community to create the conditions that enable young people to attain inclusive and relevant education, transition smoothly into dignified and fulfilling work, and lead transformative lives. The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program forges partnerships with higher education institutions to deliver comprehensive support to individual Mastercard Foundation Scholars, particularly during their academic journeys and transitions into work.

Partners work to ensure students are fully supported in their journey, from psychosocial services in support of their well-being to leadership training for their post-graduate careers. As part of their Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program experience, they can access a rich array of personal and professional development activities, including entrepreneurship-focused programming.

Since 2012, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program has provided over 50,000 young African leaders with the support and resources to succeed in the world of work and become transformative leaders. The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is more than a scholarship, it is a transformative leadership program. We encourage potential applicants to consider the following questions before applying to the Program:

  • Are you an African national with a commitment to ethical leadership and community building?
  • Are you a committed young person whose academic ambitions exceed your financial resources?
  • Are you a student interested in joining an exceptional network of young changemakers?
  • Do you identify as a woman, refugee, forcibly displaced person, person with a disability or another underrepresented community?

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is implemented through a network of partner universities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with expertise working with marginalized groups. Requirements for each institution differ, applicants are encouraged to review the guidelines and contact the institutions directly.

Who is eligible?

For an undergraduate (Bachelor’s) degree, candidates must be 29 years old or under when they apply. For a graduate (Master’s) degree, candidates must be 35 years old or under when they apply.

In addition, each university has its own eligibility criteria. Carefully review the application requirements at the institution to which you are interested in applying.

Becoming a Mastercard Foundation Scholar

To be considered for the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, candidates must be academically strong and have demonstrated a commitment to making a difference in the lives of others. The Program is implemented through our partner universities and non-governmental organizations. The application process and decision-making are managed individually by each partner. If you are interested in becoming a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, you must apply directly through the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program-affiliated institution you wish to attend.

Each partner institution has its own deadlines and admission fees. We recommend reading through the application guidelines carefully or contacting the partner institution directly for more information. For universities that require application fees as part of the admissions process, the fees will be reimbursed if the candidate is selected for the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program.

View participating universities

Before you apply:

  • Select the institution and program you want to apply to. While there is no limit to the number of universities you can apply to, it is important to note that completing an application package takes a great deal of effort.
  • Each partner institution has a Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program page on its website. These pages offer specific details about each institution’s eligibility criteria, requirements, deadlines, and other application instructions.
  • Prepare your application package. Each university requires different documents as part of the application process. Failing to submit a document on time will result in an incomplete application.
  • If the program or institution you wish to enroll in requires any tests, be sure to take them several months before your application is due. Every applicant must first meet the university admissions requirements before being considered for the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. For some partners, tests like the SAT and/or TOEFL or IELTS are part of the standard requirements for all international candidates. Other university partners do not require these to be completed.
  • Organize and request your references early. Most universities will require recommendation letters. Before you apply, ask someone who knows you well, such as your teacher, mentor, or community leader, to support you with this step. Some universities will require the recommendation to be submitted online. In this case, the applicant must follow up with his/her referees about the online submission.

When applying:

  • Follow the application instructions on the university’s website. Most partners only accept online applications, while others require paper applications.
  • Take note of the deadline and avoid waiting until the last day to submit your application. Check your application package to ensure you have submitted all the required documents. A late or incomplete application will not be considered by the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program partners.

What if I cannot afford the admission fees?

Many of our implementing partners require admission fees as part of the application process. North American universities require TOEFL and/or SAT scores for international candidates. Understandably, these costs can be a barrier for many potential Mastercard Foundation Scholars. Although we cannot influence these admission requirements, we have found the following options to be helpful to some applicants.

  • In some cases, the university to which you are applying may be able to assist with the completion of tests. If you are confident that you can fulfill the requirements of the SAT and TOEFL, ask your counsellor or principal (past or present) to provide you with a letter of support or similar documentation that expresses their confidence in your academic achievements. Share your story and your letters of support with the university admissions office to which you are applying.
  • Some candidates have also had success working through Education USA. Their advisors may be able to help you find support to cover the costs of the SAT or TOEFL.
  • We partner with Africa-based universities that offer undergraduate or graduate programs and do not require SAT or TOEFL scores.

Learn more about how to apply to the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program

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