College degrees are expensive merchandise in America.

For an in-state student at a public university, you’ll pay an average of $20,090 per year to go to school. And the price only goes up from there when you delve into out-of-state tuition and private universities.

But I’m not here to poke holes in our system of higher education, as the United States continues to rank high in terms of quality.

I’ve just always been curious about what the other options are.

What are some affordable, alternate solutions to gain a college education in our world today?

So in 2017, I did an experiment.

As we were living in Colorado, we discovered that you could apply to an English-instructed University program Taiwan and receive a scholarship. A scholarship that covers the entire cost of your tuition, plus provides you with a monthly living stipend. PRETTY SWEET DEAL.

I decided to give it a shot. Spending hours researching English-instructed school programs, navigating the scholarship application process and checking all the boxes on visa requirements. It was A LOT of work.

But in June 2017, it was for real.

I was accepted into a University program. I was awarded a scholarship. We were moving to Taiwan.

The purpose of this article is to share with you how that entire process works and how YOU can obtain a free college degree in Taiwan. Whether you’re looking for a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, Ph.D., or looking to learn Chinese, studying in Taiwan is a real possibility.

And could save you thousands of dollars.

How it works

Every year, the Taiwan government has a scholarship budget for international students. Officially named, The Taiwan Scholarship by the Ministry of Education (MOE), this scholarship covers the entire cost of your tuition PLUS provides you a monthly living stipend.

And it’s purely for a “cultural benefit.”

Essentially, the government gives you a free college degree for you to come explore Taiwan, learn about their culture, and share those experiences with your friends and family back in your home country. And Taiwan benefits from YOU bringing your unique experience, background, and culture to share with the Taiwanese. So everybody wins!

And great news, the requirements are pretty standard: you must be from anywhere outside of Taiwan, have a decent academic record, and just be a good person (of high moral character).

 

What does the scholarship cover?

This ultimately depends on which type of degree you plan to achieve. For my Master’s program, I receive:

  • Full tuition coverage up to $40,000 NTD per term
  • Monthly living stipend of $20,000 NTD (about $700 USD)

For the tuition coverage, it’s helpful to know that the government pays your school upfront for tuition. So you never have to pay for tuition out of your pocket and get reimbursed. It’s all taken care of for you up front. BRILLIANT.

And the living stipend is delivered via direct deposit straight to your bank account at the beginning of every month. This portion is all facilitated directly through your school.

If you’re going for a Bachelor’s program, the living stipend is $15,000 NTD/month. But if you’re living on campus at your University in Taiwan, that should be more than enough. At my University, it’s around $1,500 NTD/month ($50 USD) per month to live in the dorms. You will probably be living with six other people. But still, that’s an unbeatable price.

And as long as you keep passing your classes, the funds will keep coming through to your bank account. Keep your grades up and don’t break any laws, and those direct deposits will stay a flowin.

 

Where do I start?

You’ll be able to find 70% of the information you need on the internet. But it can be a huge time suck to find them all. Some websites will have outdated information. Most will be in full Chinese. And many will have user-interfaces from the 1990s. Don’t be alarmed.

The goal of this next section is to help you point you in the right direction, keep you on track and ultimately help you save some time as you plan to achieve your free college degree in Taiwan.

 

1. MAP OUT YOUR TIMELINE

Similar to traditional schools in the United States, most school programs in Taiwan begin in the Fall. I’d recommend aiming to begin school in September.

From here, you’ll need an entire 8-9 months prior to properly plan your move. The application period to apply for schools AND the Taiwan Scholarship are typically from the beginning of February to end of March.

It’s important to note that you’ll probably need to physically ship a printed version of your school application all the way to Taiwan. In our experience, it can take anywhere from 1-5 weeks for anything (even postcards!) to arrive in Taiwan when shipping from the United States.

At this point, you won’t know the specifics of your school program deadline. That’s ok. Just keep those dates as a reference that you’ll be able to refine later.

As you’ll find with planning a move to Taiwan, there will be many other deadlines outside of applying to school and the scholarship. To help you stay on track, I suggest creating a timeline in a Google document (see picture below). It’s a fast, easy, accessible way to hold yourself accountable to keep moving forward.

 

2. FIND THE RIGHT SCHOOL PROGRAM

Once you have a rough timeline mapped out, the next essential piece is finding a good program fit for you.

The best place to start is www.studyintaiwan.org. They’ve made HUGE improvements to their website recently, allowing you to filter by the language of instruction. Most programs in Taiwan are taught in Traditional Chinese. But you may be surprised that every year, many universities are adding more and more full English instructed programs.

If you’re looking for English instructed programs, choose their filter for “Above 90% Taught in English.” If you find a program here, I strongly recommend emailing the university directly to confirm that the program is in 100% English.

If you’re not feeling any of the programs here, your next best option is to The Google. I found my program just through good old-fashioned Googling. Beware that this can be a dangerous and frustrating rabbit hole leaving you scouring hundreds of Chinese websites with seemingly no progress.

To keep yourself organized, create a new Google sheet and paste in the details for each of the programs. Add in links to their website and make sure you add a column for email address.

Email was the main form of communication I used and it worked like a charm. Many of the universities were extremely helpful and responsive to any specific questions you have.

It’s important to know that you’ll be applying for your school program separately from the scholarship. To apply for school, you follow all of the standard procedures of an international student. When you end up being granted a scholarship, you’ll work directly with your school to facilitate the payment structure and allocation of funds.

 

3. ROCK YOUR SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION

Once you’ve selected a program or two that you’re going to apply to, the next step is to focus on the scholarship.

For this piece, I’m going to focus on details of the scholarship I received, the Taiwan Scholarship. This is the scholarship solely for students looking to receive higher education degrees in Taiwan. If you’re looking to learn Chinese, I’d suggest checking out the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship here, which has a few different instructions.

Ok back to the Taiwan Scholarship. Here are a few important links:

  • The official Taiwan Scholarship website: Certainly helpful, but not the easiest to navigate in my opinion.
  • Eligibility Requirements: Good to read through them all, but the essentials are you must be from a country outside of Taiwan, have an excellent(ish) academic record, and be of good moral character.
  • Taiwan Scholarship FAQ: Pretty helpful info to give you the basics.
  • 2018 Application Form: You’ll need to send a physical copy of final application to a Taiwan Cultural Center near you.
  • Find Your Taiwan Cultural Center: There are Taiwan Cultural Centers all over the world that will help you navigate your visas, applications, requirements, etc. It is EXTREMELY helpful to have a local contact nearby to help you.

Scholarship Application Requirements and Tips:

The application for the scholarship requires a lot of paper: your application, study plan, passport copies, transcripts, your Taiwan university application, language proficiency exam (NOT needed if your native language is English and you’re in an English-instructed program), and two professional recommendation letters.

Many of the items on this list are relatively easy to obtain. But there are two sections you should spend more energy on to differentiate yourself from the competition: 1) your study plan, and 2) your two recommendation letters

Your study plan is essentially an essay. When you’re writing your plan, think about your experience and put yourself in the shoes of the Taiwan government. They’re looking for a combination of unique backgrounds, experience, and value. Remember, they are basically giving you a free college degree. They want to make sure you’re a sound investment.

If you’re not sure where to start, think through these questions:

  • What have you done in your past that has interested you in Taiwan?
  • Why do you want to learn more about Taiwan and Taiwanese culture?
  • What positive change will you bring to Taiwan?
  • Why are you the best candidate for the scholarship?

I structured my study plan beginning with a personal story from school when I was in sixth grade. From that story, I explained that it taught me three essential principles which I still carry with me today. I then went on to explain those three principles and how they related to my desired experience to go to school in Taiwan.

The next essential piece is the recommendation letters. The Taiwan Scholarship requires two professional recommendation letters that have to be physically SIGNED by the original authors and in SEALED envelopes postmarked from the original authors. They are very strict about this. But for good reason. As this is where most candidates give up.

Start by brainstorming a list of all individuals that you think may be a good person to request a recommendation from. Managers you’ve enjoyed working with. Teachers that you had a strong connection with.

Once you have your list compiled, comb through your list and determine what experiences would align best with your school program in Taiwan.

For example, I was applying for a Master’s in Education. To align with this program, I requested a recommendation from my High School Principal and my manager when I worked at a University. Fortunately, both said yes to my request!

So think through that alignment for you. Remember that this is your chance to diversify your application and stand out from the crowd. Which individuals in your network would help tell your story?

Writing Recommendation Letters:

When you request recommendation letters and they say YES, it’s time to actually write your letters. When you select your individuals to request recommendations from, it’s on YOU to write the recommendations letters yourself. Yea, it is a little awkward writing about yourself and how awesome you are from the perspective of someone else.

But keep them short, professional and to the point. Follow this basic format:

  • How does the person know you? “I worked with Andrew at blah blah for 6 years and ….”
  • What does the person find so great about you? “ Along with Andrew’s impressive work ethic, he is also a joy…”
  • Finish by stating a strong recommendation. “I highly recommend Andrew for this academic scholarship and…”

Ok, that was a long one. But it’s worth dedicating time and effort to perfecting your study plan and recommendation letters to maximizes your chances of achieving a free college degree.

 

4. FIND YOUR TAIWAN CULTURAL CENTER

You’re probably wondering: where and how do I submit my application? This one had me puzzled as well.

Instead of shipping your scholarship application to Taiwan (as you will for your University application), you’ll need to send your application to your Taiwan Cultural Center in your home country that has an education department.

For example, my local Taiwan Cultural Center was in Denver, Colorado (less than 1 mile from our house), BUT I had to send my Taiwan Scholarship application to a different Taiwan Cultural Center in Houston. Sneaky little Taiwan Cultural Centers.

I’d recommend finding the Taiwan Cultural Center closest to you and contacting them directly. Begin building a relationship and ask them about the Taiwan Scholarship (MOE) and which Cultural Center you need to contact to submit your application.

Your local center near to your hometown will be a lifesaver in the long-run. You’ll need them to help you with residency visas, housing, health certificates, and basically everything else you’d ever want to know about moving to Taiwan. It’ll make you feel much more comfortable having a knowledgeable person on your timezone helping answer your questions.

 

5. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

When you’re planning any big change, like applying for a free college degree in Taiwan, you must be patient.

Websites will be in a foreign language. Instructions will not be as straightforward as you wish. There will be many hoops to climb through that seem unnecessary or tedious.

Realistically, everything won’t go exactly as you’ve planned. The best thing you can do is just breathe. Be patient, send a cordial email and try to view every little challenge as an opportunity to learn. It’s all about those baby steps.

AND THAT’S IT. YOU GOT THIS.

Hopefully, this has given you a solid introduction as you plan out your free college degree in Taiwan. It’s all possible for you to receive a free education and have a life-changing cultural experience exploring a different part of the world.

You’ll find that everyone in Taiwan is incredibly helpful. The people here want you to come to their country. They want you to succeed.

As always if you have any questions or are looking for additional resources or links to help you out, feel free to shoot me a message and I’d be happy to help.

Best wishes!

Andrew

 

BONUS: Details of the Master’s in Learning and Instruction Program

If you’re a teacher and looking for a Master’s program, I added this section is for you. I’m currently completing this Master’s program in Learning and Instruction at the National Taipei University of Education.

I’m still in my first year, but the program has been a unique and fascinating experience so far. We’ve been able to explore the inner workings of local schools, complete workshops with experienced instructors, and learn with classmates from all over the world.

Outside of academics, the melding of cultures has been my all-time favorite aspect. Not only do you have the opportunity to learn a deeper depth about life here in Taiwan, but also understand the cultures of your classmates from every corner of the globe.

The program itself is in its very first year EVER, so there have been a lot of little bumps and turns. It’s been interesting to be a guinea pig for a program that is truly working hard to be valuable and flexible for its students. I know that this program will continue to get better and better in future years.

If you have more questions about this or are interested in this specific program, I’d be happy to connect you with some of the faculty. Just send me a note!