Master in Instructional Design | How to Get a Tuition-Free Degree in Taiwan
Getting a college education is an expensive decision.
In the United States, an out-of-state student at a public university pays an average of $37,430…every year. If this student manages to graduate in only four years, that’s $149,720 in total.
And that price is rising every year, outpacing the rate of inflation 171.5%.
But a degree comes with significant long-term earning benefits.
Higher earnings. Health and retirement benefits. Statistically far less likely to be unemployed.
Especially in the United States, where higher education institutions consistently dominate the top rankings based on performance and reputation.
But beyond the States, I’ve always been curious about what other options were out there.
What are some affordable ways to earn a college education in our world today?
In 2017, I did an experiment to find out. My girlfriend and I were living in Colorado, but wanted to explore the world.
I was considering a career change to become a teacher. So I scoured the internet for an international Master’s program where I could earn a teaching degree.
After weeks of research, we found an “International Master’s Program of Learning & Instruction” at a University in Taipei, Taiwan. Whoa. Long way from Denver.
But I was convinced to apply when I found out I could get a scholarship that covered 100% of the tuition, plus a monthly living stipend.
We decided to go for it. I spent weeks on all the required work. Applications. Visas. Scholarship letters. Vaccines. Endless bureaucratic requests I can’t remember.
But it all worked out. I got accepted into the program, awarded the scholarship, and we flew off to Taipei in July 2017.
The program was for real! It was fully instructed in English and had a small group of only five students, all from various countries (United States, Phillippines, Vietnam, Mongolia, and St. Vincent).
Academically the content was far less rigorous than my experience in United States universities. And for personal reasons, I only completed one year of the program, but still received the MA certificate I set out to achieve. Overall living in Taiwan and going to school was an incredibly valuable cultural experience and one I’ll always remember.
Here’s how you can get a free college degree in Taiwan
The rest of this article is meant to help you find and apply to an international education program. It’s the article I wish existed when I was going through this process in 2016.
So whether you’re looking for a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, Ph.D., or looking to learn Chinese, studying in Taiwan (for free) is a real possibility.
Getting an international scholarship
Every year, the Taiwan government awards scholarships to 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 with a monthly living stipend.
Why does Taiwan do this? Purely for cultural benefits. Pretty cool actually.
Essentially, the government gives you a free college degree so you to come to Taiwan, learn about its culture, and share those experiences with your friends and family in your home country (kind of like what I’m doing right now with this article).
And the Taiwanese people benefit from you bringing your unique experience, background, and culture to share with them. So in the government’s eyes, everyone wins.
What are the requirements for the scholarship? Pretty simple:
- You must be from anywhere outside of Taiwan
- You must have a decent academic record
- You must 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 (in 2017), I received:
- Full tuition coverage up to $40,000 NTD per term
- Monthly living stipend of $20,000 NTD (about $700 USD)
For tuition coverage, it’s helpful to know that the Taiwanese government pays your school upfront for your tuition. So you never have to pay for tuition out of your pocket. It’s all taken care of for you upfront. Brilliant.
For the living stipend, it’s delivered direct deposit straight to your bank account at the beginning of every month. This is facilitated directly through your school, so you have to set that up before you begin classes.
Note that if you’re in 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 plenty.
At my university, it cost around $1,500 NTD/month ($50 USD) per month to live in the dorms. You’ll probably be living with six other people in a small space. But still, that’s an unbeatable price.
And as long as you get passing grades, the funds will keep coming through to your bank account. Do well in your classes, don’t break any laws, and those direct deposits will stay flowing.
Where should you start?
The goal of this next section is to point you in the right direction, keep you on track, and ultimately save you time as you plan to achieve your free college degree in Taiwan.
1. Map out your timeline
Similar to schools in the United States, most education programs in Taiwan begin in the fall, around August or September.
Which means you’ll need to apply for a program and scholarship about 7 months prior. My application period was from the beginning of February to the end of March.
It’s important to note that you’ll probably need to physically ship a printed version of your school application to Taiwan. In my experience, this can take anywhere from 1–5 weeks for anything (even postcards!) to arrive in Taiwan when shipping from the United States. Make sure you plan that in your timeline.
At this early planning stage, you probably won’t know the specifics of your school program deadline. That’s okay. Just keep these general dates as a reference that you’ll be able to refine later.
Once you have a rough timeline mapped out, the next essential step is to find a good educational program for you.
2. Find your desired school program
This is one of the most time-consuming steps. Depending on your desired skill and knowledge acquisition, you’ll need to do some research to understand what programs are available for international students (and taught in English).
The best place to start is www.studyintaiwan.org. They’ve made significant improvements to their website recently, allowing you to filter by the language of instruction. Most programs in Taiwan are taught in Traditional Chinese. But every year, they seem to be adding more 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 taught in English.
If you don’t see any programs of interest here, your next best option is The Google. That’s how I found my program — through good old-fashioned Googling.
Just beware that this route can be a frustrating rabbit hole, leading you through 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 an email address. Here’s what my sheet looked like:
Email was the main form of communication I used and it worked like a charm. Most of the universities I contacted were responsive and extremely helpful in answering my detailed questions.
Found a program fit? Hurrah! Make sure you have the deadline dates in your calendar and that you’re prepped and ready to submit your application.
Next up, it’s time to lock in your scholarship award.
3. Rock your scholarship application
This may be obvious, but I’d like to point out that you’ll apply for your school program separately from the scholarship.
For this section, I’m going to focus on the details of the scholarship I received, the Taiwan Scholarship. This is a scholarship 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 slightly different instructions.
Important links for the Taiwan Scholarship:
- 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.
- 2023 Application Form: You’ll need to send a physical copy of the 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. I highly recommend taking advantage of this. It’s extremely helpful to have a local contact nearby to help you.
Scholarship Application 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 how your program aligns with your recommendation requests. 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…”
Okay, 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 local 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.
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. Be ready for anything!
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 the people in Taiwan is incredibly helpful. The people here want you to come to their country. They want you to succeed.
Best wishes to you!