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2017-18 Chevening Scholars from Zimbabwe with UK Ambassador Catriona Laing

Chevening Scholarship applications open annually in August and and close at the start of  November. As a recipient of the award, a number of people have asked me for help.

Based off these requests for assistance I thought it a good idea to jot down some tips and tricks that might be useful to someone applying for the Chevening Award.

Perhaps a good place to start is what the Chevening Scholarship is and who it is for.

Chevening is the UK government’s international awards scheme aimed at developing global leaders since 1983.

Funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and partner organisations, Chevening offers two types of award – Chevening Scholarships and Chevening Fellowships – the recipients of which are personally selected by British Embassies and High Commissions throughout the world.

The award that I received is a Chevening Scholarship which is a fully funded (tuition, flights and living expenses) Master’s degree scholarship to a UK university of one’s choice.

The basic requirements that one needs to qualify for the award, which can also be found on the website are:

  • Be a citizen of a Chevening-eligible country
  • Return to your country of citizenship for a minimum of two years after your award has ended
  • Have an undergraduate degree that will enable you to gain entry onto a postgraduate programme at a UK university. This is typically equivalent to an upper second-class 2:1 honours degree in the UK.
  • Have at least two years’ work experience (this is cumulative and includes unpaid work, internships and volunteer work)
  • Apply to three different eligible UK university courses and have received an unconditional offer from one of these choices by mid-July
  • Meet the Chevening English language requirement by mid-July

The application process takes place in different stages. The first is an online application where you fill in your details and answer a set of short essay questions with a minimum word count of 100 words and a maximum of 500 words.

There are four questions on leadership and influence, networking, studying in the UK and career plan.

The first thing I will say about answering the questions is that it’s important to be honest. Speak about who you are and the things you’ve done. Don’t go for the larger than life narratives. They are easy to see through and will disadvantage you.

Another important reminder is to keep your language simple. Those reading the applications have to go through hundreds if not thousands of essays and if your language is complicated and the read cumbersome they are likely to drop you.

Focus on the questions. It’s easy to get caught up on trying to sell yourself academically but Chevening is looking for leaders and influencers. The degree is only one component of the application process and minor one, because everyone else applying already has one. The key is to talk about the things that set you apart.

Leadership & Influence Question

  • Speak about your leadership experience, it can be anything from handling a group assignment at school to running a project at work or with a society. Define the role/s clearly.
  • Give clear examples of how you used your leadership skills to solve a problem or help attain a particular goal. It’s key to illustrate clearly and speak in specifics rather than generalise.
  • Highlight areas you intend to improve and how the Scholarship can assist you to do so.

Networking Question

  • Like the leadership question give clear examples of how you network, set the scene and the outcomes of your kind of networking.
  • It’s good to illustrate different methods that you use to network, physical and virtual.
  • Explain clearly how networking has been important and or benefited your career.
  • Talk about the networking opportunities you would look forward to should you be selected as a Chevening Scholar.

Studying in the UK Question

  • Before you answer this question, look up different universities and compare and contrast programmes.
  • Clearly outline why you want to study that programme and why you picked those universities. It’s a good idea to speak specifically about the courses and/or lecturers and highlight the unique thing about that course or lecturer and why it’s important for you to go there.
  • Explain how studying that particular course will assist you professionally. This is about gaining new knowledge and skills, so highlight if there’s a skills gap in your field that you’d like to fill or how this course can assist your organisation or an organisation you’d like to work for.

Career Plan Question

  • Set out your immediate, five-year and ten-year career goals. Know where you want to be and say so. This is where you get to showcase your dreams but put them in a way that they come across as tangible rather than pie in the sky
  • Illustrate clearly how the Master’s degree will provide a stepping stone you attaining your goals and dreams.
  • Speak about how what you do and what you want to do is important to your home country. A key word here is development, both of you as an individual and your community.

I hope this is helpful. In answering all of the questions let your experiences be your guide. This is about showing who you are and the best way to do that is through what you have been through and what you hope to do. Chevening is also about developing yourself so don’t be scared to talk about how the programme can enhance or improve the skills you already have or why it will be beneficial to learn new ones.

Below are a couple of other articles that could be of assistance to you. They were written by Chevening Scholars from this 2017-18 cohort. They both contain additional information that I haven’t included here so I would highly suggest that you take a look at them.

Time to Apply for Chevening Scholarship

Help tips for your Chevening application

All the best with your application and if you have any specific questions, please do feel free to contact me in the comments or on any of my social media pages.