When applying for a scholarship of any kind, there will typically be a lot of waiting involved.
Whether you are waiting for the applications to open, to see if you have made it through the various stages, or waiting for final arrangements to be made.
Upon finding out that Chevening takes about a year between applying and receiving the final results, some people do not even bother applying in the first place. They struggle with the fear of spending so much time and energy on the application, and potentially being unsuccessful right at the end. I must admit that I, too, was one of those people. I soon realized that this was a goal of mine and an opportunity of a lifetime – I had to put everything into it . All I had to do was complete an application and take it one step at time.
Being quite an impatient person, I decided to compile a list of things I wanted to achieve during all this time, to take my mind off of the results. These things not only kept my nerves and anxiety at bay (well most of the time), but they also made me more excited about the possibility of being successful. I wanted to effectively use all of the spare time I had. I used it to fully prepare for what was ahead, to become laser-focused on my future goals, and to improve on my weaknesses and further strengthen my strengths. I chose to prepare for success at every point. Obviously I had to be realistic, and realize that there was the possibility of not being selected, but by me preparing for success, I knew that even if I didn’t get it the first time around, I would be a lot more prepared when I tried again.
I compiled a summarized version of things that you can do in your spare time. You can break this list down into many small tasks that you can chip away at, whenever you have the chance to. So stop twiddling your thumbs and religiously refreshing those inboxes, and start preparing.
This is one the most important things you should be doing. Use your time to research everything you need to know about the scholarship, about the university(s) you are interested in, and about what is required in the next phase.
When I applied for Chevening, I spent many hours looking through social media, various blog posts of alumni, thoroughly reading through their website, and watching relevant videos on YouTube.
In addition to this, you should be doing research on the location you will most likely be based in order to ensure that you will be happy. The research that you do can also include looking into various conferences that may be happening, maybe even festivals or concerts, or other social events that you would like to be a part of during your time in the U.K.
All of the research I did, not only gave me clarity on whether I was suitable for the program, but also assisted me in choosing my final course choices. Doing a lot of research can put your mind at ease, that you have chosen wisely, and ensures that you have as little regrets as possible. It also made me even more excited about the amazing opportunity ahead. Lastly, it prevents you from rubbing others up the wrong way with stupid questions (yes, there are things as stupid questions). Many of us are more than willing to help, but you should at least know the basics.
- Online courses
There are so many online courses available to you – most of them are free or come with a small fee. There are many online sites where you can do courses of all types for free, and at your own pace. Most of the courses are designed by reputable universities across the world.
Many of us have been out of university for a couple of years, and could possibly benefit from completing certain refresher courses. You could take part in courses in order to improve skills or to attain new skills. There is enough of a variety of online courses in order for everyone to be able to find something that interest them including English, Mathematics, Business skills, or even coding.
Some of the sites I have used in the past include:
Put yourself in the best position possible for WHEN you receive that scholarship. Get a head-start on the rest of your peers.
You should not be waiting to get to the U.K, before you start networking. Find applicant groups on Facebook, use your existing network and LinkedIn to find past scholarship recipients, and start going to Meetups in your current country to meet others in your field. Connect with people who can mentor and support you during this whole process.
It may also be beneficial for you to find certain companies in the U.K that are doing interesting work in your field, and connect with them. This may open up certain opportunities for you whilst you are in the U.K., or may even spark an interesting idea for your Masters project.
- Be one step ahead
This goes hand in hand with #1 (Research, Research, Research!), however, this point refers to the action, after you have done relevant research.
If you are waiting for applications to open, you should already be planning your essays, starting applications to universities, or, at least gathering all your documentation. Think about who your references will be, and start reaching out to them.
Once the initial application phase is over, you should be preparing for your interview. Do not leave this preparation until the last minute, as it will be vital in you reaching the next stage.
If you have not completed your English test and/or applied to universities by the time you have completed your interview, then this should be your sole focus (discussed in points 5 and 6).
After the final results have been announced you should be getting all your documentation in order to apply for your visa, including your TB test. If at this stage you have not started looking for accommodation – start doing serious research on your various options, and start applying.
Thinking beyond the aapplication, and even beyond Masters, you can use your time to critically think about what your future goals are, and how you can move them forward in the meantime e.g. If you would like to start a business, start doing business proposals etc.
Majority of universities and scholarships will require you to provide evidence of your proficiency in English. In most cases, you will be required to get certain scores on IELTS or the TOEFL test. If your country is not exempt from having to take the test, then it is best to get it done as soon as you feel confident enough to do it, and have the funds.
Do not wait till the end to get your required score, as this could mean that you will lose out on the scholarship. The tests are usually valid for 2 – 3years, and there is no limit to the number of times you can take them. My advice would be to get it done as soon as you can. Some universities require you to submit it in their initial application stage. Once you successfully pass this English test, it will be a huge weight lifted off of your shoulders.
Many scholarships require you to first be given an unconditional offer from a university before you are even allowed to apply. Luckily, Chevening does not require this, however, put your self in the best position to apply for as many scholarships as possible. Another advantage of applying for universities at an early stage is that they will require similar documents to that of your scholarship application, such as references, transcripts, personal statements etc.
Once you have narrowed down your list of universities, make a note of all of the requirements. If the university does not require an application fee or an English test, you should apply as early as possible.
If you do, however, require an English test – concentrate on obtaining that first. If you have all of your documents, but just require an application fee, ensure to budget for it ahead of time. Like mentioned in the previous point, doing this as early as possible will reduce your stress levels. Besides that, it will work in your favour if you receive feedback from universities early on.
As they say, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket”. Apply for multiple scholarships. Look for scholarships offered by the university, and other external sources. Look for options in other countries (if you are open to this). To apply for each scholarship will require similar documentation, therefore, you should keep all of your applications, and supporting documentation in a safe and central place.
Some places I used to look for scholarships:
- Keep active and stay healthy
Health and exercise helps to keep your stress at bay, or at least takes your mind off of the waiting for a bit. Exercising can be anything from hiking, gym, yoga, or boxing (to name a few). Try to start healthy habits, which you can continue practicing in the U.K. (or wherever you end up studying)
Find a good book that interests you. You can use this as an opportunity to not only read about something that is useful, but to also practice your English.
We all know that reading is going to be a huge part of our studies, so start to get into this habit as soon as possible.
- Write about your experiences and assist others
Many students are going through the exact same process as you are, so why not help and support each other. You may have certain knowledge or understanding that could help a fellow student out, and vice versa. Take some time to reflect on your experiences, and share it with others. In addition to skills and knowledge sharing, this is a great opportunity for you to network.
And of course, take some time to relax and enjoy your family, friends, and your country, because before you know it you will be nose-deep in books in a foreign city.
No matter which stage you are at in the application process, we wish you well on your journey. Please feel free to leave your comments and let us know any other suggestions you may have.
*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect that of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), its partner organizations or any scholarship awarding institution.