By T.A

“What’s your status” the incessant question a clear majority of applicants ask each other and accompany with speculation over what the words mean and drawing conjecture from what happened in some previous year or claims of having it on “good authority” that word x undoubtedly mean you will make the cut. I personally have always resented speculation and from the moment applications closed until my eventual selection as a Chevening scholar drove me completely nuts. What was meant to be a support forum by peers (facebook and whatsapp groups) turned into a big ball of anxiety creation. So, I appeal to you, don’t be those people. This whole post is an appeal not only for you to not be that person (the one that makes a storm out of a teacup) but also to urge you to redirect your focus to your present and future benefit.

A lot of applicants, I think, are like blinkered donkeys that see Chevening in and of itself as being a singular pathway to greatness, but I think those selected had the markings of greatness before, cumulative over time, and Chevening became an avenue or stepping stone to harness that into even more.

I like to look at Chevening’s selection criteria as a roadmap to greatness, one that if you choose to work on will improve your next application should you fail this time around or open the door to other opportunities and self-improvement i.e. many roads lead to Rome. Chevening “qualities” will lend you success regardless of whether that specific route is the one you get to take or not.

For many people when they wrote their essays, they struggled with this and with networking, failing to identify instances in which they were a leader. Well here is a thought, rather than obsess over what your status is (the email will come when it comes) engage yourself more in leadership, community, volunteerism etc and take them as opportunities to build your CV and expand your network, adding to the keys to opening doors to where you want your career to go. Do it not only to improve your next scholarship application but also to build your own career prospects. Things like this separate you from the rest in terms of access to opportunities and in differentiating your application from a huge pile in competitive markets. And to be fair, with only a 3% acceptance rate (1,700 out of 65,000 applicants worldwide last year), any advantage you can give yourself toward the next application or furthering your goals in a future without Chevening (which is 97% probable) is as asset to you.

The best thing in all this is that just by the process of applying for Chevening, regardless of outcome, you have built your international network by interacting with peers from all over the world and if you are wise you will leverage this…get to know people in your field from other countries, with similar ambitions that you can turn into a partnership for a professional venture or more accomplished than yourself that are where you would like to be in several years’ time and you gain mentorship etc…there are a myriad of ways just applying for the scholarship is a chance to network. So, have meaningful professional conversations with your peers, find out about their culture, customs, current affairs, it’s a good way to travel the world without leaving your home, rather than waste the opportunity making one another anxious.

Just by applying you had to think thoroughly about what you want for the future and so have a clearer presence of mind than most young people out there. Use that to your advantage, start planning for your future. Take steps towards that. You know what you want to study by now…look at the modules your universities offer under the Masters program you are interested in…see if they or another university offer those modules as MOOC (Massive open online courses) on sites like Coursera, FutureLearn and EDx or individual university websites…take them! Knowledge is power. It is not just about qualifications…the skills you will pick up will be useful to you, some of the courses come with certificates and if they don’t you will be a step ahead of the game if you do your masters (which might be in one year and under a lot of pressure) it will be smooth sailing if you have the knowledge.

As a parting word…it took courage to apply for Chevening and whether you make it in the end or not know that you have gained something…knowledge and self-awareness, contacts and connections…so ultimately by being part of the 65,000 plus you have won and are lapping everyone who did not have the courage to do what you did. Don’t let it stop there…keep winning, keep using the applicant community, the knowledge you have gained and the self-awareness to keep pushing boundaries and taking steps to get closer to your goals.

*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.

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