The British Chevening Scholarships: 5 Great Tips for the Waiting Phase!



It’s that time of the year again, with festivities in the air and lots of reasons to be merry. However, if you are the Chevening candidate with an application awaiting an interview decision, you might soon find that your involvement in vacation activities would be rattled by constant thoughts of the many possibilities that abound with an application under review. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing, but this kind of worrying does not improve the odds for your application in any way, and sadly it doesn’t help your mental health either.

So based on my waiting experience and those of the successful scholars I know, I have decided to suggest a few tips that can go a long way in calming nerves and helping candidates maximize the period leading up to the next phase of the process. So let’s begin and I hope you find the tips useful!

  1. Be Proactive: Tighten loose ends with universities and referees

Following the submission of your application, a different set of milestones are expected to emerge. One of these (and probably the most important) is securing an offer for your chosen courses. Ideally, you should have already sent out applications by now, so the next best step to take is to ensure you are actively working on meeting requirements – such as references and transcripts – for unconditional offers. Regarding references, in most cases UK universities would accept a reference provided via alternative means such as pdf. Thus, a very useful tip would be to discuss with your referees about getting a letter-headed reference template which expatiates on your referees’ understanding of you with respect to all the criteria which all your chosen universities have specified. This is a very helpful technique that saves you and the supervisor the stress of having to provide a new reference every time, for every university. On a similar note, transcripts should be ordered early on, taking application deadlines into consideration. It is always recommended to provide such documentation with your application so that admission decisions can be made at a time that is favourable for you.

2.  Avoid the last minute rush: Register for an English Proficiency test ASAP!

It is very common for most scholarship applicants to wait till interview invitations roll in before they register for the respective English tests required. It’s a smart thing to do, since there is really no guarantee that the invitation would come through. However, it might not be the safest approach. While English test scores might not be a prerequisite to be selected for interviews, it is emphasized as a condition to having your scholarship offer confirmed. For this reason, it is best to book tests ahead of time (probably before your interviews) so you can ensure that the required scores are achieved. Moreso, with the popular IELTs for example, around February/April when interviews begin to hold, spaces become limited and candidates have to travel out to neighbouring cities (or even countries!) just to take the test. Lastly, it might help to know that the Chevening application is oversubscribed and it Is possible to have your offer rescinded if the score isn’t provided in time or doesn’t meet the threshold. So in the end, the really smart thing to do is to optimistically take the test as early as possible and remain in control of the process however things turn out!

3. Be Consistent: Update and sync your Linkedin and Chevening profiles

Remember how you worked your CV inside-out for your interview with that top firm? For your Chevening interview it should be no different, except that this time, someone else might also be reviewing your portfolio before interview and they might be doing it while you are asleep (Yeah, that’s right!). This is possible because you probably have a Linkedin account and your online profile is the copy of your resume that never sleeps. So you will be doing yourself a favour by ensuring that all the information on Linkedin agrees with what you have on your essay and everywhere else in your Chevening application.

[For the record, some candidates noticed that their profiles were checked out by officials of the Commonwealth Office around this time last year, so do all the housekeeping you need to do before it’s too late.]

4. Build up  relevant knowledge base: Intensify Networking and Self-Development.

As you progress through the cycle, it might help to enhance your understanding of the prospective courses and the respective universities. As a critical part of your interview, the panel would try to ascertain that you are knowledgeable in this regard, and one way to convince them would be by mentioning people you have spoken with who are graduates (or faculty) of the courses you have applied to. More plausibly, if they are Chevening alumni, you are able to make an even better case. Asides from this, other forms of capacity building in your area of specialization might come in very handy. Some good suggestions include watching relevant TED Talks and attending relevant seminars/conferences hosted around you. By doing this you will be developing the required knowledge-base to fuel your interview conversation and you would find that you are passing time in a most productive way too!

5. Be Realistic: Explore other options

When all has been said and done, you have to admit to the fact that there are odds with a scheme as competitive as Chevening. While it is best to be optimistic about the outcome, with a Chevening selection rate of around 1.5% (45 out of 3000 last year), you also have to be open-minded. Thus, it may be advisable to also try out other scholarship schemes out there while awaiting the outcome of your Chevening application. Two particularly prestigious ones include the Commonwealth Shared and Erasmus Mundus Scholarships, and they offer very similar packages to Chevening. Spreading out options like this would help you remain confident and distract the tension that might build up when you cast all your hopes on just one scheme.

Ultimately, it might not really be possible to get rid of all the tension while you await your decision mail or status update (whichever comes first), but you would realize that by engaging this tips, you would feel a lot more in control over the process than before. Wishing every candidate the very best over the coming months!

Please stay subscribed to this page for future articles and also feel free to leave any enquiries in the comments’ section, I will try to answer as many as I can.


The British Chevening Scholarships: A Scholar’s guide to the application process.


It was 7: 30 pm one hazy October evening, and I was returning from a fairly depressing appointment aboard one of Lagos’ BRTs. Sandwiched on the last row between two traders, I managed to wriggle out my phone from my denims’ pocket. Power-button, Passcode, Browser.  Following three successive gestures, Facebook was loaded and I was skimming through the first broadcast on my homepage, an advert for the 2015/2016 Chevening scholarship. Chevening? What’s Chevening? I let my curiosity get the better of me and I clicked the link almost instinctively. One thing led to another, I created an account, registered, and eleven months later I’m writing this guide as a 2015/2016 scholar!

So what you will find in this article are some strategies/titbits which I believe made a difference in my 10-month application cycle with Chevening. I crafted this piece to address some of the concerns applicants have regarding the Chevening application process, and I hope you will find it useful!

#1 Chevening is an opportunity for the prepared!

The Chevening scheme is characterized by people with a vast array of experiences but with one common feature – a strong desire to improve or totally overhaul the status quo in their sphere of specialization. So whether you are a fresh graduate, with a mix of volunteering and internship experiences, or an astute professional with a broader work history, if you can prove that you have leadership potential for your field and can meet other Chevening criteria within the Nigerian context, then you are officially in the competition. Or maybe not yet. You still need to apply on their website and follow actively on affiliated social platforms.

#2 The application form: Ensure your details are in order.

The application form is the most crucial part of your entire application because it is the major basis for which candidates will be selected for interviews come February/April. Hence you need to ensure your details are entered correctly. Be careful with the Yes/No eligibility questions because a wrong entry would terminate your application prematurely (of course this is fine if your answers were intentional). Also ensure to compute your work hours correctly using the formula stated. Wrong calculations or inadequate values that fall below 2800 hours would push the application right out of the competition. Persons that have such issues typically are the first to get rejection mails few days after, so ensure you are not in this group. Regarding work hours, it is okay to start from your first volunteering, internship, part-time or summer job experience.

#3 Essays are core. Give them your best shot!

In writing your essays, ensure you demonstrate largely how you meet the four Chevening criteria – Leadership, Networking, Academic Achievement and Career benefit to home country. Ensure you are able to demonstrate how you have networked with authorities in the prospective course you intend to study at the UK. Most of such people would have to be Professors at the UK university (ies) you have listed. Endeavour to cultivate relationships with past Chevening Scholars in your proposed field and see how you can prove that your course has core benefit to Nigeria. Remember that with Chevening, the core criteria is not centered on GPAs or grades, they need you to put everything together in a complete piece. On the application for the scheme, there have been cases of First class candidates with offers from top UK schools that could not even secure interviews.

#4 For university applications, Time is priceless.

From the moment you say “I do” to applying to the scheme, time becomes less of a companion. You have to adopt a proactive approach to everything Chevening, most importantly your three university/course choices. As part of the application form, applicants are expected to select the top three course/university choices they believe meet their MSc. Objectives and falls within their country’s priority areas. This is a very critical step for most applicants because after the deadline, candidates are unable to alter the chosen courses and have to secure an unconditional offer from one of these by a deadline in July to be awarded the scholarship. A good strategy would be to apply to all the schools of interest (especially the top and highly selective universities) as early as possible, so by the time the application deadline comes around in November, the candidate is certain of where he/she has offers and can confidently put these on the list. At every stage of a competition as fierce as Chevening, you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you are “offerless” from your three university choices. Please plan ahead and apply early!

#5 English tests and cut-offs.

By now you might be aware of the compulsory Proof of English Proficiency required as part of your application. Such tests as Pearsons, TOEFL and IELTS are required for this purpose. On the IELTS, while a score of 6.5 overall is stipulated as the cut-off for the scheme, it might be best to aim higher on the test because your chosen universities might request for higher scores (Preferably keep 6.5 as the lower limit across all bands). This is typical of top traditional UK schools, the likes of Oxbridge, St. Andrews and Edinburgh that stipulate scores ranging from 6.5 to 7.0+ on IELTS for some of their programs. More so scoring higher is a no-brainer considering the nuances associated with booking tests and the costs involved.

#6 Effective Follow-up: The Email side of you.

As part of efforts to close in on the requirements for your award, you will discover that there will be a spike in your correspondence via email (I counted up to 100 distinct mails). You will soon discover that automatically you will need to be communicating with the parties involved in processing your award – University admissions, British council, and referees. This is a critical feature of the process and something you must learn very quickly. Most times, decisions might be left hanging on your application or reference (or whatever it is) until you send a polite reminder to the party involved. Email correspondence will become even more frequent as deadlines draw closer, so perfect the art of official email correspondence as soon as you can (because you’ll be doing a lot of it!).

#7 Prepare a Budget.

As part of your application preparations, you might want to set aside a budget for some essential expenses you will be covering. Typically, for the first phase of the application, you will need an international passport (Chevening & university applications), English Proficiency Test, Transcript (s), Application fees (for all or a few courses especially at Oxbridge, Edinburgh, London Golden Triangle and a few others). For the latter phase, after success at the interview you may need to pay for a TB test (refundable) and other medical tests. All these require money and it will be wise of you to plan ahead and set aside funds to cater for these expenses from the onset of your application. For the 2015/2016 year, the average budget (excluding transcript processing and university application fees) was somewhere around N 120,000 (including refundable TB test charge). Note that this figure was calculated using prevailing exchange rates at the time.

#8 You will need patience, a lot of it!

When all has been said and done, it is important to note that intense levels of patience will be required while you await the outcome of your application. Between August when applications open and July when the scholarships are confirmed, there would be a whole lot of anxiety and anticipation. During such times, it is best to engage yourself usefully in other things, knowing that you gave the scheme your very best (Some good reads during such tensive times include Malcom Gladwell’s “Outliers” and Carol Dwerck’s “Mindset”. Thank me later!) . You will realize that during this time, you will be checking your mails more frequently. This is expected but it is best if you can totally distract yourself from the process and remain optimistic that eventually the lines will fall in place. It happened for me and 44 other scholars this year, and I know it can for you too!

Please preferably leave your enquiries in the comments section below. I will ensure to address as many as possible.

The 21st Century Labour Market: Six ideals of Highly Successful Job-seekers

Photo culled from

The world is evolving at a rapid pace, newer technologies, newer planets, larger populations and fiercer job markets (Yeah, that’s right). With the ever increasing number of qualified and unqualified graduates released from institutions at home and abroad, companies are finding more efficient ways of screening candidates for the limited number of spaces available. So it is perfectly understandable when top-flight graduates complain of unproductive job search ordeals, boredom from unemployment or near-success syndromes (reached 5 interviews with no offer!). Interestingly, under the same conditions, there are those that seem to be “cruising” with no hassles, most times even getting multiple offers in one application cycle. The question then is, are there particular traits/habits which successful job-seekers exhibit that others don’t? This week we have wound up six of such tested and tried principles which are sure to change your job search out-come for the better.

  1. Unbound by GPAs: Knows grades are necessary but not all-too important

Gone are the days when First-class/Second-class degrees were the all-in-all for deciding who gets a job and who doesn’t. With top degree certificates piling up for HR like typical commodities, recruitment systems are now more dynamic than at any other time in history. Factors such as performance in aptitude tests, group discussion skills and in some cases, weird brain-teaser sessions (interviewer asks a candidate to make a joke of “GREEN”), are now being used in conjunction with degree certificates to make employment decisions. In view of these, the smart graduate knows better than to trust that his A* in GST 101 will help him scale SHL’s verbal reasoning test. Right after graduation, he matriculates into the University of Personal Development, where GMAT prep materials, SHL sample tests and brain-teaser websites become his best companions. In a situation where the graduate is a 2:2 or 3rd class holder, he knows applying through online application systems for most roles is a waste of time, since most systems automatically ignore the application from the point you indicate 2:2/3rd class in the online form, so he devises another means. He identifies HR/Recruitment personnel in his desired firms via LinkedIn (or in-person), and begins to sell his skills and abilities which he has learned through personal development. This approach is highly result-oriented for practical disciplines such as Computer Science, CAD/CAM and Audit because coding skills or performance on ICAN/ACCA for instance, are not necessary a function of high GPAs.

2. Confidential: Knows how to keep suffocate the cat(s) in the bag

You just got a mail saying you passed your first test for a role at a top firm and you are already screenshot-ready for Instagram and BBM. Sadly, that might be your last success mail, because the recruiter is a friend of a friend of one of your friends, who also shared the snapshot (which had your name in it) with her friends on BBM to join in the excitement of your “achievement”. Most firms place importance on the ability of employees to be confidential with company information, and if you cannot demonstrate that with a simple success mail, they cannot trust you to do same with more important internal data. Successful job-seekers know which information needs to be disseminated, how to disseminate and with whom to disseminate. Moreover, you are more likely to be confident and motivated in the job-search process when you have the power to surprise. By the time everyone knows of your progress at every stage of the process, you’re likely to feel demotivated, depressed and even embarrassed in the event of a rejection at any stage.

3. Creatively Productive: Able to manage the unemployed phase

It’s true that jobs are scarce, but who says paid employment are a do or die affair? There are numerous opportunities for building relevant work experience and skills, many of which would come under the guise of voluntary/unpaid employment opportunities. Many giant multinationals have such unadvertised schemes that smart unemployed graduates have learned to take advantage of. So by the time they are applying to their next job, they have invaluable work experiences at top firms (No one would ask if they were paid to work!). Other smart things to do while you are unemployed include watching movies with transferrable lessons (I’d recommend The Exam, thank me later), reading motivational books (Malcom Gladwell’s “Outliers” and Carol S. Dwerck’s “Mindset”, are good reads) and going for short courses (JAN’s ViMP program is totally recommended). Playing such games as Scrabble and Chess, have also been known to keep the brain active even during passive unemployed times.

4. Builds the right Networks: Exploits a Supportive Inner Circle

The Job-search process is sure to get lonely and sad at some points. After endless reject mails, painful unyielding trips to aptitude test centres and interviews, we sometimes feel like giving up. It is at this point that a very supportive inner-circle becomes important (and yes, you could disclose your success mails to these group of people). Successful job-seekers know how to build and maintain relationships with a small number of optimistic, caring and similarly-focused individuals, who are able to provide moral, financial and miscellaneous support (such as providing accommodation the night before test day) during the job-search process. It is these set of people that are able to keep such individuals going, in spite of setbacks. They are typically family members, and in few cases, fellow candidates for a particular job role.

5. Fails Forward: Sees failure as a recipe for success.

With the teeming number of high-profile candidates in the job market, toughened and often bizarre aptitude tests, and unforeseen/extraneous circumstances, there are 1001 reasons why you might fail in a recruitment process. As such, failure shouldn’t immediately be seen as a sign of ill-luck or bad fortune. Smart job-seekers know how to embrace failure as a learning tool for success in future. They remain open to disappointments and are able to evaluate each failed attempt to identify areas of improvement. Smart job-seekers also have interesting ways of managing failure. Instead of applying to just one firm of interest as the average applicant does, they identify and make applications to an average of 3 to 4 firms in the same industry and sometimes even to industries that follow a similar career path, for example in Finance/Audit. So when a rejection mail comes in from Firm “A”, they are like “oh well, there’s 3 left!”.

Lastly, when all has been said and done, the smart graduate understands the presence of the “X-Factor”. He understands that sometimes even the best performance in an interview/test doesn’t necessarily guarantee an offer. This graduate understands the place of Prayer and Faith, and is able to control things in the 4th dimension.
Voila! That appears to be all for now. By adopting this ideals, you can trust that your job-search process will be more meaningful and gainful. Wishing you Success at your very next attempt!

Dear Job-seeking Nigerian Graduate, Here’s what You Should Have Done in Final Year


Year after year, Nigerian institutions continue to churn out thousands of graduates into the labour market. Rather unfortunately, statistics continue to show that most of these graduates are unemployable. However, we need to ask ourselves exactly what criteria was used to come to this conclusion. If Nigerian graduates have been classified as unattractive to employers because of their inability to communicate succinctly in a 5 minute interview, dress smartly or scale through mind-daunting blitzes in the form of aptitude tests, then it really isn’t a case of unemployability (at least in terms of their technical knowledge), but of their inability to adequately prepare for transition to the workplace. As you would imagine, this preparation process should begin from the University.

Again, we are suggesting five great moves every penultimate or final year student should be making to ensure a smooth, successful transition to their desired industries.

  1. Mapping out your post-NYSC route.

The truth is that most Nigerian graduates are unemployed because they failed to decide what their short-term plans (2-3 years after graduation) would be. For some it would be Master’s, an Entry Level full-time position or both. This decision is best made in final or penultimate year in college, so you have enough time to prepare accordingly. For those plying the Master’s route abroad, you might need to apply a year ahead of desired intake, which means you need to decide early. Also some scholarships can be secured even before applying to postgraduate programs and final year would be a good time to start. For those seeking entry-level positions to start their careers, you probably would want to conclude on this path earlier, so you can refine your presence for the market place early enough (by adopting the tips below). Of course, there is another category that would love to keep options open by applying for Master’s degrees/scholarships and entry-level positons as well. Same advice applies here.

  1. Serious Drills of aptitude tests formats (SHL, Dragnet)

It’s a good thing you have wound up that 4.85 CGPA and are leading your department. However if you are not able to do typical SHL or Dragnet tests and score at least 60% every time, those 3 significant figures might just be for show. Ideally, first year to penultimate year should be spent building your CGPA, but if you are looking to transit to the workplace successfully, you have to change curriculums in final year, ASAP. In addition to project work, final year should be for practicing such tests as SHL, Dragnet, Kenexa and Talentq. These are notorious tests that have ruined the hopes of several stellar-GPA candidates vying for competitive positions in top MNCs. Conversely, not-so-stellar GPA candidates who have a grasp on these tests are finding their way in, and fast. Of course, those going for NYSC immediately still have ample time to prepare but not after the service period. A similar Caveat goes out to graduates seeking to do their Master’s in US or Canadian institutions right after graduation. The GRE is no mean feat. You should begin preparations as early as possible, most top GRE scorers start 2 months ahead of test date to prepare.

  1. Taking Public Speaking classes

It is all too common an experience to see very knowledgeable graduates fumble over interviews after putting in so much effort at previous stages of the recruitment process. Interviewing skills are majorly public speaking skills, so the earlier you started working on your stutters, pause-fillers (em, you know, eh), verbosity and low-speaking, the better your chances of excelling at interviews. Most schools have a public speaking class as part of their entrepreneurial programs and if your school doesn’t have one, the internet is your friend. Several public speaking tips can be found on the web, do yourself a favour and explore them.

  1. Actively participating in Career fairs/ Networking

Most top Nigerian schools typically have recruitment/ career days where students meet employers who have diverse agendas, from workshops to aptitude tests and actual recruitment. Career days are good avenues for aspiring graduates to initiate relationships with employees of prospective firms, most of which are alumni of the school. For schools without such opportunities, recruitment sites like LinkedIn serve a similar purpose. A good reason for networking would be that, having such connections can be the difference between a good and a great candidate interviewing for a role. While the good candidate has general information about company A, the great candidate has utilized his internal network at company A to find out exactly what makes the company unique. He is also able to get an idea of what the recruitment process would involve at the company – What kind of tests? How many stages of interviews? What type of interview questions (behavioural or Competency based)? All the other guy (the good candidate) knows is that he has interviews with company A, and he would prepare for all types of interviews available – technical, behavioural, competency based etc., a terrible case of misuse of physical and intellectual resources.

  1. Using the Jobs/Vacancies section of Nairaland (Seriously)

And no, I’m not a Nairaland moderator, but this is just as helpful as any other point hitherto stated. Just like you graduated from school to the labour market in real life, you also have to graduate from the education section to the job/vacancies section. There’s no telling how much useful information you would find there. From internships (For those that have to wait for NYSC mobilization) to Full-time Jobs, to NYSC-suited programs (like the ViMP program of Junior Achievers), there are diverse opportunities for you to explore right from final year. The truth is that most of these recruitment processes take as long as 6 months and even up to a year in some instances. So starting to apply from final/NYSC year would only be strategic in timing. Moreover, you have the opportunity of lots of real interviews (and aptitude tests of course) before you graduate/finish NYSC, so you are much more prepared for your “real” interviews if you don’t land a job during the period.

These great tips are sure to leave you at the top of your game in today’s job-market. Success!

The New Face of Résumés : 5 Things Every Recruiter Should See

Ever wondered why that cozy, well-formatted, one-page résumé of yours hasn’t been landing any  test invitations or interviews? It’s probably because recruiters of top MNCs have become bored of seeing the very same monochrome documents in every pile of résumés they process. Moreover, the year is 2015 and trends have changed for everything, from Toyota Models to one-page CVs (yeah, seriously!). So here are five suggestions to make your résumé stand-out from the pile.

1. LinkedIn Handle: Over the years LinkedIn has become a very integral platform for recruitment firms. Almost every Human Resources person or recruiting agent wants to know the “LinkedIn side” of you, so you’d better save them the stress of having to open a new tab on Mozilla by linking your résumé to your LinkedIn page. Moreover, since typical résumé length is 1-page, you could use your LinkedIn page to your advantage by putting all other information not listed on your resume. However, recruiters are only prompted to go there if you lure them with your linked handle (okay, enough with the links).

2. Highlights in pictures: As I said before, monochrome is boring. Recruiters can easily miss that awesome internship you did at Unilever or that wonderful scholarship award from Total E&P when you present these details in black and white.It is always advisable to provide graphical highlights of your major achievements. For instance, If I were a recruiter, I’d be more easily drawn to the short summary under the Microsoft Logo on your résumé, than one long statement about the firm, lost in-between the lines in black and white. (Especially when I only have an average of 30 seconds per resume).

3. GPA: These days, it is very common to find people listing their educational achievements without indicating their graduating class or GPA. Well, that might still land you opportunities with some boutique firms around your neighborhood. However, if you’re looking to play in the big leagues, you’d better starting saying something about your grades early on in your résumé. This is the major factor most recruiters use in the first part of the screening process for most entry level positions (and even experienced hires), so by not indicating your graduating class, it’s an automatic throw in the “NO” pile. In fact, these days most recruiters want to see your very GPA and not just the class alone (because a 3.7/5 and a 4.48/5 are two different players in the same sport). Of course the only exception to this rule would be those that have obtained a degree class which is way below the requirement. For such people, presenting the degree anonymously can only do good to your application (especially if you have strong internships and notable extracurriculars which could convince the recruiter to offer you an interview).

4. IT Skills: For fellows in Arts and Humanities, recruiters are increasingly demanding just about the same IT skills from you as they require from your engineering and science-oriented counterparts. So spend the next summer break or your NYSC year learning advanced use of Excel (Excel is the most popular of the Microsoft Office suite programs used in most firms) , at least one programming language and proficient use of Windows 8, 8.1.

5. Unique Extracurriculars (ECs): In the 21st Century, almost every job-seeker loves to read, travel and swim as part of their past-times. Unfortunately, recruiters have become too used to these series of hobbies and are unimpressed by them. However, the candidate that says he loves rock-climbing and states that he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro last fall would still get some attention. He’d certainly be invited for interviews so long as he has met other criteria moderately (Which recruiter wouldn’t want to find out what the experience was like?). So it’d be better to highlight only extracurriculars that are unique to you. Of course as part of your ECs,  it is also commendable to provide details of leadership experience during your undergraduate studies as this is just about the only way recruiters get know if you have leadership potential.

There you have it! Five suggestions that could change your résumé for good. Keep watching this page for more posts!