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!
- 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!
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