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.