Becoming A Chevening Scholar: The Do’s And Don’ts
Time flies too fast I didn’t realize the autumn term 2013 has ended and I have now begun my second term at King’s College London. It didn’t feel as quick in the beginning of last year when I was waiting for decision on my Chevening scholarship application. In total, it took me more than six months to receive the final award confirming that I am one of 21 Indonesian scholars selected by the UK Government.
It was my second attempt to try applying for this prestigious scholarship. My first attempt three years ago didn’t succeed because I missed the deadline of submission. (DON’TS no. 1: DO NOT forget the submission deadline!). For those of you who are thinking of applying for this year’s intake, you are already late. But don’t worry, Chevening scholarship opens every year usually right after the beginning of autumn term. Although the number of scholarships given to Indonesian citizens tends to decrease year by year, Indonesia is still one the biggest recipient country of Chevening out of 118 countries all over the world. It clearly shows how the selection has become extremely competitive that only individuals who match the criteria will be short-listed. Nevertheless, the decreasing number of scholarship available now should not be worried as much. Essentially, you should be more concerned on how to qualify as a Chevening scholar.
The words are determination and preparation.
Why do I put determination before preparation? That is because, essentially, Chevening always looks for individuals who have passion and know how to achieve their ambitions. The “Potential future leaders”, as they say it, the one that aspires to bring change to their respective country. The scholarship is extremely competitive so you need to make sure that your application shines above 700 other applicants or so. Therefore, it is crucial to describe yourself in a way that promises them of a future important person whom they can contact one day. Your personal statement should be able to reflect that, so DO demonstrate your work experience by highlighting the tangible outcomes you have accomplished. Also, DO remember that whatever you write in your personal statement should be consistent with the information listed in your application form. When I did my personal statement, I structured it chronologically from the time I was still in undergraduate school, then to my first job, second job, until my recent activities. I did so in order to tell the Chevening Secretariat of my journey and what I plan to do with my study and after.
DO state explicitly the reason(s) why you particularly want to study in the UK, in the program or course you want to concentrate in. DO argue how it is pertinent to your career and how study in the UK will provide you with essentials that will help you strive as a leader. DO also note that Chevening supports Indonesian citizens’ high education because of reasons. So convince them by showing that you are capable of delivering direct contribution to Indonesia through your specialization. For any government civil servant or state-owned university lecturer, it should be easy to argue as such. As a person who’s been working in non-government and foreign sector, I argued how my understanding of Indonesia, its system and bureaucracy would benefit all actors in development. DO highlight any of your achievement in initiating a project, research, or action because that can be considered as leadership-personality traits.
Chevening requires references from your employer and/or university lecturer. Whoever is able to provide you with a reference, it should be the person who understands you and can appraise your work, passion, and personality. When you have decided these persons, the scholarship officer will directly contact them and request them on behalf of you. So, DO remind them of the certain date that has been assigned to submit a recommendation.
DO make sure you meet the basic criteria such as minimum GPA, number of years of work experience, and English language requirement. Therefore, it is important to read the application guidelines and Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) they provide in the website (http://www.chevening.org/).
After three months or so, the secretariat will contact you through the British Embassy in Jakarta on whether your application is successful to enter the interview process. To be called for an interview is a milestone. However, it is yet another important challenge as it will determine the result of your submission. Therefore, DO read your application and personal statement in order to build consistency of your arguments. The interview panel normally consists of three persons, a group of British Embassy officers and representations of partner organization. In my interview, each of the panel members had different questions and I managed to spend around 20-25 minutes inside the interview room. DO make them curious about you and hold the interview as long as possible because it shows how they enjoy the conversation and how they want to know more about you. I checked with other Chevening scholars and they confirmed of spending more than 15 minutes with the panel. DO try to be relax and to generate a good discussion with the panel and you shall stay inside the room for more than ten minutes.
DO try to be prepared to be asked some questions related to current issues in general, e.g. whom do you think will win the presidential election? Such a question may not be directly related to you but the panel wants to know how you are aware and critical about issues that are important to Indonesia. They may also ask you of your future plans, particularly who do you want to become in the next 5, 10, or 20 years. DO think carefully about this type of question before doing the interview. I would suggest you to aim high. DON’T be reluctant when sharing your vision because it is the key to convince them of the benefit of investing in you.
In regards to school application, as I spoke with different Chevening scholars, they all offer different ideas to approach it. Some say it is better to apply Chevening with an offer from the university. But some also say that university application can wait until the scholarship has been confirmed. In some extreme cases, scholars also imply that they can change the program course and university even after the Chevening has provisionally selected them. The truth is, none of these can be the best example. What is ideal is for you to be aware of the timing of all these factors, and then be able to manage both the scholarship and school applications within the given period of time. DO prioritize application to the three schools you listed in your Chevening application because it is unlikely they want to sponsor your choice outside the ones you have already registered. DON’T forget the closing date for application to each school or program course. Some school applies rolling submission. This means they accept application all year long. However, DO make sure sure to be aware that the autumn term starts in August/September every year, so your application must be made at least three months prior.
Lastly, Chevening secretariat will inform you about the progress of your application and whether you have been successful or not. Although the process of receiving the Final Award can take a while, it was sufficient for me to process my application and make decision of which university and program course I wanted to pursue. DO try to be aggressive when dealing with the university administrator in requesting for CAS for UK visa application and term schedule (including international welcoming, fresher’s fair, induction week, etc.).
I hope I have given you some practical tips to help you prepare for your Chevening application. I found that consulting with previous scholars is extremely helpful so DO ask around for advice because each scholar can have different strategy and level of preparedness for an application.
Santi Dharmawan is currently the Partnership and Mentorship Director for Indonesia Mengglobal. Prior to this role she was a writer, mentor and director of UK/EU contents. She obtained her Master's degree in Political Economy of Emerging Markets from King's College London, United Kingdom. She is one of 21 Indonesians awarded the prestigious British Chevening Scholarship for her study in 2013-2014. Santi holds an undergraduate degree in Sociology from the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Indonesia, and several awards from competitive debating activities during her years of studying. She was President to the university's high-achieving English Debating Society. Santi currently works as a Public Affairs consultant at one of the world's largest PR firms in Jakarta, Indonesia. She provides political and public policy advises for global businesses, government, and organizations, to add value to their business and manage their reputation. Santi is a YouTube enthusiast, music concert junkie and avid fan of tv series.
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