Secrets of writing a good Chevening application



We’re always excited when we launch the annual Chevening Scholarship fund. We’ll be spending the next few weeks hoping to encourage as many good quality applications as possible before the closing date on 3 November. Through a scholarship you can gain a world-class education, experience the UK’s diverse and welcoming culture, and become part of the lifelong Chevening community. A Chevening Scholarship offers full financial support by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and partner organisations. And if you are passionate about creating positive change in the communities around you, you are the person we are looking for!

I’ve spent the past two years here chairing the panel which shortlists and later interviews applicants. I’ve seen some excellent applications which the panel has been unanimous in inviting to interview. But we’ve also seen applications which could have been much better with just a few small changes. As much as I don’t want to make my job harder, I wanted to share some hints and tips which could make the difference in getting your application through the shortlist.

– Don’t wait until the closing day to submit your application. We want to see applications that you’ve thought about and haven’t rushed in the last few minutes when you’re stressed because of IT problems.

– The strength of your application will come show in the short questions on: leadership and influence; networking, studying in the UK and long-term career goals. Make sure you make the best use of those 100-500 words in each example. The panel will expect you to write more than 100 words or we’ll think you’ve wasted the opportunity! But don’t waste a lot of words trying to say something simple – if I’ve got 50 applications to read, I’ll naturally prefer clear and concise answers.

– The answers we like most are ones that explain what you’ve actually done rather than what you think you do. That’s what we mean when we say “use examples to support your answers”. And the very best answers don’t just describe a situation or task, but mainly focus on your actions and the result. If you haven’t heard of the STAR method for interviews, look it up. Especially if you do get invited to interview!

– At all times you want the panel to welcome what you’re saying. So don’t use controversial statements. The panel might disagree with you, which means at best they will doubt your judgment, and at worst, they will view the rest of your application with suspicion.

– The Chevening Scholarship isn’t just to fund your studies, but to identify future leaders, influencers or opinion formers. That doesn’t have to be in politics or civil society. But it does mean that we’re looking for someone who has given some thought to a realistic future career which you think will make a difference.

– If you’ve been unsuccessful at a previous application for Chevening, please do not be discouraged from applying again. But don’t just submit your application from the previous year. Do think how you can strengthen it, particularly if you were invited to interview and received feedback.

– I’m going to repeat the first tip because it’s so important – under no circumstances leave your application until the closing day! There always seem to be IT problems on the closing day and we worry that we sometimes lose applications.

And I’ll end with my usual advice: If you’re doubting whether to apply, just apply. I’ve heard many of our successful Chevening scholars tell me they never thought they were good enough. There is no one type of person that we look for, just as there is no one style of application. You could ignore all my tips above and still make it through, but chances are your application will get noticed if you clearly explain yourself with evidence. I could write pages more tips, but I need to follow my own advice to be concise. So feel free to ask more questions in the comments!

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