As you are aware the Chevening Scholarship offered by the British Government has just been opened. I am among the selected scholars from Kenya and I will be pursuing MSc. Agriculture and Development at the University of Reading in the UK. I will be doing special articles once in a while to offer guidance and motivate potential applicants.
Chevening is the UK government’s awards scheme that offers fully funded one year taught master’s scholarship to future leaders, decision makers and influencers in their own countries. The scholarship is tenable at any UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) university in any subject. The scholarship caters for tuition fees, health insurance, flight and visa expenses plus a monthly stipend to cater for living expenses. It also has several non monetary benefits. (www.chevening.org)
The application involves writing four essays in English which can be broadly described into;
a) Leadership and Influence
c) Why Study in the UK and why the three course choices
d) Career plan
In this article, I will just cover the Leadership and Influence essay with brief snippets of my essay. But before that make sure you meet the two basic requirements;
I) Have a Bachelors degree equivalent of 2:2 and above i.e second class lower division and above. However, if you got 2:2, makes sure you apply to universities that accept it. Most universities accept a 2:1 (second class upper division) and above.
II) Two years experience which includes voluntary work and internships that are not part of your requirements to graduate.
Kindly note that it’s possible to apply if you will graduate in December as the deadline to upload your degree certificate and academic transcripts is early next year.
Let’s now look into the leadership essay. The question that you will be answering in the essay is, Chevening is looking for individuals who will be future leaders or influencers in their home countries. Explain how you meet this requirement, using clear examples of your own leadership and influencing skills to support your answer. ( minimum 100, maximum 500 words)
I used three leadership examples. I would advise you first list all your accomplishments that demonstrate your leadership abilities and then narrow down on three. Try to be diverse as much as possible. In my case I was spoilt for choice having led in high school, church, university, family, community level through voluntary work, in my professional career as banker and having vied for a parliamentary seat in the 2017 Kenyan General election as an independent candidate. In the end I settled on three examples, two from my community work and one while running my campaign.
In your first paragraph, introduce your essay in one or two sentences. This should give the reader, a short glimpse of the kind of leader you are. Don’t try to define leadership but rather demonstrate how you are that leader. This introduction should link up with your examples and your conclusion. Immediately after the short introduction, give your first example. The next two examples should each be in separate paragraphs.
In structuring your examples, always use the STAR approach. (Remember this is the same approach you will use to answer your interview questions if shortlisted).
Situation– Describe the problem/situation
Task– What was required to be done
Action– What did you do? If in a group what was your role.
Results– What were the results/impact.
At this juncture, let me give you a snippet of my first paragraph which covered my introduction and the first example.
My ability to identify community problems, assemble teams and initiate solutions define me as a self-driven and compassionate leader. As a banker in 2014, I founded the Maragua Mentorship Program in response to the dwindling motivation among primary school pupils leading to low performance. I used my story of rising from humble beginnings, struggling with school fees and growing up as an orphan to inspire them so they could excel in academics. I started with five members and later expanded as mentors could refer others. I also designed a Google form and posted it on my personal Facebook account inviting young professionals and university students who could mentor pupils to join. Later, we identified gaps in school materials and mobilized funds for buying geometrical sets and revision textbooks. As of June 2018, over fifty public primary schools had permanent mentors who broadened their activities to financially supporting bright but needy pupils joining secondary schools. The success of this program led to my nomination to the Board of Management of Sabasaba Secondary School by the County Education Board in 2015, a position I still hold. The volunteers derived value in giving back to the communities and the initiative has spread to other sub-counties.
My essay had two other paragraphs each covering an example demonstrating my leadership abilities. My final paragraph was a short one and sever as the conclusion. It is important to note that it should link up with your brief introduction and the body. My conclusion was as follows;
With the Chevening Scholarship, I will broaden my knowledge, competencies and networks to offer solutions to poverty and inequality to more Kenyans.
Finally be authentic, give your story and do not copy essays of previously selected scholars. The readers can detect plagiarism (an academic offence) and it’s makes your interviews in later stages easier when you own your story. Be honest, if you lie, it is very easy to be detected during the interview stage as there are experienced interviewers who can know through follow up questions. Also use simple grammatically correct English sentences. Your essays are the opportune moment to create a first impression and writing skills are paramount in this. Have people to proofread your essays for guidance and where you use abbreviations, make sure you give their meaning initially.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are purely mine and do not reflect the position of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and or its partner organizations.