My Chevening Journey, part 1: Leadership Essay

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

b) Networking

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.

67 comments

  1. good! so clear and exciting. i take time to read anything on that programme because i ‘m planning to participate soon.

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      1. Hi Samuel, my name is Jamshed and I am from Russia. I’d like to know is there any chance to contact with you via whatsapp? My number is +79778620100

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  2. Thank you for a such a comprehensive blog on your chevening application.It’s indeed really helpful. 🙂

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    1. Welcome and all the best in your application. My blog is on sustainable agriculture and food security but am doing special articles on my journey. The last one at this stage is tomorrow.

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      1. Hello Samuel?
        I am Garang from South Sudan and a graduate of Agricultural Economics from Moi University. i have been given unconditional offer at the University of Glasgow to pursue MSc in Food Security. I would like to apply for Chevening Scholarship. I need your help bro. I am impressed I found colleague in the my field of professionalism. Thanks.

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  3. Well written article, thanks so much! Please can you contact through my email, I will truly appreciate.

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  4. It was insightful and very inspiring. I was a bit indecisive regards applying and go through over the process again. Last cycle 209-2020, I reached the Reserve candidate stage and it is hard to know what to improve. At least your article can help shape my approach better now. Many thanks!!!

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  5. This is really great I feel we share the same story but your achievement are 👌.Am a range scientist diverted to customers care I feel this the chance for a second chance in agriculture.
    Thank you for the insights.

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    1. I believe we are all unique in our own ways. Thank you and best wishes in your application.

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      1. Great work sir. It really show you are a true leader . Please do you still accept mentee? I wish you could help me review my Essay before submission

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        1. Iam Benedicto Tong Bol, graduate of University of Juba, School of Law South Sudan. Iam applying for Chevening Scholarship, I will be glad if you guys offer your most needed advise on how to win this prestigious scholarship.

          Thanks.

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          1. After following the guidelines I have posted, search for a mentor in your field to review your essays.

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      2. am kind of confused, what if you believe that within you lies a true leader but haven’t had the opportunity to be in leadership positions is this scholarship not for you?

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  6. Kindly,thanks so much for your advice,then me i want to apply it and i wish to help me about how do i choose most UK universities accept 2:2 level of bachelor result.for further information,you may give me email for better asking information,my email: nkeshdamien@gmail.com

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  7. Good day Mr.Warimu, I am Abraham from Nigeria, reading your article gave me hope, though I am not in the same field as you are nevertheless its still helpful. If there is a chance to meet you on whatsapp, I will be delighted, +2348167681919 is my WhatsApp contact. Thanks

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  8. Hi, Mr. Samuel hank you for this concise guide on the leadership essay. its been helpful in starting my Chevening essay application although I don’t have so much achievement yet, but believe that I will make a remarkable impact with my skill and hard work.

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  9. Thank Mr. Samuel. I’m really impressed by the clue you shared out of experience. Im a Nigerian, wish to apply for Engineering. Please I want us to communicate, for further guidance. Here is my email:- matthew2ojonugwa@gmail.com. please do well to send me your fastest link, particularly whatsaap number.
    Thank you and God blessed you abundantly.

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  10. Can someone put an experience where you campaigned for a leadership position but eventually was not elected?

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    1. I thought I indicated that’s exactly what I did in my essay or are you testing whether my reply works🤣🤣🤣?

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      1. Thank you for your timely response.

        Can you kindly advise how to positively tailor the experience without giving and making a bad impression.

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  11. Can someone put an experience where you campaigned for a leadership position but eventually was not elected?

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    1. Yes, I gave my example of running for an MP position which I did not win but I focused on the positive.

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    1. Hi? Try getting a reviewer from your country who understands the priorities and preferably from your field.

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  12. Thank you Samuel for the guidance, its really helpful. Is it okay to talk about a project idea that I haven’t implemented in my essay.

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  13. please, can you help me delete this my comment. some part of my essay for this year is still referring to it so it showing as plagiarism ( 82% match). thanks

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  14. Hello, I was wondering what is the scoring page about? Is it something you did or they gave you? Thank you

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  15. Hello. Thanks for the detailed guide. I want to know if you have to separate apply to the schools you choose? Or when you select the schools and program on the chevening portal, the school will receive your application (perhaps based on a centralized application system)?

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  16. Hi Samuel. I’m currently applying for the Chevening scholarship . I just found out about it recently, the deadline is near and I still don’t know how to go about my essay. Please, could you guide me?

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