Testimonials are an integral part of your scholarship application, offering the review committee a unique insight into what you are like in others’ eyes. Based on what your teachers, CCA leaders, volunteer managers and other influential figures say about you, they gain a picture of you as a person that you, yourself, would not be able to grant them.
It stands to reason, then, that testimonials can be as complicated as they are important. Many applicants simply submit all their testimonials in every application, flooding the scholarship executive’s inbox with so many documents they cannot read them all. This results in missed opportunities and in the worst case scenario, an application going into the “rejected” bin.
Why does this happen? The first reason why your testimonials, and your application itself, may not be passing the mark is because of too much irrelevant information. Like every other part of the application, the testimonials you submit should be tailored to the organisation you are applying for. For example, an engineering organisation like SP Group would be more interested in the words of your teacher-in-charge of the robotics CCA than your various volunteer activities.
Thus, the first thing you need to do when submitting testimonials is remove the unnecessary ones. Ideally, you should only submit four to five testimonials at most to avoid bogging down your application with irrelevant details. These should cover the following:
· Your abilities in the organisation’s core industry or focus.
· Your personality and what you are like to work with, including soft skills such as problem solving, collaboration, and empathy.
· Anything new you brought to the table, such as projects you spearheaded or initiatives you implemented.
With these in mind, approach your testimonial writers with a clear idea about what you want them to write about you. If you are applying for the NParks Scholarship, for example, you may wish to approach your biology lecturer for a testimonial regarding your achievements in his class, and your form teacher for a statement about your personal qualities. These individuals can then tailor their submissions to these subjects and avoid overlaps in information.
Remember, your testimonials writers are busy people who will probably be writing many of the same for a great number of students. Reduce their confusion by providing a factsheet of your achievements and what you want them to focus on when you ask them for that vital piece of feedback.
Lastly, pick the right person for the right testimonials. A general statement about your good personality and an endorsement of your new, groundbreaking project are two very different documents!
As mentioned, for general statements, references from lecturers are appropriate. However, if you wish to highlight your long-standing interest in a particular field, such as AI or cybersecurity, you should approach someone aware of your achievements in that arena such as a past employer or project manager. Finally, did you enjoy the support of an organisation in implementing a volunteer initiative? Ask a representative for a reference – they will know what they are talking about!
Applications need to be crafted with care and testimonials are no different. Just like any job, it is vital to find the right people for the right things. Now get to asking!
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