BrightSparks wishes all applicants the best of luck in scoring the scholarships of their dreams! But what if there’s more than one?
As sponsoring organisations have started to make their decisions, you may find yourself having to choose between scholarships. This might be because you received more than one offer letter, you have a deadline for acceptance coming up while you wait for another organisation’s reply, or one organisation may want more interviews or information while another has already said “yes”.
Understandably this makes for quite a dilemma – should you accept now, or continue waiting? And in the case of multiple offers, which one is the one for you?
While we cannot provide a one-size-fits-all answer to such a personal question, we do have some tips for those struggling to choose. These will help you get to know yourself and what you want, so that you can make a more informed decision without regrets.
Clear your mind and decide well by…
1. Researching your options
Research, research, research. Research is key to understanding whether the organisation will suit you or not. Since your acceptance is a done deal in this case, you can concentrate on looking at the work culture through a company’s SNS, or getting a feel for what benefits and opportunities they offer their scholars (e.g., overseas attachments, industry events, networking opportunities with leaders in the field).
Remember, while it may be tempting to just accept the first offer that comes your way, you will be spending at least three to four years in that organisation. Does their work style suit you, and do their aims align with yours? Are there projects that interest you in the works, and do you have ideas for how it can further flourish? Only commit yourself if you can answer those questions clearly and feel a sense of excitement about your future with them.
2. Speaking to the organisations
Since you have already come into contact with the organisation, there’s no harm in asking for clarification on any point you’re unsure of, or probing deeper into what they offer their scholars. Email your liaison if you have any questions, or you could casually ask what attracted them to the organisation and see if it has relevance to your own aims.
Organisations can be rather brief and vague when it comes to their corporate website or brochures, so speaking to your organisation contact will help iron out some details. A big question for those waiting on other offer letters is: Can you extend the deadline? (The answer is usually “no”, but your liaison can probably help you with negotiations.)
At this stage, you can ask very specific questions. If you are interested in going to a certain country, ask about it. Or maybe there’s a company you really want to help – will you be in a position to liaise with them? Get down to brass tacks and get some clear answers, as they will help you define your choice.
3. Understanding your educational goals
What do you want to do with your life? That’s the big question you need to answer before you make any big decision, let alone a scholarship.
There are actually two mindsets to this. Some scholars have a single defining passion, and a university education is one more step in pursuing it. They take up a major that is related to their interest and the organisation’s mission, and learn theories and skills that will be immediately applied to their work. These scholars often select scholarships with established career tracks and further study options, reflecting their commitment.
A second pathway is to use the scholarship as a means of exploring. These scholars take up a scholarship in a field they’re initially interested in, and use the stipends and grants provided to go on exchange programmes, take fun modules, and devote themselves to lots of hobbies. Their wide range of experience translates into perspectives and direction “off the beaten track” so they can contribute new ideas to their organisation. This kind of scholar typically chooses a more flexible scholarship with a shorter bond period, as he or she values freedom.
When you decide what purpose your education is to serve you, you will be able to see which kind of scholar you are – and what scholarship suits you best.
4. Consulting with others
When you find yourself in a bind, talking to others can provide new perspectives and reflections. Consult with friends and family, or email your professors and teachers, and you will find they have valuable input to share!
As these people are looking at you from the outside, their perspective of you will be rooted not in perceptions but your actions. Many scholars described to us how engaged mentors helped them recognise what they were interested in, and suggested programmes and internships to help them start in their careers.
Choosing between scholarships is a happy problem, but it’s still a problem. Search yourself, open up your mind, and make a firm choice so you don’t regret.
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