A scholarship can be your ticket to a dream career, and being awarded one can easily be a major milestone in your life. Yet, many students tend to take the application process too lightly.
Every year, hundreds of students flood the BrightSparks Forum with questions such as, “What scholarships should I apply for?”, “How do I improve my chances?” and even “What should I know about scholarships?”
However, these questions often only come in the days following the release of the 'A' level results. Given that the deadline for most scholarship applications lasts for a couple of weeks, students end up submitting mediocre applications or missing them entirely.
To help you avoid making that mistake, we have broken the scholarship process down into six simple steps:
Step 1: Research
The first step is to improve your scholarship knowledge by understanding what scholarships are about. In essence, most scholarships can be said to have two components – full or partial sponsorship of your education, and a bonded career with the sponsor organisation.
A smorgasbord of scholarship information can be found on our BrightSparks portal and magazines, which feature testimonials and useful articles of current and alumni scholars. However, for a more complete picture, you should also speak to other scholars who are either studying or already working.
It's important to remember that organisations offer scholarships not to give out need-based financial aid, but as a means for recruiting talented future employees. Ultimately, they are looking for candidates who would be a good fit for the organisation.
Step 2: Know Yourself
Since choosing a scholarship is ultimately choosing a career, the first step to making an informed decision is becoming self-aware. Leading psychologists have found that the highest level of happiness is attained when one is able to use his strengths in service of a cause that he believes in. It follows that you should understand yourself better in at least two areas – your values and your strengths.
There are several ways to go about increasing your self-awareness. The first, and definitely the most effective, is to be more introspective. Besides enlisting the help of family and friends to share their observations with you, you could also take rigorously-developed personality- or strength-profiling tests online.
Step 3: Shortlist Scholarships
Once you are sufficiently acquainted with the nature of scholarships and with yourself, you need to decide on which scholarships to apply for. While most students are more concerned with which scholarship they have a chance of being selected for, this is really only one side of the story.
You must also consider which scholarships are suitable for you in the first place. Assuming you are sure of your interests, you should select scholarship providers with matching career opportunities, and whose corporate mission and core business resonate with you.
Remember to utilise our Scholarship Comparison Table to compare the array of scholarships available!
Step 4: Apply
With the few scholarships you have in mind, it's time to make the application. At this point, it will be useful to know that the window for applying to most scholarships opens the day the 'A' level results are released, and closes two weeks later. For most scholarships, applications can be submitted using an online form provided by BrightSparks. However, other scholarship providers may require you to submit your applications via their websites.
Although much of the form-filling is merely entering of data, you will also most likely be asked to introduce yourself, your interests, and your ambitions through essays and personal statements. You need to invest a significant amount of time on these to do them well, and should start on them as early as possible.
Step 5: Tackle the Interview
If you have been shortlisted for the scholarship, you will be asked to undergo a selection process comprising interviews and other forms of assessment.
There are usually at least two rounds of interviews – one with human resource personnel, and the other with the company's senior management. You can improve your performance at these interviews by reading up on the company, the issues affecting its industry, and expressing a sincere interest in the company's business. Interview skills can also be learnt and honed through role play and practice.
Other kinds of assessments can take the form of personality profiling tests, situational tests and reasoning tests. It is possible to prepare for the latter two by finding out their exact nature from previous applicants, so you can have a gauge of what to expect.
Step 6: Respond to the Offer or Rejection
It is estimated that over 1000 scholarships are given out every year. If you are one of them, congratulations! Do take time to get to know the people in the organisation better, as this will ease your transition from university to working life.
If you have not been awarded a scholarship, do not worry. There are other means of financing your education, such as grants, study loans, or part-time work. Most importantly, do not let rejection deflate your self-esteem. Other opportunities lie in wait, and the scholarship application process has at least helped you grow in self-awareness and emerge a stronger person.