By Damilola Olisa, 2018 Commonwealth Scholar
The Commonwealth Scholarship is a very competitive fully funded scholarship open to applicants from any of the Commonwealth countries and it is handled by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) in the UK. As long as you are from a Commonwealth country and have not spent more than one year in a developed country, you are eligible to apply. The application requires much time considering the many stages involved; ranging from securing admission for either Master’s or PhD programme in any of the UK universities, applying to your nominating agency for nomination, applying for the scholarship on CSC Electronic Application System (EAS), securing nomination from your nominating agency and lastly securing confirmation of award from the CSC.
In my own case, getting the Commonwealth Scholarship award is more than a dream come true. And I have been getting numerous questions on how I got nominated for the Commonwealth Award by 5 nominating agencies (4 UK Universities and Nigeria’s Federal Scholarship Board FSB) when most applicants often struggle hard to secure even one nomination which is needed to secure the award. Eventually, I settled for Commonwealth Master’s Scholarship award to study MSc Communication for Development at the University of Reading. Meanwhile, I remember that in 2017 when I first applied for Commonwealth Scholarship, I was rejected by all the three universities through which I applied, but the story changed in 2018. My story then revolves around from being rejected in 2017 to securing 5 nominations in 2018.
Hence, in this post, I will share some tips with you on how you can win the Commonwealth Scholarship award.
- Research into the Commonwealth Scholarship
First thing is you need to understand that there are different forms of Commonwealth Scholarship awards. Currently there are more than six kinds of Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships. So it is your duty to carefully research into which of the scholarships you are eligible for and fits your career goals. In my own case, I targeted only the Commonwealth Master’s Scholarship (General) and Commonwealth Shared Scholarship because they were the only Commonwealth scholarships for Master’s degree programmes. Similarly, I researched into the nominating agencies and the peculiar requirements for each of them. In all, I will advise you take enough time to look through the official Commonwealth Scholarship website and other blogs for all necessary information you might need about the scholarship.
- Feel free to get a previous Scholar to mentor you
This actually worked perfectly for me and it was the reason I had multiple nominations from UK universities and even Nigeria’s nominating agency (Federal Scholarship Board). In my preparations for 2018 round of application, I decided to speak with previous Commonwealth Scholars who directed me on how to present better applications. I even went as far as getting copies of their own application in order to proofread and draw ideas for my application. From this exercise, I discovered better ways through which I could improve on my application.
- Carefully answer your essay questions, especially your home country benefit essay
A number of people have asked me how I was able to get nominated for Master’s degree programmes which were not directly in line with my undergraduate degree. For example, I was nominated for MA Religious Studies and Global Development by University of Leeds despite having my first degree in Mass Communication. The simple secret was I presented unique home country benefit essays which were peculiarly appropriate for each Master’s programme. You need to let your nominating agency and the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission realize what impact you aim to achieve on your home country if offered the scholarship. You should provide facts about a specific problem in your home country which you intend to solve and how you intend to do that. This is very important. You should also provide realistic measures you intend to take to solve the problem using knowledge and skills gathered from studying in the UK and even how you intend to measure your results from time to time. The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission takes this particular essay in high esteem. And this is where most applicants, especially Frist Class holders, miss it. They wrongly believe that having a First Class is the major ticket for getting the Commonwealth Scholarship. Even with a Second Class in your first degree, you can win the scholarship if you present a perfect overall application.
- Engage in quality volunteering activities, publish academic papers and join professional bodies
During the course of filling your application on the CSC Electronic Application System (EAS), you will discover that there are different sections for all of these. Although they are not compulsory, they are the things that add value and weight to your application. After I realized why my 2017 application was not successful, I channeled efforts towards improving in these areas. I engaged in numerous voluntary activities, published a number of academic journal articles and joined relevant professional bodies in my field and career. In essence, the Commonwealth Scholarship application is what you diligently prepare round the year for. Another round of application for 2019/2020 will open by Oct/Nov 2018, so you must begin your preparations from now.
- Make your entire application coherent
By ensuring that your application is coherent, I mean let there be logical interconnection with various segments of your EAS application. Your entire application should be targeted at proving that you have the capacity of influencing positive social change using skills and knowledge acquired in the UK upon return to your home country. Each segment of the application should be in tandem with your overall goal. Even if you are applying for a field different from what you studied in your first degree, you can join professional bodies in the new field or take some short courses to prove knowledge in the new field.
In sum, the Commonwealth Scholarship is a life-changing opportunity for you to change your life and as well as your home country. It will influence your career positively. Winning the award totally depends on you. Please note that winning the award is a job on its own and you have to give it your best.
Applications are open for the following:
- Commonwealth Master’s Scholarships 2023/2024 for Study in the UK (Fully-funded)
- Commonwealth PhD Scholarships 2023/2024 for Doctoral Study at a UK University (Fully-funded)
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