GUIDE: Applying for UK Scholarships to Study in the UK—Everything You Need to Know And Do

9 min


This guide/article was written by Melissa Enninful for LegalJargons.Com. Melissa is a Chevening Scholar–-who is currently a postgraduate (MSc Electronic- Business Management) student from Ghana studying in the UK at the University of Warwick.

I was one of the graduates who hardly thought of doing a master’s course right after school- I wanted some work experience after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. Prior to my application, I was working with BlackIvy Ghana Limited, a company that builds commercial enterprises in Ghana – and the parent company of IndigoHomes; a real estate developer of Ayi Mensah Park.

As an international student, the thought of applying for a highly reputable scholarship in the United Kingdom alone can be daunting; how much more if you have been rejected not only once but for the umpteenth time by the Scholarship body! – It can be devastating and even worse, an imposter syndrome resurfaces. That, notwithstanding, I am thrilled to let you know that with massive preparation, research, determination and a positive mindset, you are definitely not far from winning a scholarship to gain access to a world-class British Education.

Uk Scholarships

In this article, I will be discussing the steps to be taken and signposting you to important URL links to aid in your applications to one of UK’s prestigious scholarship programmes, the Chevening Scholarship.

Further, I will highlight the unique application process proffered by the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship, which is also one of the most competitive scholarships offered by the UK government through its partner agencies.

Before I touch on the dynamics into the application of the aforementioned scholarships, let me briefly tell you about these two scholarship schemes.

The Commonwealth Shared Scholarships are for candidates from least developed and lower middle-income Commonwealth countries, for full-time Master’s study on selected courses, jointly supported by UK universities.

Chevening Scholarship is a fully- funded scholarship programme awarded to talented leaders, influential minds and problem solvers in unique fields who are citizens of Chevening – eligible countries, have had a minimum of 2 years’ experience in order to study in the UK for one year in any course of their choice. Uniquely, the scholar will gain academic insights and work experience so they can return home (for at least 2 years) after the award has ended to help develop their home country. The full list for meeting the eligibility criteria can be found here: https://www.chevening.org/scholarships/who-can-apply/eligibility/.

The scholarship includes full tuition fees, arrival allowance, departure allowance, monthly stipend, flight ticket, a single visa application cost, travel allowance to attend Chevening events.  Furthermore, although most scholarships in the UK take similar approaches in the selection process, the following steps are specifically for the Chevening Application Process:

Application and Selection Process Timeline:

 The whole process takes about eight (8) months from the application deadline till when you are awarded conditionally. Based on the timelines for the Cohort 2020/2021, find the selection process and deadlines below:

  • Applications opened – September 2020
  • Applications closed at 12:00 noon GMT on Nov 3, 2020
  • Eligibility Criteria Check and Sifting (Long Listing) – 4 November 2020
  • Chevening applicants are shortlisted for interviews – February 2021
  • Documents and Education Documents Submission Deadline – 22 February 2021
  • Interviews – March – April 2021
  • Results – June 2021

Selection of Courses and Universities:

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! Yet again, to make your options wide, Chevening recommends selecting three similar courses in three different universities as soon as you can. Also, note that the list of schools is requested via the online application system before the application deadline. Don’t panic! – The good news is that you do not need to have a school offer letter before you apply, but bear in mind that the deadline to upload an unconditional letter from at least one university is normally in the mid-year – In the case of the 2020/2021 cohort, the deadline for submission of unconditional offer letter is 15th July 2021. Additionally, the courses do not have to be exact but similar (title, modules etc.). Click here for eligibility of courses https://www.chevening.org/scholarships/guidance/courses/.

English Language Requirement (Chevening & Universities):

Fortunately, or unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Chevening waived the English Language requirement for my cohort i.e., Chevening Scholars 2019/2020 but normally, it is required. This could be different for the next cohorts; hence it is advisable to plan ahead and write your English Language test as early as you can since some universities such as the University of Warwick demands it. I quite remember some of my colleagues had a hard time trying to convince their university departments via several email trails about their great command over the English Language. Thankfully, it worked for some and sadly, it didn’t work for others. Think about it! What is worse than being awarded a Chevening Scholarship, but your dream university cannot admit you because you have not satisfied the English requirement for the specific department? Alternatively, some schools such as Imperial College London accepts the WASSCE results – How cool is that? Altogether, you need to check with both Chevening and your desired school for their respective minimum English test scores. To illustrate; you might meet Chevening’s minimum English requirement score but your test scores might be lower than that of your university – Please ensure you check this thoroughly.  Finally, Chevening does not accept pre-sessional courses as substitutes for English language requirement.

Essays:

In this section, the applicant is to submit four essays with 500 words each on the topics: Leadership and influence, Career Plan, Networking and Studying in the United Kingdom:

  • Leadership and Influence

“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.”

  • Career Plan

“Chevening is looking for individuals who have a clear post-study career plan. Please outline your immediate plans upon returning home and your longer-term career goals. You may wish to consider how these relate to what the UK government is doing in your country.” 

  • Studying in the UK

“Outline why you have selected your chosen three university courses and explain how this relates to your previous academic or professional experience and your plans for the future. Please do not duplicate the information you have entered on the work experience and education section of this form.”

  • Networking

“Chevening is looking for individuals with strong professional relationship-building skills, who will engage with the Chevening community and influence and lead others in their chosen profession. Please explain how you build and maintain relationships in a professional capacity, using clear examples of how you currently do this, and outline how you hope to use these skills in the future.”

Your essays should be captivating, don’t just write your achievements but mould them into compelling stories and be original. It is worth noting that, the likelihood of being referred in the interview session is very high hence be authentic and consistent. As a rule of thumb, I use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) structure for writing most of my essays and answering most interview questions. Uniquely, my Chevening applications essays and the interview sessions were no different. I will give a short answer based on the STAR format in answering a sample Chevening interview question in the ‘Interview’ Section. https://www.chevening.org/news/reading-committee-feedback-for-applicants/

Online Application System:

Prior to the application process, ensure you have all your education documents or certificates, English Proficiency Certificate, IELTS results, National Identity card (National Passport etc.), Curriculum Vitae, Visa Refusal letters if any, and any other documents that could be requested readily available. Again, a number of people tend to rush through applications, but this should not be the case. At this point, one needs to be focused, patient, and dot all I’s & cross all T’s especially in an enviable scholarship programme such as the Chevening Scholarship. Any mistake in this section can automatically pull you out of the “escape room” no matter how amazing your essays are or even if you meet the eligibility criteria, have a first class or second class upper. Take note, do not plagiarise, “Save” as you move through the sections of the application pages, and only click the “Submit” button once you are done with the whole application. Click here for more tips: https://www.chevening.org/scholarships/guidance/online-application-system/.

References:

First, referees are important in your scholarship application hence don’t wait till the last minute before you start seeking for references. Here are three tips:

  • Give your referees a heads up before you start your application
  • Submit their names and contact details via the online application system. The prospective applicant should note that only in unique circumstances will the British High Commission accept references at the premises.
  • Referees (2) can be selected from either your academic or professional domains – No close relative or friend.

Read the reference guide here: https://www.chevening.org/scholarships/guidance/references/

Interview:

If you are invited for an interview, an email will be sent detailing instructions on how to book your interview, the forms to upload before the interview and the documents to bring along to the interview premises (Due to the covid-19 pandemic, the 2019/2020 interviews were conducted online). Apart from uploading 2 reference letters, university documents (degree certificates, transcripts etc.), you will need to upload a short biography. Furthermore, don’t forget to have your Passport/National ID handy.

During the interview, questions will be asked based on what you have in your essays and application form. The interview panel includes representative from the British High Commission or Embassy and the interview will be conducted in English.

https://www.chevening.org/news/interviews-tips-from-chevening-scholars/

Let’s take a look at a typical example of the Chevening Scholarship question: “What is effective networking in your opinion, and can you give an example(s) when you demonstrated such skills?”.

Using the STAR approach as well as statistics, this is how it can be answered:

S -Recognising the struggles I faced with funding building structures in the early stages of my business, I developed an initiative to help MSMEs who find themselves in that position to navigate them.

T – Understanding that I did not have the capacity to drive the vision alone, I leveraged my excellent communication skills to sell the vision to 2 friends; an accountant and a lawyer and onboarded them successfully. 

A – Since 2019, I have led the team to train over 50 people across 5 regions on basic accountancy, entrepreneurship principles, business regulations and funding strategies. 

R – As a result the team’s effort, 40% of the trained individuals have registered their businesses and won a total seed funding of USD 20,000.00 through my facilitation.

Finally, practice, practice, practise before your interview! Mock interviews always do the trick – It can be done by yourself or even better, with friends and family!

Important Tips:

  • It is never about the leadership position or role.  Ask yourself this question, “What impact have I made at home, school, church, workplace or in the community?” If you can answer that positively, go for it. No impact is little or made by specific people! You can do it once you pass the eligibility criteria!
  • Keep reading and keep your eyes peeled for updates and FAQs on the Chevening Application Website throughout the journey. You don’t want to miss out on the tiniest yet relevant information for your application process.

Brief on Commonwealth Shared Scholarship (CSS):

The Commonwealth Secretariat in the UK, in partnership with selected universities present thematic topics to students from all Commonwealth countries to select. Each school presents limited slots with selected courses to the students to choose from.

Awards are for taught Master’s programmes only and subjects must be related to the economic, social and technological development of a candidate’s country.

Before candidates can win a CSS, they have to be accepted and approved by both the scholarship panel and the school, hence the requirement for candidates to also complete the CSS online application form with their chosen schools.

The difference between Chevening and Commonwealth shared scholarships (CSS) is that there is a national quota in the case of the former, but the latter has slots vied by all students regardless of their commonwealth countries. For example, a Ghanaian will be vying for the same slot/s in a school with applicants from any Commonwealth country.

Eligible applicants across all Commonwealth countries can apply for the available slots (e.g. seven (7) slots of about seven programmes in a particular school.

Some schools present more slots than others, depending on the funding available, given that the scholarship is a ‘shared’ one, in which schools contribute about half of the budget to the scholarship they will be awarding.

So there are schools that present just about one or two slots. Some schools present more than 10 slots for grabs. Just about a few schools decide to make available the number of slots to match the number of programmes they present, where they select one candidate from each course. Most of the schools prefer to present fewer slots than the programmes available, obviously making the application in these schools more competitive.

Deriving from the above narrative, it sounds like securing a scholarship to study in the UK puts you between the devil and the deep blue sea. Nonetheless, you are not too far from winning a scholarship to gain access to a world-class British education so far as you believe you are a deserving candidate as well as approach the scholarship application process very determined and well prepared.

READ ALSO: GUIDE: How to Go and Study in the UK—from Obtaining University Admission to Acquiring UK Student Visa

Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri, Esq

LAWYER’S NOTE

I am a UK-trained and based qualified lawyer/solicitor. I help in legal representation for those coming to the UK to study–by representing them in their applications for their student visas.

I do not deal with making admission application to universities for scholarships. The above article has almost all the information you need to help you with your student application.

Once you have received your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) that is when you contact me, or when I can be of legal assistance.

If you are applying from abroad, the earliest you can apply is 3 months before your course starts.

If you have any question, you can leave it under this post.

If you have received your CAS and you need legal representation in securing a visa to come to the UK to study or overturning a refusal, contact me via Whatsapp/Direct Call: +447837576037 or E-mail: [email protected] 


Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri,Esq
I am Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri, a lawyer, a thinker, a writer and something like a legal polymath based in the United Kingdom; I hold 2 Master’s degrees in Law; International Human Rights Law (LL.M) and Legal Practice Course (LL.M) from University of Leicester and Nottingham Law School--and also a degree in Law (LL.B). I currently work at Adukus Solicitors in London--where I use my legal brains to kick real ass, for the good of my clients and humanity. Contact: [email protected] [email protected]