Tips for a Successful Chevening Application

Tips for a Successful Chevening Application


I was a recipient of a Chevening scholarship in 2017/18 and completed my MA in Media Practice for Development and Social Change at the University of Sussex. This year I participated in the Mandela Washington Fellowship, where I met many brilliant young Africans who asked for tips and guidance for applying for a Chevening Scholarship. With Chevening applications now open for intake, I have decided to share my key tips for a successful application. My approach emphasizes understanding your story and making a compelling case that you are a leader and that the Chevening award contributes to your career plans and vision.

 1.      Clearly articulate your vision, plans, and accomplishments

The Chevening scholarship awards scheme is for people with leadership potential and leaders are people who have a vision that they are working towards! Because Chevening applications are so competitive, potential alone without evidence of concerted steps and a concise plan towards attainment of the vision is inadequate. There is also a need to highlight the key accomplishments and milestones you have made towards achieving your goals, evidence that you are not only a dreamer but a person of action. Consider the following points:

  • Your vision should be of gain to your community or country for it to count. Chevening is seeking individuals who will return home and give back to their community and country. A vision of personal fame and fortune will not cut it!
  • It may be useful to divide your career plan into a short-term plan (1-3 years), a medium-term plan (4 – 6 years) and a long-term plan (7 – 10 years). Your plans could relate to specific projects you want to embark on, personal development plans or future career changes. Examples of these could include enrolling in an education course, coaching or mentoring younger people in your field, running for political office or starting your own organization. The list is endless. 
  • Clearly articulate your accomplishments or impact as a leader in your field. This could include successful campaigns for a better community, development of products that improve society, groundbreaking research on an issue affecting the community, founding a successful start-up or non-profit organization, improving the lives of disenfranchised people etc. Back up your successes with clear evidence, and where possible quantify your impact, e.g. number of people impacted. Use clear examples in your essays!  

 2.      Show how a masters degree in the United Kingdom will contribute towards achieving your goals

A successful application will require you to show how a masters degree in the United Kingdom will contribute towards achieving your goals. To do this effectively you need to research the standing of the United Kingdom and your chosen universities in the area you are interested in. For example in my application I argued that a Masters Degree in Media Practice for Development and Social Change from the University of Sussex would equip me to better achieve my dreams of contributing to Zimbabwe’s democracy and development since Sussex University is the best university in the world for development studies and since the United Kingdom is a leader in global media through institutions such as BBC and Sky News. I also argued that the presence of International Development Institutions headquartered in the United Kingdom would offer me opportunities for networking and learning.

3.      Understand your story, personalize it and tell it with confidence

The Chevening application asks you to make your case in only four essays of 500 words each! You, therefore, need to decide how you will frame your application, develop a particular narrative and articulate it with confidence. You can’t include your entire life story but need to pick specific things that strengthen the argument that you are a leader.

Also, do not be afraid to talk about yourself. Since this is your application, you are the star… Show your growth as a human being, your vulnerabilities, your weaknesses, and how you have conquered them in the quest to achieve your dreams. This is how you establish a connection with the application reviewers, and later with the interviewers.

Once you complete these three steps you will know if you are ready for Chevening, and if Chevening is what you need at this point in your life. You will also be able to effectively respond to Chevening application questions on your leadership potential, networking skills and career plans. In short, everything else (which is spelt out in the application guidelines anyway) will fall into place!

Good luck!

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