Key Requirements of International Scholarships for Prospective Applicants

By: Tordue Simon Targema

Last week, I made a Facebook post on the key requirements of international scholarships that prospective applicants need to fire successful shots. The post was necessitated by the fact that many graduates seeking international scholarships do not know what to have handy while applying for these scholarships. Such graduates often lose out, given the tight deadlines of most scholarships. Thus, I felt obliged to highlight these key requirements for prospective applicants. Interactions from the post encourage me to get it published in a platform that has a wider range of prospective applicants beyond my Facebook followers. I must mention from the onset that the list below is not exhaustive, but captures just the basic requirements of most international scholarships. Moreover, each of these scholarships has specific documents it requires from prospective applicants. Notwithstanding these specifications, few requirements continue to recur across scholarships. These are highlighted as follows:

1. International passport: This is a major requirement for most, if not all international scholarships. Sadly, this is an “unaffordable luxury” for most graduates grappling with the savageries of life and survival after graduation. The last time I checked, international passport costs about twenty-five thousand Naira. This is not tom mention the delay that applicants encounter in some states of the federation while trying to get the passport. More saddening, however, is the fact that you could get the passport without clinching a scholarship till it expires [oops]! Never to mind this, you can use the expired passport to “intimidate” immigration officers on the highways while travelling if it doesn’t fetch you a scholarship. They respect it a lot. But on a serious note, you just need this document to fire shots at international scholarships.

2. Transcript: there is this heck about Nigerian universities and transcript! They say it is confidential. Wonder if foreign scholarships aren’t aware of this confidentiality: they keep asking for transcript from applicants! I was devastated few days ago when a friend received early-stage disqualification mail from Commonwealth Scholarship because of transcripts even as he met EVERY other requirement. Alas! The bureaucracy in MOST Nigerian universities over transcript is simply annoying. Maybe this is one reason I must have to delve into alumni politics someday: willing graduates should be giving their transcript upon request without much headache, after all, it is their performance and useful to them alone. Anyway, regardless of this bureaucracy, you MUST get your transcript handy- whether the official copy or certified student copy- to fire good shots at international scholarships. How you do this, I don’t know. But for sure: you need your transcript to stand a chance at international scholarships.

3. Your essays! Very important. This is a major requirement of most- if not all- international scholarships. They want to know you. They want to know your skillset. They want to know your leadership potentials. They want to ascertain your “development impact”. The best way they can ascertain these is through your essays. Consequently, every scholarship you may wish to consider is likely to demand for the following: Personal Statement (or Statement of Purpose), Volunteer/Leadership Skills, Career Plans- short term, on the award and long term, and development impact: how your research/study area connects to, or can facilitate development. All these have very tight word limitations, and require that you are articulate and informative enough, albeit, succinctly. A bonus point here is to have these essays handy for yourself so you could simply edit them to suit specific scholarship demands rather than having to write them afresh all of the time. Besides, it pays to have your essays written and edited, and have others read through and critic them for you well ahead of time: very important. A final bonus point on essays: most of these essay types have their templates online! Google them and see how you can fit your information into the templates. These essays take a substantial chunk of the assessment process aside academic credentials.

4. Letter of English language proficiency: proof of English language proficiency is a major requirement of most Anglophone scholarships. IELTS or TOEFL are the commonest among the numerous English language proficiency tests. However, these are expensive and require a lot of logistics – such as traveling, preparations (online tutorials), etc. An escape route from these tests [narrow one though] is a letter of English language proficiency from the Office of the Registrar- or any authorised official- from your institution confirming that you were taught in English language at the undergraduate or postgraduate level. Although some scholarships do not accept this letter, some do, while others only accept it as an interim measure, implying that you must still provide the international tests after nomination. Whatever the case, the letter fetches a candidate some valuable points, and is far better than having nothing at all to show as a proof of English language proficiency. Emphatically, however, if one has the financial wherewithal, taking the internationally recognised tests [and scoring the required points] significantly enhances one’s chances at international scholarships.

5. Reference letters: This is one other key requirement of international scholarships. Typically, all international scholarships request for reference letters from candidates’ lecturers, heads of departments/institutes, research project supervisors or any other high ranking staff from one’s institution. For employed graduates, reference letters are also accepted from principals or colleagues at the office. Some scholarships accept reference letters from candidates in the course of the application, while others require candidates to supply referees’ email addresses where links are sent to them to respond directly on the scholarship portal. It therefore pays for prospective applicants to request and have handy, reference letters from their chosen referees on letter-headed papers. This saves one the headache of always contacting referees for each application they are making, especially for scholarships that accept reference letters from candidates. It is important to maintain good relationship with your lecturers so that they will be willing to reference you anytime you require a reference note. This relationship is very important as the process of submitting some of these references is usually tedious and require referees going through a lot to submit a reference. Sadly, many students maintain very adversarial relationships with lecturers while in school, thereby finding it difficult to get reference notes from them after graduation. It is also important to use lecturers who know you closely as referees so that they can be able to comment authoritatively on vital issues- such as your academic performance, leadership, social and moral skills, personality traits and emotional quotient, etc. that typical scholarships demand from referees. A big mistake that most candidates make is bumping into lecturers who scarcely knew them while they were students to ask for reference notes. Trust me; you cannot get the best from such lecturers!

6. Finally, patience! You need a large heart to accommodate rejections, oh yes! Although some lucky/well prepared applicants have clinched an offer at first shot, this is quite a rare feat. Be prepared to “chop breakfast” from scholarship bodies. This is not a negative prophesy anyway, but trust me, you are most likely to face rejection from scholarship bodies. You’ll be told how thousands applied for the opportunity, and how they are not willing/able to consider your application any further [as if that is some piece of good news!] They delight in telling you that. Perhaps, worse are those that will go completely mute after application! Like the Hausa man says: Shiru Kaman an shuka dusa. This could be extremely traumatizing given the enormous headache it takes to “successfully” apply for a scholarship and provide ALL that is required. All the same, you must keep yourself motivated at all times, pick up your broken self after each rejection and move on. Seldom, some of the scholarship bodies are kind enough to tell you what disqualifies you. Nothing could be more benevolent than this! Work on that and fire better shots in the future. Your motivation all the times should be that one scholarship opportunity can change your life completely for better! Methinks you owe yourself this; hence, it should serve as enough motivation for you to take in good faith, as many rejections as may come your way and fire better shots. Success shall sure be yours someday, see you in glory, cheers!

Tordue Simon Targema teaches in the department of Journalism & Media Studies, Taraba State University. He is currently a Commonwealth Ph.D. scholar at the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom. Email: torduesimon@gmail.com

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