Monday, 26 March 2012

Clinching that Scholarship

Would you appreciate a scholarship to attend the university of your dreams? Unfortunately scholarships do not exist at a dime a dozen.  They are like rare gold that must be mine with meticulous attention to details that determine the success or failure of ones efforts to secure that illusive prize.  Is there anything that individuals can do to stack things in their favour when seeking a scholarship?

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A group of scholarship awardees pose with NCU Administrators and philanthropist Dr. Byron Robinson (centre seated) 
Here are a few tips to improve your chances of securing that slippery scholarship:

1.    Always apply.  Ever heard the saying, “if you don’t have a ticket, you don’t have a chance?”  Well, if you don’t have an application in you don’t stand a chance.  And if it is a scholarship that is given at the pleasure of a principal, a dean or a chair of a college or department, and not via an application process, make sure that you do the things that would qualify you and that person making the decision knows who you are.  You’re not going to be overt and smothering, but you’re going to be diligent in your work, and you’re going to network.
2.    Apply even if you don’t fully qualify.  It is not a crime to do this.  Persons have been known to win scholarships for which they did not initially qualify.  This could be as a result of those who would qualify failing to apply.  Or, maybe you could make such a convincing case that they feel obliged to bend the rules to accommodate you and make a one off disbursement.
3.    Apply on time.  Too often do individuals find themselves running against the clock.  This usually means that some bases are not going to be covered and you will not be as prepared as you should be for the interview.  Many times too persons hear about scholarships after they have been disbursed, which leads to the other tip.
4.    Be alert to when scholarships become available.  Read notice boards, check your emails, read newspapers, stay in touch with the scholarships office, attend and pay attention in assemblies.  These are typical places and means through which scholarships are advertised.
5.    Get good grades.  The better your grades, the better your chances of securing the scholarships
6.    Carry sufficient credit load.  Some scholarships criteria require that a minimum number of credits be done in the period being evaluated.  And if the deliberations of the panel comes down to the matter of credit, the person carrying the most credits on average will be the one most favoured.
7.    Be involved in extracurricular activities.  There are clear limits to attainable grades and credit loads, and creating a difference between two contenders will sometimes come down to the number of extracurricular activities that one is involved in.  The individual who is involved in extracurricular activities is the one most likely to be a responsible citizen, who values a good quality of life and will thereby, be most likely to give back to society.  This is also the individual whom donating organizations will want to be identified with to enhance their corporate image.

8.    Be prepared for the interview.  There are a number of things to be concerned with when preparing for an interview

a.    Sharpen your interviewing skills.  Find a coach to expose you to different interviewing styles and techniques.  Practice on your own in front of a mirror.
b.    Learn as much as you can about the scholarship donor.  Understanding your donor will help you understand your obligations, once you’ve gotten a scholarship.  Questions will likely be posed to test your knowledge about the donor, especially if it is a corporate entity.  They may want you to be an ambassador for them, or to hire you upon graduating.
c.    Be prepared to articulate how you will give back.  Persons who offer scholarships want value for money; they want to know that the person they are helping is one who will add value to society – through their extracurricular activities, and through their professional contributions once they are fully trained.
d.    Demonstrate loyalty to your alma mater.  There is nothing cute about bashing your alma mater, because the fact that the scholarship is available where you are, means that the donor respects your alma mater.  Accordingly you must know about your school, and be prepared to answer reasonable general knowledge questions about it.
e.    Keep abreast with current affairs.  This quality again demonstrates your interest the world around you, and indicates the likelihood that you will want to contribute to the quality of life.  One important rationale why individuals and corporations contribute to a scholarship fund is that they are interested in the creation of an ideal society.  You must therefore demonstrate care for and an inclination to contribute to the establishment of that society.

A scholarship is a partnership between the donor, the facilitator (the school), and the recipient.  The goal is to create a legacy of giving back so that the quality of life within the society can be achieved.  If you are to succeed you must demonstrate the aptitude and attitude that will offer value for money.  Success to you.