This is a sequel to my attempt to offer a comprehensive guide for beginners (or any other applicants), on how to submit a successful Chevening Awards application. It was my personal experience on how I got selected as a Chevening Scholar in my first attempt and the feedback was encouraging (well, except for someone who accused me of publishing the article late, which I find hilarious).
A few days ago, I got a report from 2 applicants (who found my guide helpful) – and they made it to the Interview Stage! I was definitely excited to hear about their progress and the next step is booking an interview date and preparing. If you also made it to the interviews and you are wondering how to prepare, I have some extra thoughts to share.
Things You Should Know
- I believe an interview invitation means you have made it past the most important stage and you should be proud of yourself. It means that your work and application was of notable interest and the Chevening secretariat would like to learn more about you.
- In other words, relax! From my experience, the interview is an opportunity to confirm that the application was truly yours and that you are whom you say you are. And if that’s true, then you have no worries.
- I understand that you may be very nervous because of the competitive nature of the award. That feeling is valid, and adequate preparation in addition to your application will help you succeed.
- I would describe the Chevening interview as a conversation. I didn’t feel like I was being examined – it was much more like they were just confirming the things I wrote in my application, and we had a conversation. Now, this is my experience.
Examples of Chevening Interview Questions
It is tricky to give exact questions as I believe the Chevening Office change the format every year. During my interview, I noticed the interviewers had a copy of my applications in their hands and they read out the same (4) questions from the application process individually and allowed me to respond. Therefore, I will highlight the core things that would be tested and I will briefly mention how I approached my answers.
Why do I want to study in the UK?
Hey! Please do your research here. I love the UK government communications strategy, national and cultural branding, amongst many other things. I just mentioned it to them in a logical flow.
Why am I interested in Chevening?
Don’t be tempted to say, “because it’s a fully-funded scholarship (lol!).” I remember mentioning something in the line of how Chevening gives room for both professional and academic development and I gave proof of my conviction by mentioning my friend’s name who is an alumnus. I described the scale of impact of his work and how that is desirable and inspiring
Why I chose my course of study?
In my case, my first degree is in Physics Education but was practising in the digital media space for over 5 years. And my work was expanding to international development and I needed that academic background as a stepping stone to some of my plans.
Why do I consider myself a leader?
Please refer back to your application, share your story again. Use body language and your voice to convey the emotions of the story in the most personal way possible. I’m not saying be dramatic – just own your story. You may also include one more relevant example that you couldn’t write in your application but could help give a clearer picture of your journey and your future.
My Short term and long term professional goals (especially linking it to what the UK is doing in my country).
Refer back to your application again. I suggest you pick on 1 each and give more details of how you intend to achieve them and describe the current steps you are taking and how the scholarship will be a catalyst. Then try to connect it to examples of what the UK is doing in your country. As at when I was invited, the UK Government just allocated a budget to the development of technological and entrepreneurship project in Nigeria. I brought it to the discussion and gave context to why that is of interest to me.
How will my country benefit from my experience and expertise in the future?
Again, this is where you show that you understand your country’s challenges, strengths & opportunities. Describe the better future you foresee through your professional contribution, and explain how your experience in the UK will be useful to help you contribute to that future.
To draw your attention to some important steps that need to play out:
Master Your Application
I mastered my submitted application but didn’t memorize and repeat everything verbatim. Don’t be tempted to memorize – as you don’t want to sound scripted.
Practice Your Answers
Before my interview, I came up with likely questions that I believe may come up after someone reads my application. I drafted my answers in 3-5 short sentences and practised them.
From the time you submit your application to the time you get an interview invite, it would be approximately 4 months. You don’t want to just present the same set of facts and data as in your application. If there’s any plan you shared, demonstrate how you have made progress. If there’s any new milestone in your projects, career, etc, introduce them where appropriate. After submitting my application, I developed some fundraising designs and content ideas for a non-profit in Nigeria, that attracted almost 1 million Naira and some minor projects I worked on. I was able to weave those examples to drive home a particular point.
I can’t overemphasize this. When I mentioned the name of 2 organizations I was helping with brand designs and communications strategy, the interviewers asked me to spell their names and they wrote it down. I suspected they wanted to research and validate my claims. Imagine I lied? Then I would have blown everything. Avoid fabricating any example. Be honest, passionate and clear.
I had prepared just 1 question for my interview. This is my secret for any interview I have ever participated in. I come with just 1 question – but the trick is to pick a question that the response of the interviewer will most times present follow up questions. Hence, it feels like a conversation and not cross-examination.
My question was about Chevening’s brand communications strategy & policy for highlighting success stories of alumni on a country level. Because the current annual report would not be able to capture the entire scope and I pointed out my observations from the last report I read. It wasn’t expected, which made it a very interesting conversation.
Anyway, to give life and more perspectives to the thoughts I shared, study this mock interview created by past Chevening Scholars.
Extra Thoughts on Preparing References for Interview.
You will be required to come to the interview with your reference letters if you did not upload them before your interview. The reference stage is a crucial part of the process and you need to pay attention to the criteria. If you made it to the interview stage and you present a reference letter that doesn’t match or exceed how you have represented your story, work and professional aspirations, it may end up ruining your chances.
According to Chevening, your referee should cover the following:
- Contact details: address, email address, and phone number
- How long have you known the applicant?
- In what capacity do you know the applicant? (e.g. professional, educational, supervisory, voluntary, religious, etc.)
- When did you last have regular contact with the applicant?
- A brief overall endorsement of the applicant, including their:
- Skills in leadership and networking.
- Personal, intellectual, and interpersonal qualities.
- Ability to complete a demanding academic programme in the UK.
Please work closely with a referee who can write about you well enough and ask them to use the above criteria to the last detail possible. I believe your reference letter is another way to show your networking skills – that you can maintain long term relationship with professional or academic connections.
This tip is equally valuable if you upload your references through the portal.
Do you find this useful? Is there any particular area you would like me to address? Please comment below.
PS: Please don’t ask me to share my reference letter or any other document. Thanks 🙂
Recommended Article: Best Answers to Popular scholarship Interview Questions | PDF Attached
Disclaimer: These are totally ideas based on my experience and should not be taken as Chevening’s Official Guide.