PATH AND CHALLENGES TO PTDF AND OTHER OVERSEAS SCHOLARSHIPS FOR ASPIRING NIGERIAN GRADUATES/STUDENTS BY INNOSUCCESS DESTINY OGWUCHE
This is an abridged summary of an interactive session was organized by the Foundation for Innovative Technology and Engineering for Community Development, EngiCom with lead speaker Mr. Innosuccess Destiny Ogwuche, a Master Student in Mechantronics.
My EngiCom Tech-Mentors 2 is a platform where you have young engineers who are championing the advancement and development of engineering in Nigeria. Most scholarship selection process is meant to identify people who possess the following;
A purpose and focus in life that correlates with the priority areas of your sponsors (their vision statement):
Before you begin your application, you must determine what your focus or purpose for life is and whether that purpose is in tandem with the priority areas. Because being able to articulate your purpose is crucial to both writing your essays and presenting your ideas during your interviews, I will devote some time at a later stage to writing some helpful tips that would help you to properly articulate your goals.
Good leadership and influencing skills:
Sponsors are interested in developing a breed of leaders who have a vision and who have the ability to inspire and influence change. Accordingly, most scholars will be expected to return to their home countries and to assume high impact roles that will enable them to influence their communities. A prospective applicant, therefore, must be able to show that he or she possesses exceptional leadership qualities. It is not enough to say that you are a leader in your essays, as you must be able to provide supporting evidence that actually exhibits these leadership qualities. Your inability to show substantial proof of what you have done in the past- or to reveal what you are doing in the present- to confirm that you possess leadership qualities, may result in your not being selected. This is then the time to think of projects, responsibilities etc. You can say that you have handled at some point in your career. It is also the time for you to think about what you know about leadership and what your philosophies about leadership are.
Exceptional Vision and Strategic Planning Skills:
In addition to number 2, the assessors want to see that returning scholars will be able to initiate policies, programs, projects etc. that will have a positive impact on their home nations; you must, therefore, do your best to articulate what you plan to do when you come back. You must be careful not to fall into the category of aspirants who are passionate about what they want to do but who fail to show what they want to do when they return from studying abroad. It is important for you to outline your plan of action clearly in your essays, or you probably will not get selected. To help you understand this criterion better, you may also want to study the profile of previous scholars to determine what they have been doing since they returned home.
Good Networking Skills:
Networking is a top leadership skill. In leadership skills, we need to provide the committee, the judges with evidence of why we are leaders and potential leaders for the future development of our country, or even the region (for PTDF focus on the gains to the oil and gas industry). We should also reflect our leadership experiences and try to find our leadership principles.”
Proven Steps Towards Securing a Scholarship (PTDF)
- Know your enemies on lighter note know your competitors: Securing a scholarship is always challenging because you are competing with individuals who have similar profiles if not better profiles than you do, most scholarships demand a Second Class Honors, Upper Division (2:1) and above but if you don’t have this don’t worries, they are scholarships that even Third Class can apply for with relevant work experience, research, hard work and other accomplishments. For PTDF the minimum requirement in terms of grades is a 2:2
- Your Test Score
GRE/IELTS/TOEFL/Person test of English etc., you need to distinguish yourself by scoring very high score at least above the 80th Percentile. PTDF don’t require you to sit for the GRE but if you’re applying to schools in North America you will need it.
English Test (IELTS, TOEFL, Pearson etc) is not also compulsory, but if you applying to top tier schools even in PTDF then you will need it, otherwise you can get a proof of English language proficiency from the university you graduated from through your University Senate.
- Referees and Recommenders.
They should be people who can speak positively about you, they’re some references I received but I never used because those who wrote them did so out of obligation not the compassion to see you succeed, more so they’re generic, they already had a template the difference is just to edit the details, it was some 4 or 5 lines of sentences, this wouldn’t work if you shooting for competitive scholarships, ideally they should comment on your attitude, character, work discipline, accomplishments etc. Some choose to go for highly ranked professors who they’re not acquainted with and would not just write some lines, if it rocks your boat fine but if it doesn’t go for someone else, even someone who knows you well can. Try to get the letter written by any authority person or person that had Academic/Professional relations with you. The following should be some of the pertinent questions you should ponder about your referees or recommenders;
How long have I known this person or how can he speak well about me?
What kind of relations are they? Is it Professional, academic, management, voluntary, religious etc.?
When was the last time you communicated with each other? (Your referee and you) these are some questions you should answer.
- To get an admission: It seems so obvious right? But people don’t know that. Except for some scholarships like Chevening, PTDF etc which allows you to start the application before getting an admission, the majority of scholarships require that you have an admission before applying. You need to know what you want to do and why you want to study that course.
- Apply before the deadline: I would have rephrased it this point as ‘apply early’ but my definition of early might not be your definition of early. Personally, I tend to give myself a deadline earlier than the stated deadline.
- Accomplishments: Simply put how far have you been able to distinguish yourself from your contemporaries, how many awards have you won relative to what you want to study, how many competitions have you emerged victorious in comparison to people of similar profile like you, for example, study abroad programs, student exchange programs, national and international, business, entrepreneurship, startup, sports and technological competitions, what is your contribution towards making the planet safer and better, were you a finalist at a hackathon, what is your volunteering experience, what are you doing to meet the SDG goals etc. it is called been a well-rounded applicant.
- They are some scholarships that also require work experience. I know of an Australian scholarship in which this is a must, also for PTDF especially for those with a 2:2 grade, this will help boost your score at the end of the day when the tallies are compared and summed.
- Research Publications (PTDF requires this especially for PhD candidates): However, it is a plus if an MSc applicant has published papers in reputable journals (remember your goal is to beat others, this could just be that “extra”). Apart from PTDF, some other scholarships also demand this, I know of applications in Asia and North America that requires this.
- Essays: In my opinion, this is the most important component of your application (I will dwell here a bit). it is your selling point, it is the first virtual opportunity where your reviewers get to meet you, you need not copy, it is where you get to tell them who you are, why you deserve the scholarship, why it is just you and you alone that deserves the scholarship, personal statement plays a big role in the application process. Do not to take those questions for granted, not only for PTDF, but for every other scholarship as well. Again, you must know that you are competing with many other potential candidates, so tell the committee your best attributes in a humble way.
- Reach out to previous scholarship winners, well they’ve gotten the experience, allow them to make your work easier, again prepare your application ahead of time
- Membership of professional association: I don’t know why this is a criteria for PTDF and some other scholarships but I presume it is a test of how well you will blend with both the local and international community upon your return in simpler terms it boils down to networking.
Before submitting your essay (statement of purpose, personal statements, statement of intent, motivation letter etc.) or application, here are some tips you should follow:
- Give it to people, mentors, senior friends or folks who have gone ahead of you to review, they must not necessarily be graduates of English language, somehow others have a way of seeing beyond what you have written, we are not looking just at the words, we are looking at the writing style, the consistency of what you have written and how it synchronizes with other parts of your application, the syntax, the semantics, and the real intent. Later on, in life some of you here will understand better when you start reviewing essays for others and it comes with practice.
- Check your spelling and word phrasing: I cannot overemphasize that. Even if you have been speaking English since you were born, there is still a tendency to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistake but this is a time you don’t want to make any mistakes. Re-read your answers over at least 20 times. Write them then close my computer for days then re-read it again at a very slow pace to check for errors. It is better to take a long time to write your application answers than to make silly mistakes.
- The components of your essay should also include your after-study plan.
- Do a random search about people in your field of study or in your chosen course on Google but preferably *LinkedIn* before the interview. In addition, you can do this offline also.
After making your application, the next stage is Interviews; some could be more than one (1). For PTDF and most of them it’s just a one stage interview. The following are what you should know during the interview stage:
- Answer the questions truthfully: This is a point that I personally believe in. I know some people are very good with words but I believe that you need to answer the questions asked as truthfully as you can. You never know if your answers could be brought up against you. I didn’t complete some scholarships because I didn’t agree with their terms and conditions and I just couldn’t continue with it. I didn’t want to lie.
- You need be straight to the point: This is usually a struggle for most applicants because social media have provided a platform to communicate effectively. So, having to convey your message in 500, sometimes 1000 words, is really hard. The way to go about this is to keep writing, editing, rewriting, editing over and over. Convey your thoughts without losing any part of it. I think that a dictionary or Google is helpful with rephrasing words. Do not waste words as I have seen on lots of essays.
- Read books and read wide, subscribe to useful YouTube channels, read magazines and newspapers and read news sites like the economist, Bloomberg, Harvard reviews etc. This will help you develop your vocabulary and writing prowess, in the race for excellence there is no finish line, keep editing and reediting. This will enhance your communication skills during the interview process.
- Sell yourself: You have to show that you are worth the award. Find a way of putting your major (if not all) of what you have achieved with your life you have. Show all that you have done in terms of experience, previous awards if you have been given, any volunteer work, how good you were during your undergraduate studies (for example if you were in the top 10% of your class when graduating). It is not time to be timid horn your trumpet but be diplomatic about it.
- Rehearse your answers before the interview. Remember that practice makes perfect.
- Never argue with your panelists during the interview process. Keep it calm and compose yourself.
- Do not to be nervous during the interview and take it as a normal discussion, this will make you feel more relaxed.
- Demonstrating fluency with the English language during the interview is also another important thing.
- If you don’t understand questions, ask your interviewers to repeat themselves politely so that you can respond correctly.
- Know your course: This is so obvious but I found out that some people don’t know their intended course.
In conclusion, the attributes that successful applicants have in common are excellent academic achievements, great leadership experiences and skills, and well-planned career goals. In Academic achievements, one should have a high accumulative grade point average (GPA) and have demonstrated outstanding performances in various academic events and projects to which they have contributed. Having a high GPA and demonstrating steady progress in learning, such as showing the ability to join honors program, will help one applicant to stand out from others. This will also assist in gaining admission to the top universities in the world since their requirements are high.
Report compiled by Michael Lelecy yahaya