As at the last count, Chinedu had applied for over twenty international scholarship opportunities, each costing so much in terms of time, energy, emotional capital, and sometimes, cash, but on each occasion, he came short. Chinedu is tired and frustrated, he does not want any more unsuccessful scholarship applications. But he desperately needs this scholarship to further his studies in his dream school abroad.
Wait a minute.
Are you a Chinedu too? Or could you by any means also be passing through the sleepless nights that Chinedu has been having? Having you been asking yourself lately, like Chinedu, “How then does one translate from failure to success? How can I put an end to the spate of incessant failure?
This is what this article is about: ending the tragic cycle of unsuccessful scholarship applications.
I understand applying for scholarships or fellowships only to keep getting rejection mails can be truly frustrating. I have been there. Clicking on those emails only to read heartbreaking letters that often begin with “Dear Mr. XYZ. Thank you for your application. Unfortunately, …” can be terrifying. But there’s a way to put an end to the pains of unsuccessful scholarship applications.
In the few lines below, I share with you, some tested steps that will help you bounce back after a spate of unsuccessful scholarship applications. These steps, if religiously adhered to, will ensure your next application is successful.
Review your previous unsuccessful scholarship applications. Pay close attention as you do.
First, I always advocate that my young friends and colleagues keep a record of all previous applications. You could have a folder on your computer or online where you keep them, the key applications especially.
In fact, I would suggest you keep two major folders; one for successful scholarship applications and the other for unsuccessful scholarship applications. The folder for successful applications will teach you what you did right. Success, many times, is replicable, while the other folder for unsuccessful applications will teach you where you did not meet up to expectations.
A second look at that unsuccessful application may point out where and why you missed out the previous time. If the scholarship or fellowship is one you are really hungry for, it would be wise you make necessary corrections well in advance, before the next application opens.
Due to the sheer number of applications received, most selection committees of top scholarship and fellowship programs do not contact unsuccessful candidates nor inform them why their applications were unsuccessful. Without such important feedback, unsuccessful candidates may not be able to exactly pinpoint where their applications fall short.
The solution to that therefore is self-evaluation. Ask yourself, “Why did my application not scale through?” Or better still, “What could I have done better?”
To avoid more unsuccessful applications, streamline your interests
See, you cannot keep applying for every Tom, Dick and Harry scholarships or fellowships you stumble on, on the internet.
There must be key areas you are passionate about. You cannot be everywhere. You cannot keep burning out by applying for everything and stockpiling rejection mails, one after the other.
You must have preferences, and you must concentrate on key areas where you have a competitive advantage, passion, and good prospects.
Identify what your career priorities are. Ask yourself, “What am I truly passionate about?” “What problem(s) do I want to solve?” “What do I want to be renown for?” Environment? What part of environment? Or, gender matters? Which aspect particularly? Etc.
Develop basic key competency in that area. Create a niche for yourself in that field and have a couple of achievements under your belt in that you intend to build on.
Tired of unsuccessful scholarship applications? Then pour yourself into your next application and get someone to help review it in advance
After you have highlighted possible areas you need to improve on, you should go ahead to prepare for the next application well in advance. There are ample ways to make your application unique and irresistible. Find those ways, master them and adopt them for your next application.
One key strategy is to get a neutral, objective, well-grounded, competitive and skilled personnel to help review your application. This person could be your mentor, friend, lecturer, colleague or any person who is knowledgeable in the aspects that pertain to the application and willing to assist you review your application. Some key words to look out for: objective knowledgeable, competitive and willing reviewer. Ideally, the person reviewing your next application should not be someone who has never won anything in his or her own career. Success begets success.
Tell yourself the truth
In life, you win some and we lose some. Truth is you cannot and should not win everything. That would be somewhat unfair to others. However, while you may not win every time you apply, the key thing is to win where and when it matters. Not every scholarship or fellowship is for you.
Sometimes, your application could be perfect and top-notch but because the scholarship or fellowship has a limited number of spaces, it turns out that you are not selected.
Sometimes, it may not even be that your application is watery but that the focus of that funding body or selection committee is rigidly different for that year or batch of application. So if you can, before applying for the next batch, identify what the focus area or priorities of the funding body or selection committee for that year is, and make sure, if you can, that yours aligns with theirs.
So, I am saying not every unsuccessful scholarship application is proof of your inadequacy. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
If after a thorough, unbiased review process, you discover you did your utmost, then perhaps, all the other candidates that applied for that scholarship were as good, and you missing out of the opportunity was only due to an utterly limited number of available space, and not because you were not good enough.
What then is the solution in such a case?
Be on the lookout for other similar opportunities, and trust me, there are over a thousand and one of them provided you keep looking in the right places. Remain upbeat. Be prepared and keep applying right.
My sincere hope is that, sooner than later, you will find and get the opportunities you need to develop the skills to advance your career and move your community forward. I look forward to hearing and reading about your success stories.
- Idowu Kunlere
(Life Coach/Sustainable Development Strategist)
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