If you’re applying for a postgraduate scholarship in public health, you must be pondering the question: What is that single most important criterion that can put you ahead of hundreds and thousands of other applicants? This same question was also on my mind while applying for Europubhealth/Erasmus Mundus Scholarship (which I didn’t get three years ago) and Commonwealth Shared Scholarship (which I eventually clinched a couple of years ago ). In this essay, I will focus on master’s scholarship in public health.
(Before you continue reading, please note that the following are my personal opinion and do not represent the opinion of any scholarship awarding institution or guarantee that you would win a scholarship by simply following the points presented here).
Prestigious international scholarships for public health such as the Commonwealth Scholarships, Fulbright Scholarship, Europubhealth/Erasmus Mundus Scholarship and many others are extremely competitive. Generally, success rate is around 1%: in other words, one out of one hundred qualified applicants gets it.
Moreover, you would realise how slim the chances of winning a public health scholarship is when you consider the fact that those who are eventually successful usually make multiple application, say to between 4-10 universities. However, the keen competition notwithstanding, you too can win a public health scholarship.
What gives me the credibility to write this essay? One, I’ve written a statement of purpose that won an extremely competitive scholarship (aforementioned). Two, I have assisted/guided several individuals in crafting/editing their statement of purpose and watched them win; and I know what has been common to those who eventually won a public health scholarship.
While different criteria are set by different scholarship awarding organisations, the following are the common criteria that count towards winning:
1. The class of award you made in your university degree. Scholarship awarding institutions often prefer candidates with strong academic achievements. Candidates who made a first class are often preferred, followed by those who have a second class upper.
2. Your CV i.e. relevant experience/employment history: strong and relevant experience may compensate for those who did not make a first class or have an academic achievement that puts them in the top 5%. A strong CV would further boost the chances of winning for those who already have very strong GPAs. The main point is that you must craft a convincing CV: include all relevant details, be on point and be concise.
3. Your referees (not the ones that run around on a football pitch): Academic references i.e. from your professor or a lecturer that taught you during your undergraduate studies are preferred. The logic behind this is that your referee is not just for the sake of writing good things about you, but also for the sake of verification. Since academic frauds are not uncommon, you stand a better chance if your referee is someone the scholarship board can check your academic record with. My sub-dean undergraduate (who has official results in his custody) and my faculty dean were my referees –that should leave no doubt in the minds of anyone reviewing my scholarship application.
4. Volunteering experience/extra-curricular activities: institutions that award international scholarships are usually non-profit organisations that would also look out for candidates who have done something for public or social good. Whatever role you have played in a charity or non-profit organisation comes into play here. Or if you have achieved anything in your student organisation or have played a leadership role. Such activities would show you did not only focus on academics but also on other things that help you develop yourself holistically.
With regards to the first 4 criterion, you can be sure that most scholarship applicants are qualified. It is often those who are highly qualified that venture into scholarship applications. Or why do you think candidates who were not shortlisted are sent a message like this:
“Dear candidate, we are sorry to inform you that your scholarship application is unsuccessful at this time. We received applications from many highly qualified candidates. But unfortunately, we cannot select all our highly qualified applicants. We wish you the best in your future endeavours.”
If 99% of public health scholarship applicants would get the kind of response stated above, then what is that thing that sets the “lucky” 1% apart? What is the “game changer” in scholarship applications that most people often ignore?
5. Statement of purpose (SOP): This is the big deal in any public health master’s scholarship. It is not just an essay about your “purpose” for pursing a postgraduate training in public health. It is your statement of “passion”.
In my next essay I will tell you why your SOP can make all the difference. Watch this space!