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KacheeTee: Trying to Secure a Scholarship for Education Abroad? 5 Must Read Tips!

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dreamstime_l_33340526Facebook recently reminded me that it’s been three years since I graduated with my LL.M from the University of Cambridge. It remains one of my finest experiences ever. Pretty ironic that I actually went to Cambridge, because as a young child / adult when I’ll have my books scattered all over the table or sleep on my books, my mum would often fuss and finally remark in Igbo “I na-agu Cambridge?”. Loosely translated to English, she tried to say “Are you reading for Cambridge”. To her, that was the highest peak of study. Well, Cambridge became my reality. While there might be a point to take in there about the power of speaking things into existence, I’ll try to focus more on the scholarship that made the Cambridge experience possible, and my top tips for getting an academic scholarship.

On July 27 2012, I received an email from the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust that I’d just been granted a full Commonwealth Scholarship for my LL.M degree at the University of Cambridge. Only 20 persons were awarded the scholarship worldwide out of thousands and thousands of applications! I had to email the Trust ASAP to confirm or reject the offer. Ordinarily it would have been a no-brainier. But few weeks prior to that I had just accepted a full scholarship for an LL.M at London School of Economics (LSE). Ok Ok, it was still a no-brainer. I mean we were talking about Cambridge here!

I rejected the LSE offer with sincere apologies. Interestingly once I mentioned that I was choosing Cambridge over LSE, the LSE staff actually said “That’s ok – we totally understand”
While there are no hard and fast set of rules, I think these tips might be helpful in securing a scholarship:

1. Research, Research and Research
This is the probably the single most important factor. You cannot apply / be considered for scholarships you do not know about – no matter how awesome you are! So, as early as possible, do your research. What course are you planning to study? What universities offer these courses? What scholarships are available? Some scholarships may only be available to certain courses. What are the requirements for the scholarship? – would you be required to take a test of English language, write a personal statement, submit a piece of original work, hard copy references and transcript? Or will your referees be required to upload the references online (at this point you realise you need tech-savvy referees!). What’s the time frame? Some scholarships and the most competitive ones usually have really short time frames. For example the primary scholarships for Cambridge, Harvard and Oxford open in September and close by November. If you start your research late, you’ll most likely miss the deadline. The requirements are broadly the same from year to year so it’s helpful to start a year in advance. Make a list of all the schools you’ll like to apply to, and request your references and transcripts from your University in bulk.
What are the conditions? For example the Commonwealth Scholarship requires you to return to your home country at the end of your programme! This was the one reason I may have refused the scholarship, as the LSE one provided an opportunity to stay on and search for ‘greener pastures’. So if you’re certain you can’t live with the conditions don’t bother applying.

2. Believe in Your Story
If a person or an institution is going to pay a whole lot of money for you to undertake a graduate program, then your story must be compelling. As a pre-requisite, good academic qualifications are required. But this is by no means limited to first class students. 2’1 students are often considered. To be honest though, if you had a 2’2 you may have to provide other amazing reasons. But having just good grades isn’t enough.
In Nigeria today, trust me, there are lots and lots of first class graduates all competing for the same spots. As an example, I didn’t even get an admission to Oxford, talk less of a scholarship. I knew my written piece of work was not exceptional.
Sell yourself in your CV and personal statement. No lies, but no unnecessary modesty. Have people look over your CVs. If possible, people who have succeeded at this. Some scholarships also require financial need i.e. that based on your circumstances you need the scholarship. If you’re an average Nigerian kid, I’m sure you need it. If you’re more of the #LagostoLondon kind of kids, well, don’t make up lies saying you’re poor and all. Even though you need to sell your story, remember to comply with the instructions. If this says “In 300 words…”, a 305 word wonderful essay may just be tossed in the bin.

3. It’s a game of numbers
Honestly it is. Applying for scholarships is draining. But the competition is huge. So put simply, the more you apply the more your chances of winning. I must have applied for at least 5 different scholarships for the Cambridge LL.M programme alone. Some people argue that certain countries are more favourable for scholarships and student loans. Create the time, do your research and apply to as many as possible.

4. Consider Internal Sources
When we think of scholarships, we automatically think of foreign scholarships. And we are not to be blamed. Especially when we see how some youths who had been sponsored locally have been ill-treated and left without payment. But still, it remains an option.

In my case, I considered an appeal to the Anambra State government and I had a draft letter ready if no scholarship came through. It was worth a shot as you miss 100% of the chances you don’t take. Maybe they’d have imposed a condition that I had to work for the State, but that may not have been so bad especially now that younger people are being made commissioners! (Haha). I may actually have been successful if I sent out that letter, because a few months later, the Anambra State government commended all the first class graduates from the state with quite a decent sum of money.

I also know a friend who also sought the help of the Lagos State Government and other wealthy individuals, and obtained a considerable amount of funding. It’s also useful to consider your current employer. If you’re exceptional they may be willing to fund you (usually on the basis of your returning to work for a few years). As long as the conditions are not onerous, it may be worth it. Social media is such a powerful tool these days and your cause could go viral, if your story is exceptional. A dicey one, but in this age of GoFundMe accounts, if people believe in you, every little Naira helps.

In considering these internal sources, it’s useful to split it up. Asking an individual for 7 million naira may land your letter in an office shredder. But asking 14 people for 500,000 Naira each is probably more feasible. If all else fails, consider holding a placard on the streets of Lekki. It appears that’s a sure way of getting attention (I kid… or maybe not).

5. There’s always plans B – Z
It’s great that getting a scholarship for study abroad is your plan A. But don’t get all hung up on this. Consider alternatives, and generally just keep striving to be the first version of you. Some people argue that today, the value of a foreign degree is tricky especially with the number of Nigerians who already possess such. While I think there’s still value in it, I also think it’s possible to still get ahead without it. So, yay for plan B.

Finally, for me there’s ultimately the faith and God factor. I should mention that I was not on the initial 20 person shortlist for the Cambridge scholarship, as my application was not ‘as highly ranked’. I was however on the reserve list, should anyone turn down their offer. Needless to say someone must have turned it down and I got a slot!. Keep your faith up.

Hope this helps. If I’ve missed out anything, please share.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

50 Comments

  1. UGO

    June 30, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Oh wow it’s you! The best graduating student of the Nigerian Law school during my time. Great to see you doing great things, you were already doing great things while in Agbani. Good tips you provided above. I have actually done some of these things you wrote and it sure helps since I succeeded too.

  2. Mr. Egghead

    June 30, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Great tips!!
    I don’t mean to diss nobody, but many Nigerian youths don’t appreciate her first point. Research.

    There are so many academic opportunities on the internet – especially at post-grad level. If you’re African, there is probably some organization that has a budget for scholars from developing countries.
    If you’re from a developing country and you happen to be a woman, you probably have no excuse not to find some Uni in Europe that will offer you a partial or full scholarship.
    If you’re African + Female + Interest in STEM, then ‘i banye go’
    Just troll the popular websites from time to time and you will find something – if not in Europe, then definitely in Asia (e.g the Japanese government offer scholarship + living stipend + transportation cost to interested graduates on the condition that they learn some Japanese during their program. The Japanese get to push their culture while you get to study for free at a first-world university. Win-Win.)

    My aunt (in whom I’m very pleased) attended one of the ‘backyard’ universities in Nigeria. After graduation, she got a scholarship to Harvard for a Masters and later did a Ph.d. She didn’t pay a kobo in tuition. It reads like a fairy tale but it is possible with proper planning. If you want to school abroad, start snooping in your second/third year. Don’t wait till you finish NYSC and somebody starts whispering sweet nothings into your ear

    If you’re not into scholarships, you can always find some great internships or conferences that will blow up your CV and give you great connections.

    KacheeTee, eat one plate of ukwa on my behalf.
    Good article

    • truth

      June 30, 2016 at 6:25 pm

      I doubt the Japanese are that selfish. They also offer full scholarships to citizens of low income countries with the condition that you return to your country for a few years to contribute to it’s development.

    • Mr. Egghead

      June 30, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      I’m talking about the Japanese Government MEXT scholarship – awarded annually. They don’t have any condition in the manner of what you speak of.
      Just have a willingness to assimilate the Japanese culture and language.

      PS: Please you must do an article on your Harvard tales

    • #Gbaamuokpanaeze

      July 1, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Mr. Egghead biko get in here. Tell me more about the internships and conferences please. I need to know; tips,websites to peruse and more. Am waiting……

  3. Tochi

    June 30, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Yours is a story I can relate with. All the best in life!

  4. Byn

    June 30, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Well written! Ur brilliance oozes all over the article.. Dalu!

  5. help

    June 30, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    someone help! I got a third class! can’t I do a masters and get funding now?!

    • Kachi

      June 30, 2016 at 10:50 pm

      Honestly, in my opinion, because of the wide pool of candidates, you will have to provide reasons why your grade should be overlooked. But that’s not to say it’s not possible. If you have other skills / abilities and work experience etc., it is very much possible! Consider internal sources as well and if not, there’s always Plan B! All the best!

  6. truth

    June 30, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    You are spot on and I hope people would take a cue from this. Been stalling on writing a similar article as I just got admitted to Harvard for my masters degree. Apart from the plethora of scholarship opportunities available, you can also get a private loan to add to your personal funds and scholarship. Like she said, Research, Research, Research! There are a lot of opportunities out there. Package well but no lies. Keep learning, keep growing. Even if you got a third class, you can still achieve the level of success you desire. Just believe it and work hard at achieving your goals.

    • BellaNaija.com

      BellaNaija.com

      June 30, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      Congrats @Truth!
      You are also welcome to submit an article on your application experience and any tips as well.
      bella (at) bellanaija.com

    • truth

      June 30, 2016 at 6:02 pm

      Thanks Bella, Procrastination is a thief of time(lol). I’ll get to it and forward it as soon as possible. Thanks again. ?

  7. Mama

    June 30, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    The truth is, many Nigerians are lazy in this regard. We want scholarships to fall on our laps rather than go looking for it. There are many different opportunities out there going unexploited. Let the internet be your friend but like she said, you first have to do your research and know what you want to do and which places offer them. Scholarship-positions is a good place to start.

  8. Tosin

    June 30, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    mother didn’t know she was telling the future 😀

  9. Baby gurl

    June 30, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    This is just right on time oh Lord answer your daughter. About to start studying for the GMAT exams which by His grace, I will be writing in October/November. Gunning for an MBA scholarship to a FT World Top 10 MBA school. Had a 2:2 at undergraduate. School says it’s no biggie as long as I have a great employment record(which I have), proven leadership skill(I believe I do have), international experience(which I have from volunteering and work trips) and a great commitment to development of my country. I am working so hard to attain a GMAT score of 740+ I know it aint easy but I can and I will. God will guide me Amen. If anyone has been in a similar situation, or knows someone who has, or is just a wise owl, please leave success “nuggets” and other tips and hacks for me please. God bless. And, thank you Kachi T!!!

    • truth

      June 30, 2016 at 7:31 pm

      @baby gurl, from everything you listed , you seem to be on the right track. I wish you all the best as you study for your GMAT. Once you add a good gmat score to all that you have mentioned plus a compelling statement of purpose. Be original and tell them your story and final trust God. One last advice, don’t just apply to any Top 10 school, apply to the best of the best. All the best gurl!!!

    • Kachi

      June 30, 2016 at 10:46 pm

      All the best baby gurl! You indeed seem to be on track. God help you!

    • Listen

      July 1, 2016 at 3:42 am

      Great job! You are def on the right path but you do not need a GMAT score of 740 to get into a top program or even get scholarships. I am not saying you should not aim for 740 but please if you try the GMAT two or three times and do not get a 740, move on and apply to the programs you want to apply and tell a damn good story. A friend’s friend got into Wharton with 640 and full scholarship! Even saw one on youtube, 600 GMAT score with full scholarship to Harvard. Just thought to share this because I have seen people get hung up on 760 gmat score and never applied. I will say aim for 700+ but if you dont get it, apply and Let God be God

  10. neloshalo.blogspot.com.ng

    June 30, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    Great tips as always Kachi.

    • Kachi

      June 30, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      Thanks Nelo!!

  11. Oma

    June 30, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Well done Kachi! Your mum prophesied without knowing… 🙂

    • Kachi

      June 30, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      Indeed! Thank you!

  12. ha

    June 30, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    While I hate to digress from the topic, I’m really worried that a highly educated person would address herself in a bio as, Nigerian Igbo girl and Yoruba wife. Oh! The level of tribal affiliations in this country. I have a dream….

    • Kachi

      June 30, 2016 at 8:19 pm

      Haha! The irony. I’m prob one of the people you’ll ever find most proud of the fact that I’m Igbo and married to a Yoruba man. It’s actually my way of celebrating our diversity and I’m a huge supporter of inter-ethnic marriages to foster our nations’ unity. So you’re probably reading way too much into that statement. I love being Nigerian, being Igbo and being Yoruba! It’s okay to acknowledge our differences – it just shouldn’t be a reason for unnecessary bias and hateful sentiments. I share my experiences on my blog on being Igbo married to Yoruba. Check it out! ??.

    • Chidimma

      July 1, 2016 at 10:06 am

      You’re a balanced person. I love how you handled this reply with maturity. I should come learn at your feet you know.

  13. IDidItYouCanToo

    June 30, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    i am a pro at this – well in the early 2000 i was – times have change now.

    Summary
    in 2001 i applied to 10 schools (i didnt pay any of those $200 to $300 application fee for even one, i made a request and gave them all a reason to waive)

    Out of the ten schools 6 gave me full scholarship, 1 ivy league (northwestern in chicago accepted me but no money give, however they gave me an option for an $80000 towards tuition for 2 yrs) – out of the 6 who accepted me some even gave me full ride including paying for all my books and room and board.

    i ended up going to UNC Chapel HIll – Kenan Flager Business school for my MBA – full ride. Not a penny out of pocket.

    60% – What you put in your essay and why the scholarship must be given to you
    40% – your scores

    let me tell you a secret – majority of US schools have a junk of money for scholarships. These money are given to the school by doners (mostly millionaires and alums of the school – some of them died and left all their monies to the school) so though its not widely advertised or publicized they have a bucket full of money,but unfortunately most minorities dont know about it or how to apply for it. I did three years of research (i was living in UK then – but i applied as an african coming from africa ) and applied to all the schools. Some Ivy leagues others simply top 20 ranked schools.. Most of these chunk of money goes unclaimed every year. I keep telling people do ya research and apply for it. Concentrate on your essays (as well as scores) – give them a reason why they should give you the money. With all the schools i interviewe with a panel of at least 3 people. They all loved my essays.

    Yes i have shared this knowledge with a few people – some i considered friends, i even MISTAKENLY gave my essays to them (of which they all gained scholarships to their school of choice) and the ungratefulness from several of these parties was an eye opener. Things fellow Africans will do to you. 🙁

    But anyway good luck – don’t give up. It is possible. Keep trying. I was very persistent and thats how i succeeded.

    It never hurt to ask for a waiver of the application fee. Nobody ask, I did and it was waived, but i gave them a reason why.

    • Olayemi

      July 1, 2016 at 12:38 am

      Wow, I’m amazed by your story even though I’m two years late :). Just finished my MBA at McCombs and planning student loans payback :(. Anyway, if you don’t mind, please send me an email ([email protected]). I’d like to be your friend 🙂

    • Listen

      July 1, 2016 at 3:50 am

      Love this! Did not see your comment before responding to baby girl. Getting a great score is great but 740 is not a prerequisite for money. There is a lot of money in the US, tell a good story! through your essays

    • glowy

      July 1, 2016 at 10:15 am

      Please i would like to know what excuse you gave them as that seems to be a problem for me, having to pay to numerous schools while applying. Please help. [email protected]

    • laurie

      July 1, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      It’s quite stiff now and majority of the scholarships are for first class and 2.1 graduates.

    • Babe

      July 1, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      This could not have come at a better time, it’s like the universe is speaking to me. I was just fretting over how depleted my resources are as i had to pay $200 application fee to canadian schools yesterday. Please anyone that has tips to share kindly contact me [email protected] .These cholarships are the only way i can get a Masters degree and i am STEM inclined. Thanks

    • Genevieve

      May 6, 2019 at 8:34 am

      Hello dear, pls can you reach me on [email protected] or +2347036926603. It’s urgent pls, i want to make a few enquiries. Kind regards

  14. IDidItYouCanToo

    June 30, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    *chunk * not junk

  15. ha

    June 30, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    what you put out is subject to individual interpretation, and I will read what I see from my perspective na,. I;ll pass on the blog hon, your inter tribal marriage experiences will definitely not improve the economy of Nigeria and omo! That’s my priority right now. Hopefully it will interest several other other folks
    What we really need now is to focus all our energy on our similarities so we can find our collective genius as a nation. What we have is only about tribes and religion and if Ivy league scholars like you still think on this wave length. Wahala dey o.

    • Muna

      June 30, 2016 at 9:19 pm

      @ha It’s actually not that serious, it’s pretty obvious she’s focusing on the similarities and also getting others to do the same and at the same time not being blind to the differences. If her inter-tribal marriage won’t increase the economy of Nigeria according to you, why are you choosing to focus on it? The blog is her platform and she definitely has the right to do/write whatever she wants on there. Again…It’s actually not that deep!

      Btw Weldon Kachi!

      munamuoneke.blogspot.com.ng

    • Sighhh....

      June 30, 2016 at 10:59 pm

      This makes no sense. She as the author has explained exactly what she meant and the fact that she celebrates unity in diversity, but you stubbornly prefer to stick with your own false ‘individual interpretation’? Sorry but you just sound prejudiced and short-sighted.

    • .....just saying

      July 1, 2016 at 6:46 am

      When people begin to defend a writer while using the writer’s style of writing, you know it’s the writer disguised.

  16. Acube

    June 30, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    What about we HND holders????

    • Okiks

      July 12, 2016 at 9:26 am

      Did you do SAED in NYSC?

  17. mrs chidukane

    June 30, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    Very insightful article, thanks.

  18. aribisala

    July 1, 2016 at 2:09 am

    Good piece, kachee keep it up. Really missed you though

  19. Milata

    July 1, 2016 at 7:44 am

    Insightful piece. Actually just got a partial scholarship to study at the University of Exeter. I have my essay to thank for that. Hopefully a PHD afterwards just gotta put in major work and hopefully God crowns my efforts with a full ride scholarship afterwards. We’ll see

  20. genevieve

    July 1, 2016 at 10:05 am

    hello, please can i contact you thru ur email? or you can email me on [email protected]. i have some questions i would like to clarify. thanks and God bless.

  21. PhD girl

    July 1, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Well written article Kachi! Thank you for sharing. Two important points you must take from this article are “research and having a plan B”. Plan B because while you are hoping for Plan A, Plan B may be your ticket to Plan A. Plan B-Z because success in life is not defined by degrees and certificates. By all means aim high but don’t get hung up on this.
    I know people with average grades who are on generous scholarships abroad.

  22. Mzphunby

    July 1, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    Please, can somebody with experience recommend sites that can be checked for scholarships. I’d like to go for my MBA in Canada and have been trying to search for schools that offer scholarship. Thanks

  23. Afia

    July 2, 2016 at 12:49 am

    Can I pls contact u via ur email or can u pls contact me [email protected]

  24. Mzphunby

    July 2, 2016 at 7:39 am

    Our egbons who have gone ahead and have experience, please help.. Shebi we BNers are family. Pls contact me via email [email protected]

  25. Koffie

    July 4, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Kachi, can I mail you for some advice relating to telling my story on my résumé properly despite the one-page limit?

  26. Uncommon

    July 4, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Hello everyone, the info I’ve gotten here is very useful to me as I am currently seeking admission for M.Eng civil engineering with a 2.2 degree certificate. But as much as research is important we wouldn’t need the profs if we could do it all on our own. I’m already processing application for german schools but work opportunities are limited compared to the U.S where my other skills (like artistic skills) can pay my bills while schooling and after. anybody with help on sites to check can reach me on [email protected]. @ididityoucantoo don’t worry I’ll do like your european brothers ?.

  27. Ikechukwu

    July 27, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    Good day miss, you mentioned you got a scholarship to study at LSE. Please can you give me details about the scholarship application thingy

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