In an effort to make our students realize that foreign education is a dream more realizable than you think, in our series of scholarships related posts, we will be sharing success stories of students. Take out your notebooks and let’s get rolling…
Today we introduce you to Sara Khan, an MBA (Marketing) from Lahore school of Economics and the winner of the prestigious Chevening scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world funded by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom. It offers a unique opportunity for future leaders, influencers, and decision-makers from all over the world to develop professionally and academically, network extensively, experience UK culture, and build lasting positive relationships with the UK.
Before we continue, here’s a glimpse of educational background Sara Khan:
PH: Where did you hear about the opportunity at Chevening?
S: I first got to know about it when I was researching online for fully funded scholarships in UK for Post Graduate degrees.
PH: What gave you the courage to apply?
S: I think if you believe in yourself and have the commitment to create a change, an impact, nothing stands in your way. It was my passion to do something meaningful in my life and additionally,the strong support system at home encouraged me to apply for Chevening. I think we Pakistani girls are conditioned to underestimate ourselves, if we just break through the barriers, there is no stopping us. If I can get this, anyone can. Take a leap of faith and give it your best shot.
PH: What grades/GPA do students need to apply for the scholarship/college?
S: GPA is not the benchmark for this scholarship. It does not matter if you are at a borderline 2 or a max 4 GPA student. Chevening is open to everyone, no matter what the grades. Your Application Essays and subsequent interview is what will determine this award. I have seen people with all kinds of GPA’s getting this scholarship. So in case you couldn’t do well in university, do not worry, it does not exclude you from applying to this scholarship program.
PH: What documents do they need?
S: You will need your Undergraduate transcript and degree, a valid Passport, IELTS and two Reference letters which can be either academic or professional. Please remember that these documents are NOT needed at the time of submitting the application, but only at a later stage in case of selection. If you already have a masters, like in my case, you will need to submit its transcript/degree as well. No additional certificates are needed.
In addition to be eligible to apply, two years of work experience is mandatory which is inclusive of paid/unpaid internships, volunteer work and part time employment.
PH: What are the essay questions like?
S: You will have to write four essays (500 word each) on Leadership skills that you possess, Networking skills, your future plans and their benefit to your country and lastly reasons for choosing your specific course and universities that you will apply to.
Here are some tips:
- Make sure your answers should be evidence based and not generic.
- Give clear examples using STAR methodology and explain how you demonstrated leadership and networking skills, how your initiatives link with your future goals/past experience and most importantly how they will benefit your country.
- Please remember that your individual accomplishments are not categorized as leadership, it is the societal impact that they created demonstrates leadership.
- Originality is what Chevening looks for. Be yourself when writing essays.
PH: Do students need to take tests such as IELTS and GRE? And if yes, what should their score be?
S: You would only need to take IELTS, that too in the event of selection. A minimum 6.5 band is needed for Chevening, however, make sure to check the language requirements of universities that you would be applying to, as they often have higher IELTS requirement.
PH: Is there a registration fee for the application process? Would it break the bank?
S: There is no application/registration fee.
PH: Do they provide accommodation?
S: Chevening does not provide accommodation, however they provide monthly stipend that covers for rent, food, transport and other living expenses.
PH: Do you have a work permit?
S: Tier-4 student visa allows students to work for a maximum of 20 hours during term time. However, on Chevening scholarship, scholars cannot undertake full time employment during term time. If they do, they need to inform the secretariat, in the event of which their salary amount is adjusted from their stipend amount. Internships and part time work however can be done.
PH: What are the exact clause in the scholarship? Does it require me to return to my home country after the degree?
S: Scholars are required to return to their home country for two years upon the completion of their programme.
PH: How much money did you spend in total to get here?
S: Chevening is fully funded. It covers tuition fee, return flights, living expenses via monthly stipends for rent, food, transport etc. I practically had to spend nothing to get here.
PH: How will you narrate your experience of getting the scholarship?
S: I applied for Chevening with no expectations and started my application 10 days prior to the deadline. Prior to that, I was unemployed for over 6 months and was too self-righteous to use a reference. There were times when I felt completely lost with no purpose in life. I didn’t want to be just another rat in the race. I often questioned the purpose of my existence. All of this led to severe depression and anxiety issues and I am not ashamed to admit them, because they are very real and we all are fighting silent battles in one way or the other. That’s when I decided to break away from this chain and take control of my life.
I have always been a strong proponent of women empowerment and gender equality, hence I decided to study Marketing and advertising to help eradicate the constant reinforcement of gender stereotypes and issues such as unrealistic beauty standards, from our society. All in all, it was a nerve wrecking experience of meeting deadlines and attending the panel interview (let’s not even go there). However, the happiness of finally receiving your final award letter is something that cannot be described in words. I went numb and took some time to process that I had gotten it finally. One needs to have patience and trust God’s timing. Things eventually fall into place. That’s a life lesson I learnt at Chevening.
PH: How tough is the competition? Do you compete with international students to get this scholarship?
S: Competition is fierce. People from all over the world apply to Chevening. This year there were 50,000 applications from over 160 countries out of which only 1700 got awarded. Good thing is that Pakistan is one of the top development priority areas for UK and each year around 60-70 individuals get selected from Pakistan. Also since it is a professional scholarship (2 years minimum work experience is required) it includes leaders from different backgrounds, which adds to the competition.
PH: What is life in UK like?
S: It has only been a few weeks since I landed here and the first few weeks were overwhelming as it takes time to acclimatize, enroll with the university, get the hang of the transportation system and added to that is the massive culture shock.
The experience is phenomenal: you meet people from all over the world, explore the cultural diversity and scenic beauty of UK. You’re TRULY independent: people mind their own business and no one will question you or your life choices. It’s liberating and a whole lot of fun. You will get plenty of chances to tick things off your bucket list.