Scholarship tips from former British Chevening Scholarship recipient, Niki Cheong
We interviewed British Chevening Scholar, Niki Cheong, who received the prestigious British Chevening Scholarship and pursued his studies in the UK in 2012. Niki shares some valuable advice about applying for the scholarship and couldn’t express enough that students should try submitting their application, even if they don’t feel very confident. After all, you might get lucky and experience a once in a lifetime opportunity!
Q: How did you find out about the British Chevening Scholarship?
I came across the scholarships by chance when I applied for it in 2011. I was doing a fellowship at a university in Singapore and my colleagues and I were discussing scholarships to further our studies. So I started Googling for more information and realised that I only had a few days before the deadline! I was already familiar with the scholarship as I had friends who were scholars in the years before me. I had also applied for it once a couple of years before but wasn’t successful, but I persevered in the face of failure and this time, it finally paid off!
Q: Why did you apply for it?
Doing my Masters was something I’ve always wanted to do since my undergraduate days in Australia. I was also at a point in my career where I was questioning my future. I had worked for more than a decade and have done relatively well for myself so I was looking for the next step. I decided that an MA would not only help me get there but give me a break from work, and a chance to get a different perspective about my career plans.
Q: How would you describe the process of your scholarship application?
It was definitely hard. I knew that many people were applying for the scholarship and I had to make my application stand out. I think what was different this time round, compared to my first unsuccessful attempt, was that both my focus and intention were very much clearer. I knew exactly what I wanted to study, what I could do with it and what kind of contribution I could make when I return to Malaysia.
Q: How did you make your application stand out?
It’s important not to be boxed up with requirements. Many people I spoke to were intimidated by the application. It’s hard to tick all the boxes so where I was weaker, I’d make up for it by affirming my commitments to my studies and reminding the committee why this was important to me. I also used my cover letter to explain that education for me isn’t just being in the classroom, but that I was looking forward to lessons in life.
Q: What were your first impressions of the UK?
I’ve travelled to the UK before but this time round, I had a chance to totally immerse myself in the culture and city. First off, I experienced extreme culture shock when it came to dealing with the weather – coming from a country that has practically no seasons. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling low for so many months after I arrived until the sun came out, and my behaviour totally changed! Just goes to show that there are always things that could surprise you.
Q: Did you enjoy your study experience?
It was one of the best experiences I had. I’m pretty academic so re-exploring some of the theorists and thinkers whom I first encountered in my undergraduate days after more than a decade allowed me to totally geek out. I think there’s something special about furthering studies at a slightly older age – you want to be there much more rather than just completing another phase in your life. The academic support was amazing and I had brilliant classmates.
Q: Did the location of study make a vast difference in your learning?
It’s so easy to travel in the UK and that enabled me to meet and listen to many great academicians in my field, who are based in different cities. Studying in the UK was very stimulating.
Q: Advice to students who hope to apply for the British Chevening Scholarship?
I’d say go for it! Many people feel they aren’t good enough, trust me, I felt the same way too and still do! But then if you don’t submit an application, it would never have a chance to be considered. The worst that could happen is that you get a rejection letter. It happened for me and it was disappointing, but you just brush it off and try again. There’s always something to learn from failure.
Q: How has the scholarship helped you in gaining employment?
I run my own consultancy now. Being a Chevening Scholar really boosts my profile and it impresses people. It’s a very prestigious scholarship and the list of alumni is impressive so it’s good company to be in.
Interested in applying for other scholarships. Find them here.
An aspiring journalist with a passion for investigative journalistic work. Also a self-declared masterchef.