It was August 2019 and applications for the Chevening Award had just opened. This was my year, finally. With 2 years of work experience, a fairly clear career direction and powerful story I felt as if I was as ready as I was going to get. And so I started my application.
(Side note: In case you didn’t follow the link above, Chevening is a full scholarship for international students to study for a master’s in the UK, at almost any university there.)
I still remember the rush of excitement that came with planning. The dreams, the hopes…my imagination went to town, and for the first time since Athletics broke my heart, I let it. I didn’t do these applications alone, actually to be honest, it was Bae’s idea…and I went for it guns blazing.
The sheer panic of possibly not meeting the deadline remains fresh in my mind. After starting my application at the beginning, my nemesis Procrastination paid a visit and I almost missed the deadline. I thanked my ancestors for the deadline extension, the only reason I managed to submit my application.
Note to future applications: As the deadline approaches that portal will become problematic, because every other Yvonne around the world applying, will be attempting to complete her application and submit it on the last days too. Save yourself the trouble.
The relief that came with submitting is hard to describe. I had done by part; it was out of my hands now. Of course, being the optimistic, over-enthusiast that I am, I went ahead and forked out the required $265 for the English proficiency test (which I aced by the way, I’m not ashamed to flaunt it). It was a necessary evil that I wanted to get out of the way as soon as possible.
I didn’t stop there.
I went ahead and secured myself an unconditional offer from City, University of London, which happened to be my first choice. Obviously I was thrilled…I was going to study Creative Writing and Publishing! Yes, sounds fancy I know. I had all my ducks in a row along with the positive attitude.
The Chevening timeline is pretty straightforward. Applications close early November and the shortlist for interviews is ready for applications by early to mid Feb. How do you know you’re on it? You apparently receive an invitation to an interview, and you select your interview date. I say apparently because I didn’t receive it, I received the other one…the regret.
Now you can imagine the impatience I felt throughout the earlier days of February. I checked my email obsessively. I needed to know, am I one step closer, or am I moving on with my life. Turns out it’s the latter. I saw the email at work, during work hours. I badly needed 10 minutes in the bathroom to cry it out. There was no time (the life of a Comms Intern in a humanitarian organisation is really, really busy guys). I locked it down and walked around with my little bruised heart, getting work down.
Now before you feel too much pity for me please know that disappointment is really nothing new to me. I’ve learnt to bounce back quickly. I’m constantly surprised when people say,
“You always have stuff going for you!”
Which is partially true, but mostly because I like to keep it moving.
Rejection happens, even when we put our hearts and souls into something. Failure, rejection, disappointment are regular parts of life. Does it hurt? Yeah, it sucks big time but it happens… life happens. Accepting disappointment and finding the best way forward is the best way to protect your sanity and keep going.
So what’s next for me? It back to the drawing board (I’m not applying again, once was enough). Did I have a plan B? Yes, but my Plan Bs usually require as much effort and commitment as Plan A, and second plans are subject to lots of revising. Wrapping your head around such a change in direction, of having a dream dashed takes some time. I refuse to put myself throw another gruelling process (because applying for that scholarship is) without giving myself time to re-coup.
The silver lining
There isn’t one…just kidding. I discovered hidden bits about myself I didn’t know through this application process. Writing 4 essays about your career plans, influence and leadership, your chosen field and your past will teach you a few things about yourself. Almost missing the deadline influenced how I picked my half-resolution for the year 2020, which is comfortably meeting deadlines, something which I historically suck at.
Do I regret applying? Well…I make it a point not to regret decisions that I’ve made in the past. It’s pointless, I can’t change the past. Would I do it differently if I knew the outcome? Probably. I wouldn’t have bothered, but I did bother so that’s that. Obviously I do feel as if I wasted money on getting the IELTS, that’s money I’m never getting back, and a certificate I might never use because it’s only valid for 2 years. Perhaps, that’s the one thing I would change…I wouldn’t have written it before February.
(Of course I could still have waited for an interview invitation, then still not have made it past the interviews themselves. Perhaps the best time, for you future applicant, is after receiving a conditional offer from Chevening. It’s a tight time crunch, but it’ll save you from wasting precious dollars.)
All that being said, I’m bruised and smarting from the rejection, but we keep it moving. I will be okay. Good luck to fellow applicants who made it past this first screening, and best wishes to all future applicants.
PS: I shouldn’t even have to say this, I mean it’s pretty obvious but all the opinions expressed here are my own, as well as experiences. I’m in no way affiliated to the Chevening Award.