If you are reading this, you are either preparing for your National Youth Service Corps – NYSC – in Nigeria or currently a serving Youth Corper. Or you have already completed your NYSC with personal experiences you thing are not worth much. You probably have been nursing the dream to achieve your postgraduate Masters Degree through international scholarship. It is a dream with the possibilities of achievement if you consciously prepare yourself towards it.
Qualifying for postgraduate scholarships takes more than making up your mind one sunny afternoon after NYSC to start searching and applying for funding. Or deciding you want an international scholarship to get out of the country due to employment frustration. It involves timely preparation during your early education career when you still have time. Scholarship qualifications and Selection Criteria require self development and periodic experiences on your part as a student or youth corper. Hence, you need to start preparing yourself while you can. The economic future of a typical Nigerian student/ graduate can be very ‘unpredictable’, and hoping that things will just work out to finance you dream can be unrealistic, without some timely effort on Your path.
One long year of Youth Service- NYSC- can make you the candidate scholarship sponsors are looking to award financial aid if you make the best of the opportunities available.
You might have heard that it takes more than high academic performance to win international scholarships. It does count to have a First Class or Second Class Upper Degree but to stand a greater chance of winning, you need more than academic classification.
Many of the scholarship programs are available only to students who fit a narrowly defined set of eligibility requirements. Regardless of what the scholarship’s specific set of eligibility requirements, selection committees are looking for well-defined candidates who excel in one or more of the following categories: Leadership Potential, Community Service/ Volunteerism, Work Experience and of course, Academic Performance. This makes School grades one of other eligibility criteria. By being able to demonstrate strength in some or all of these four essential qualities, you will have greater chances.
How Can NYSC Influence Your Chances of Winning Postgraduate Scholarships for Masters Program?
Thinking through the entire NYSC activities; starting from the Orientation Camp to the Primary Assignment and The Community Development Service, you will see opportunities to acquire three of the scholarship criteria mentioned above; Leadership Experience, Community Service/ Volunteerism, Work Experience.
Here are the basic scholarship qualifications and how the one year NYSC activities can be helpful.
Scholarship Committees believe that Leadership is a quality that should be reflected in all aspects of a student’s life, including her academics and paid employment, as well as her community service. Beyond the initiative it takes to become a leader, scholarship committees are also looking for the consensus building skills and motivational abilities required for leadership success. Developing your leadership potentials may not be as scary, if you try to always cease opportunity to demonstrate them. Personally, I’d not been the take-up-leadership-responsibility type during school days. I was the shyishly-nonchalant type, and words like ‘public-speaking’ often sounds like ‘nightmare’. Then, that day in October 2007, at the Orientation Camp, in Kolokuma/ Opokuma LGA, Bayelsa, during my National Youth Service corps (NYSC), my Platoon Commander asked me to be Platoon (squad) Leader for Platoon ’10’. I had the choice to decline but I accepted the offer and the experience was priceless. There is still a lot to learn anyway.
So what is this about? While in school (secondary or tertiary) or during NYSC, get involved with extracurricular activities, take responsibility for your actions in difficult situations, create experiences that show courage. Volunteer to take up leadership roles during Orientation Camp and through the service year.
According to Dr. Bruce Jackson, Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Leadership, “It is not enough to acquire knowledge and good grades. If you want to succeed, you need a firm understanding of what creates lasting success and excellence… “.
Mentioning your NYSC work experience and your commitment in your scholarship application will give you an upper hand. Scholarship selection committees are interested in knowing how you relate to the world outside home and school environment. They are looking first and foremost for initiative and commitment at place of work. Scholarship committees are less concerned with your job description and earning power than with your ability to demonstrate responsibility at place of work. You can prove this by presenting strong and compelling letters of recommendation from your employer at your place of primary assignment.
In addition to the work at your place of primary assignment – volunteerism and service to your community will make you (potential scholarship candidates) even more attractive to selection committees. By volunteering, you show not only that you are civic-minded but also that you care about a cause broader than your own advancement. By giving extra lessons to students in rural area (Depending on the community your are posted to serve) etc, giving your time and talent is a noble use of your resources. With many civic and non-profit organizations offering scholarships, volunteers make the top of the priority list for selection committees. To demonstrate your commitment to community service, go beyond just listing Community Development Service- CDS assignments on your scholarship application. Devote more time and resources to serving your host community through CDS. Write an essay about how volunteering has impacted on your career ambitions, what have you learned from serving the community, or why being a volunteer changed your political beliefs.
To some people the idea of volunteerism/community service may seem unrealistic. ‘How and why should I waste my precious time doing things I don’t benefit from in any way?’, you could say. The scholarship committee understands this and will gladly reward candidates with such public-spirit. Service to humanity is an act of leadership and a way of life. Scholarship providers sets a good example of service.