Advice to applicants

Note: Advice to Applicants should be read in conjunction with the 2019 New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholarship Program Guidelines.

Key changes in the 2019 round

A number of enhancements have been made to the Scholarship Program for the 2019 round including:

  • the provision to apply for increased language training support from one month to six months for full-time language training (refer to section 1.3)
  • the provision for paid gaps between Program components has been limited up to a total of four weeks every 12 months (pro-rata) (refer to section 1.3)
  • clarification that artist residencies can be included as part of an internship component (refer to section 1.3)
  • the maximum number of scholarships that can be awarded in 2019 is 120 (refer to section 1.2.1)
  • a requirement for universities to ensure they have obtained students’ consent to the use of their personal information in prescribed circumstances (refer to section 5.1).

Lessons learned from previous rounds to assist 2019 applicants

The following generic feedback based on applications in previous years might assist universities in nominating applicants, and applicants in preparing their written applications.

Criterion 1, which relates to applicants' academic excellence at the tertiary level, will continue to have a 40 per cent weighting in the 2019 selection process. This criterion has two components: i) the applicant's university grades which are automatically factored into the overall score, and ii) the written element of this criterion asks about the applicant's ungraded, academic achievements at the tertiary level. Applications should demonstrate evidence of a student's academic excellence that goes beyond university results, as well as the applicant's communication skills, higher-order cognitive and critical thinking skills and engagement in learning. Responses against this particular criterion that simply repeat university grades or outline high school-level achievements, which are not considered, tend to score poorly.

Criterion 3 asks applicants to demonstrate their potential to adapt and thrive in a foreign environment and their resilience in the face of challenges.  Strong answers to this criterion have included concrete examples of these qualities and an understanding of what it means to deal with change, or operate in a foreign environment. Applicants who have never travelled overseas before can, and have, provided strong responses to this criterion, for example, by discussing challenges or changes they have faced in Australia.

As in past years, the 2019 round includes a criterion relating to an applicant’s ability to contribute to the NCP’s strategic objectives as set in the 2019 NCP Scholarship Program Guidelines. Responses that tend to score poorly against this particular criterion have tended to emphasise an applicant’s demonstrated understanding about the strategic objectives of the NCP or stating how the program would benefit the students, rather than focusing on how the student's program would help support the goals of the NCP program. Responses that have tended to score well against this particular criterion have clearly demonstrated how the applicant will contribute to NCP goals over time and as an alumnus.

In some cases, referee reports did not provide additional value to information provided in the applicant's own written application. As referee reports are a critical source of information for the selection process, applicants should choose referees carefully, ensuring that they have a good knowledge of the applicant's abilities in relation to the selection criteria. Applicants should provide sufficient time for referees to produce a considered report.

For applicants who were unsuccessful at the interview stage in the 2018 round, there were a range of common areas where responses could have been strengthened, including:

  • better articulation of the applicant's motivations for, and interest, in applying for the NCP and their choice of host location
  • a defined and carefully considered plan for study and an internship or mentorship (the latter does not need to have been confirmed or finalised at the time of application or interview)
  • a strong awareness of how the scholarship would benefit the applicant's academic studies, and how an internship or mentorship might help applicants to define or achieve their future goals
  • greater demonstration of academic accomplishments at the university level
  • stronger examples of leadership, as opposed to participation, within the applicant's community activities
  • greater demonstration of a capacity for self-reflection, including an acknowledgement of personal limitations and identifying areas for improvement, and
  • an ability to relate the scholarship proposal to the broader NCP goals and Australia’s interests (in addition to the student's personal goals).

The interview questions always reflect the criteria and applicants are strongly encouraged to prepare and practice for their interviews ahead of time. A number of universities have assisted students by running mock interviews, or may include an interview in their nomination process.

Where applicants are similarly meritorious at both the application and interview stages,   preference is given by the interview panels and the program delegate to students proposing longer periods of study and/or an internship/mentorship and/or longer periods of language training. This aligns with the NCP’s objective to give scholars a long-term and comprehensive experience in the Indo-Pacific region. It follows that the longer an applicant’s stay, and the more elements their program includes, the richer their experience is likely to be. Priority will also be given to applicants who can demonstrate a correlation across their proposed study, language and internship components.

Some locations are more popular than others. While there are no caps on the number of scholarships awarded per host location, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will seek to ensure a spread across host locations. In 2018, the locations for which the greatest numbers of applications were received were Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, China and Indonesia.

Thank you for your interest in the 2019 round of the New Colombo Plan Scholarship Program.

Last Updated: 2 August 2018