Note: Advice to Applicants should be read in conjunction with the 2017 New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholarship Program Guidelines.
Key changes in the 2017 round
A number of enhancements have been made to the Scholarship Program Guidelines for the 2017 round including:
- Selection criteria and their weightings have been amended slightly to enable a stronger focus on students’ leadership skills and ability to contribute to NCP goals.
Lessons learned from previous rounds to assist 2017 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, related to applicants’ academic achievements, will continue to have a strong weighting in the 2017 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 non-graded, academic achievements at the tertiary level, or in other words, 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. Common mistakes in answering this criterion in the past have included simply repeating university grades or recounting high school-level achievements, which are not considered.
Criterion 3 has been altered slightly in 2017 to encourage applicants to focus answers more on their potential to adapt and thrive in a foreign environment and demonstrate resilience in the face of challenges. Strong answers to this criterion in the past have included concrete examples of these qualities and a nuanced 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 2017 round also includes a criterion relating to the NCP goals. Common mistakes in addressing this criterion have included applicants demonstrating a lack of understanding about the strategic objectives of the NCP or stating how the program would benefit the students, but not how the student’s program would help support the goals of the program. Strong responses also indicate how the applicant will contribute to NCP goals over time and as an alumnus.
In some cases referee reports did not provide much information beyond what was in the applicant’s own written application. Applicants should select referees carefully, ensuring that referees have a good knowledge of the applicant’s abilities in relation to the selection criteria and should give referees enough time to provide a considered report.
For applicants that were unsuccessful at the interview stage, there were a range of common areas where responses could have been strengthened:
- better articulation of the applicant’s motivations for, and interest in applying for the NCP and the chosen 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 within the applicant’s community activities
- an ability to relate the scholarship proposal to the broader NCP goals and Australian interests (not only the student’s personal goals)
- the interview questions are always based strongly around the criteria and should not come as a surprise, so applicants can practise 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 to students proposing longer periods of study and/or an internship/mentorship and/or language training. This is because one of the aims of the NCP is to give scholars as in-depth an experience in the Indo-Pacific region as possible, and the longer their stay, and the more elements their program includes, the richer their experience is likely to be.
Some locations are naturally more popular than others. In 2017, there will once again be a cap of around 15 scholarships awarded per host country/location. In 2016, the locations for which the greatest numbers of applications were received were Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.