Mujeeb Balogun is a 2021 Erasmus Mundus Scholarship. In this write-up, he takes prospective applicants through the process of application. He gives journey a brief background on the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship, share tips to making a successful application chipping in some of his scholarship application experiences. This is the concluding part of the write-up.
Five Essential Items (Contd.)
Always follow the instructions given by your proposed programme. Adhere strictly to the word/character limit, do not exceed the limit given. Always have it at the back of your mind that less is more. I will explain. For instance, you can conveniently pass your message in a 1000 words SoP using between 750-850 words. The ability to convey your points using few words are essential. There are many things the reviewers are looking at but are not officially requesting in your letter. Imagine an SoP that does not properly reflect your motivation, is not correctly formatted and is full of incorrect use of grammar? You do not want to have your file tossed aside, right? So dedicate enough time to write this particular letter and ensure you write it well. You want to catch your reviewer’s attention right from the first sentence and leave a long-lasting positive impression in your reviewer’s mind regarding your SoP with a strong closing statement. Start writing your letter early as it gives you the advantage of having enough time to write, rewrite, edit, and review before you submit.
For programmes that do not require an interview, consider your Statement of Purpose as an introduction of you in absentia before the reviewing panel. Ensure you give it your all, and you can send it out for review(s). No one reviewed my motivation letter for this particular programme. However, colleagues/scholars have previously reviewed my letter for other scholarship applications, so I am pretty familiar with the process. Therefore, send your letter early for a review, especially if you are just beginning your scholarship application journey. You need all the help you can get. Kindly ensure you send your letter to those you trust can give you critical and honest feedback. Be open to the constructive criticism your letter receives when you get feedback from your reviewer(s), it is mostly an effort to help you improve your letter. Given that there is no interview, you want to give that SoP the best possible shot that you can. I remember a scholar told me, Mujeeb, “write that SoP like this is your last chance to convince a jury, make sure it is one of the best pieces you have ever written!”.
The Europass CV: Your CV should be detailed. There are no hard and fast rules regarding the number of pages. However, some programmes will give you a page limit, so follow the programme instruction. A 1-3 page CV is usually okay if the page limit is not specified, but 2pages is recommended. The reason for this is because reviewers are very busy. They have tons of other applications to read, so you want to present yourself using the best possible available space limit properly. Use numbers and percentages to quantify your experiences. Use ‘I’ instead of ‘We’ to explain your roles in volunteering activities. The Europass CV gives you the flexibility to include proofs for every claim made on the CV. You can add links, images and video links, but do not overdo this. Some programmes will toss out your application, especially when your application files are too heavy. Some will even give you a maximum megabyte per file, so again, adhere strictly to instructions.
Recommendation/Reference Letter: Identify your referees early. Ensure your referees are people who know you well enough to write positively about you. For instance, they should be able to explain how they know you and the duration of your relationship with them, your academic strength, your attitude to work/work ethic and your work and volunteering experience (if any). Your referees should be people who have an online presence. A well-written reference letter can be a game-changer. It can sometimes make up for deficits in an academic profile (case-specific). Therefore, it is essential that you choose your referees wisely. I have attached a link to a post in Nature Briefing in the compiled list on writing a solid recommendation/reference letter.
Research Proposal: Some programmes will ask you to write a short research proposal to give convincing scientific reasons to pursue your proposed topic and justify the reason(s) for your preferred place of research. Remember, it is a proposal, and it is not definitive. To successfully navigate this, again, you need to read and understand what the programme is all about, check out the thesis done by previous students of the programme, who the associated academic and industrial partners are, current ongoing research in the programme and the research interests of professors in the programme. When writing your proposal, do not be overly technical. I have also attached links to some posts on writing a research proposal in the compiled list section.
Additional Tips: The Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees (EMJMD) scholarship is competitive, and you need to put your best foot forward. Remember, you are competing globally! The ranking is merit-based. A maximum of the top three applicants is selected per country. In addition, a few applicants are placed on the reserve list depending on the programme. Finally, connect your personal story with your motivation to study in the programme. Attend relevant conferences, sign up for relevant Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). List your awards and patents (if any). Publish research papers, intern and volunteer in relevant organizations, and attend relevant summer schools (I attended many of them). Understand your programme requirements and the allocated percentages/numbers/scores for each application documents. Start preparing early and be strategic. Go the extra mile; that little extra can be the deciding difference. When you finally win, remember to pay it forward. I wish you the best in your application. It is possible!