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Tips for preparing your New Colombo Plan application

A nomination by your university for a New Colombo Plan Scholarship is a great start, but now you have to write and submit the application! We asked previous New Colombo Plan scholars for their advice:

1. Read the program guidelines

The program guidelines will help you write an application that demonstrates how your application is relevant to the program’s purpose and objectives. Think about how you might contribute to meeting the NCP values through your own life and academic experiences to date, your future interests, Australia’s international interests, through the country you choose and the internship you are proposing. First hand tips from past scholars include:

  • Become familiar with what the scholarship is about and what it is looking for. The selection panel isn't trying to trip you up, but they will be looking for the best people to meet the NCP objectives.
  • Try to have a kind of central theme or story or narrative behind your application. While there are different sections in the application, try to link it back to your theme and what you want to do in the future.
  • Show in your application why you want to go and describe the benefits of your proposed program for both Australia and the host location.

2. Learn from past experience

Speak to NCP Alumni Ambassadors, past scholars and your university International Liaison Officers, “Don't be shy to reach out to past NCP scholars – you can find our profiles on the website. In my experience, we're all excited to have a chat and help you succeed. We can remember just how nerve-wracking it was to be in your shoes.”

Watch this video where past scholars offer their tips for writing a successful NCP application.

Speak with university staff like the scholarship office contacts [PDF] who have experience in writing applications.

Social media forums like LinkedIn offer lots of great information and contacts. You can also search the New Colombo Plan Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels to see what has been posted previously.

Cherry Zheng on a mountain top.
2019 New Colombo Plan scholar Cherry Zheng is passionate about encouraging Australian undergraduate students from all walks of life to consider applying for their own NCP experience, “The ambition of the program and the freedom it affords its scholars resonates with my own approach to intellectual exploration – one without boundaries.” Photo credit: Aknur Zaripova

3. Respond to the selection criteria

Read the lessons learned from previous rounds information for 2021 applicants. Applying for a scholarship application as a student is a very different way of thinking and writing than it is for an academic essay.

Break down the selection criteria into key points. Support your claims with evidence and/or examples where possible. Prepare your application in a word document first if you can so it’s easier to draft and edit. Spell check your application and have a friend or colleague review it. Past scholars provide the following advice:

  • It’s a very different writing style – it was foreign to me as a student. I found it quite difficult. My advice is to use active language, be specific and straight to the point. Seek out assistance from your university.
  • Take the time to read through it – why the scholarship exists, and what do its goals mean, what do each of us get out of it – the country your studying in, for Australia and for you personally.
  • Think through your answers and align these with what the program will mean for you. Consider how your academic interests and potential future career align with the program.
  • What have you done in the past which demonstrates you are a good fit for the program? If you don’t feel you’ve done a lot, you may write about how the program might align with your current studies and future career.

Importantly, try to demonstrate to the selection committee in your application how what you plan to do will meet the objectives of the NCP program.

5. Sell yourself

Everyone finds it difficult to talk up their achievements and strengths. Now is the time to! Ask family, friends and your university lecturers what they consider your qualities and strengths as a person and as a student, in terms of the questions asked in the selection criteria. Having another trusted person’s view will help you focus on how best to respond to the selection criteria.  Think through your answers to the selection criteria in the context of what participation in the NCP program will mean to you. Tips from NCP alumni include:

  • It's a cliché but true. You are unique, so give yourself credit for your achievements and don't hold back on what makes you special. The interview panel will be looking for reasons to support you.
  • It’s helpful to look at your achievements across a range of areas. People get caught up on demonstrating how academic they are. But there’s more to it than just your academic excellence.
  • Know what you want and what your goals are before you start your application. Search within yourself – you know who you are and what you want do with your life. That authenticity will show.

5. Review the assessment criteria

With a scholarship, those assessing your application will want to know just as much about you as a person as they do about your academic achievements, community service and any other activities you do.

Reviewing the assessment criteria and the key points assessors will use in assessing your application gives you some further ideas as to how to align your selection criteria responses Consider how you can draft your application so it answers both the selection criteria while being mindful of the assessment criteria.

6. Research where you want to study and intern

Put some effort into researching and identifying the countries in the Indo Pacific in which you might like to study or work. “Coherent, specific plans show that you've done the research,” said one past NCP scholar. “But don't stress if the details haven't been ironed out. In fact, plans rarely go to plan – just do what you can now to show you've put serious thought into your program.”

Preparing an application that has some initial research for your program demonstrates commitment and real interest in the NCP. This research can also help you identify some of the challenges or some of the positive aspects of the countries you are considering undertaking your studies. It also demonstrates to the committee your planning skills and proactivity.

Need more information?

Take a look at the DFAT NCP website to learn more about the NCP more broadly. Read past scholar news stories and review the NCP social media channels available on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and You Tube.

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