Writing Winning Applications.

Published by Daisy Ogelenya on

      It’s good that we know the upsides of rejection mails and how to fully utilize them. However, it is more important for us to know how to up our game so our applications have higher chances of getting followed by congratulatory mails. We’d be sharing common mistakes to avoid, as well as tips that would be of help to this effect in this post. 
      Before we begin, bear in mind that different application types and processes have their individual unique guidelines. All of them have some things in common though, and that’s what we’d be discussing today. So, if you’re applying for an exchange program, a scholarship, fellowship, bootcamp, conference or something else of that manner, knowing what we’re about to discuss could be the difference between you getting accepted or not.
Alright?
Great! Let’s dive in.
      First and foremost, do your research! Really. When you find an opportunity you’re interested in, this should be the first thing you do. It always amuses me when people hear of an opportunity for the first time, or see an advertisement about it, and go straight to the application portal to apply. For real, what’s the justification for this?? What’s the hurry about? Where are you rushing to?
Calm down!
Go online, read about it. Know all you can about it. Search it on Google and see what comes up. Read reviews. Go through the official website and read all about it. Know all that it entails and has to offer. Know why it would be a great opportunity for you, and why you’re a great fit for it.
Here’s why:
  • So you know the best way to present yourself while applying. The idea is for your application to be tailored to suit the profile of their ideal candidate. 
  • So you can speak their lingo. You know, language and terms peculiar to that particular organization or opportunity. It’s impressive and gives the impression of you being proficient in that field.
  • So you know what keywords to use in your application essays… Values and principles they stand for that resonate with you, as well as characteristics they’ve spelt out that the opportunity requires.
  • So you know basic things like deadlines, how to contact support, how the applications are reviewed, selection criteria, terms and conditions… 
I could go on and on. Just do your research and be amazed at the kind of clarity you’d get.
      Next, you need to start applying early.

    This is so important, yet underrated. It doesn’t matter if the deadline is still far away, resist the urge to procrastinate. I’ll just tell you about something that happened to me recently to buttress the point…
    I saw a scholarship opportunity that I was qualified for. Did my research and got even more interested in it. Wonderful something, I tell you. I was excited about it. I checked the requirements and saw that I needed an academic referee…no big deal, I had someone in mind to ask. The deadline was still “far” though, so I waited procrastinated calling him, kept on scheduling it for ‘tomorrow’ everyday. Long story short, I finally got around to calling him two days to the deadline. I left a message because I couldn’t speak with him that day. He replied to give his permission three days after. One day after the deadline. Of course I missed the opportunity, and I still want to kick myself when I think about it.
   The point is, you aren’t entitled to anybody’s time, so you can’t go around putting unnecessary pressure on people. If what you’re applying for requires a referee, make sure you let them know way before the deadline, and give them plenty of time to write you a recommendation letter, give you permission to use them as your referee or whatever. You’d also need time to ask another person, if it doesn’t work out with the first.
      Also, some programs and opportunities process applications on a rolling basis. What this means is that as the applications are coming in, they’re getting assessed and graded. If there’s a fixed number of slots available, they’d be given out on a ”first come, first serve” basis, and you’d miss out if you send in your application after the slots are filled, whether or not the deadline has reached. 
      Of course, you don’t want to put yourself under unnecessary pressure as well. Applying early keeps you from the stress that comes with deadline rush and all that it entails. You’d have enough time to put in your best, proofread and review your application without making silly mistakes.
  Make sure to read and obey all instructions. Again, there’s no hurry. Would you embark on a journey to a place you’ve never been before without directions? I don’t think so. Instructions are your directions; use them.
Here’s why: 
  • So your application is Application Tracking System (ATS) friendly. An ATS screens applications using pre-programmed “marking schemes”, and separates those that meet the marking scheme from those that don’t. The applications that don’t meet the criteria of the ATS are trashed, no matter how good they might be. It’s an automatic process. These marking schemes are given to you in form of instructions. Use them!
  • Because they could be a form of assessment test. Yes, you read that right. I heard a story of an application that, among the instructions, stated that the applicants should leave a certain question unanswered. It was a test to ascertain their level of attention to details. Those that failed it were disqualified, obviously. I know it seems a little crazy, but it’s possible. It happens. Always pay attention to instructions.
Put your best foot forward. 
       First impression matters a lot. Sell yourself properly. Clearly communicate why you’re perfect for the opportunity. Now’s not the time to be modest, toot your horn because no one else will do it for you. Show that you have the capacity to fully utilize the opportunity, both during and after it’s duration, should your application be successful. Be careful though; there’s a line between confidence and arrogance, and you don’t want to cross it. Be honest too. Exaggerating your achievements could put you in a tight spot if you’re selected because of them. 
     Also, make sure your essays are standard. While you don’t want to exceed the word limit because it might be ATS unfriendly, you also don’t want it to be so short that it would seem like you didn’t put real effort into it. Write at least 3/4 of the word count limit. Of course it’s not just about the length; the quality of your essays matter a lot too, so make sure you’re making sense there. Check out templates online if you need ideas on how to structure yours. Proofread, make sure your application is typo free.
      Finally, review your application. If you can, get someone that has gone through the same opportunity or something similar to do this for you. Beyond just proofreading, there are insights they could show you, corrections they could make, and advices they could give from experience that would make your application stronger, and even prevent it from ending up in the rejection pile. 
      Like they say, if you have to do anything, do it well. If you’re going to apply for anything, make sure to give it your very best. “Shoot your shot” in a way that your chances of getting rejected are slim to none. I’m certain you were able to learn a thing or two about how to do just that from this post! 
I’d love to hear from you. Have any questions or contributions? Do well to share in the comments section.
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Categories: Blog

1 Comment

Kelvinfinancials · July 16, 2020 at 10:27 am

There's no better time than now. I guess I have to get to work. Thanks for this insightful piece?

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