Happy new year once again and welcome to the third instalment in our “How I Got a Scholarship” series and the very first instalment this year. Over the past few weeks, we introduced you to Abisola Oteshile who got a Chevening Scholarship to study advanced mechanical engineering at Imperial College (see the post here if you missed it). We also introduced you to Prossie Aliba, a “Ugandan Law Whiz” who waltzed into Cambridge for a Master’s degree in law on a Chevening Scholarship (see the post here if you missed it).
Today, we introduce you to the first guy to feature in the series! His name is Olumide Osokoya
AKA Osokay who studied mechanical engineering at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Osun State, Nigeria and graduated as the best student from his department. He worked as a graduate engineer at Kia Motors Nigeria before obtaining a Loughborough University Graduate School Development Trust Africa Scholarship to study automotive systems engineering at Loughborough University. Olumide completed his Master’s degree in September 2016 and graduated with a distinction. He currently works as an engineer at The London Taxi Company and has graciously agreed to share his journey with us. We are super proud of him and hope you pick one or two tips to implement as you navigate your own professional or academic journey.
Grab a glass of juice and enjoy.
How did you hear about the scholarship?
I was determined to study abroad for my Master’s degree and I knew that if I wanted to study at a top-notch school, I would be unable to afford the tuition fees considering the income from my graduate job and my parent’s income at that time. More so, I finished with a first class degree and I was the best student in mechanical engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University, so to my dad, I had no excuse for not obtaining a scholarship (You know how daddies are). I decided to use the internet to my advantage and came across many available scholarships from the Nigerian government, foreign governments and institutional bodies. I tried many scholarships for which I was eligible but I was met with disappointment. After many rejections and unacknowledged applications, I must confess that I started to feel discouraged and even considered dropping the chase. At that time, a very good friend of mine was applying to Loughborough University and she urged me to do same, but I discarded it. I had never heard about the school and it didn’t seem to be one of the top schools I was eyeing as the name didn’t ring a bell. I was later amazed when my friend was awarded a scholarship which enabled her to study in the UK. We kept in touch while she was there and I soon realised from her experience, how great the school is. So, during my third year of trying out scholarships after university graduation, I applied to Loughborough University.
How much research did you put into understanding how the scholarship works?
The best research is to hear directly from a recipient and I had one in my friend. She explained the whole process, which was very simple compared to the many others we had both tried together. In addition, I conducted research on the school and things I could do to increase my chances of being successful. One of the things I did was to write IELTS even though the school did not require an international English language exam certificate from Nigerian applicants and my choice eventually paid off. The truth is, outside Nigeria, many people don’t believe that Nigerians speak and write English fluently and passing an international exam would dispel their fears. I got 8.0 out of 9.0 in the Cambridge IELTS which was convincing enough of my capacity to speak great English.
How did your academic and professional background contribute to you getting the scholarship?
The scholarship was awarded based on merit and excellence in creative writing. Through creative writing, I had to show my motivation to study in the school and in the country, justify my course choice and also highlight the potential contribution I would make to my home country upon graduation. I submitted another essay/statement to answer how I intended to pay for my maintenance in the UK because the scholarship I obtained only covers tuition. Professional experiences were not required and since it was a merit-based application, only students that finished with first class degrees or second class upper degrees could apply.
Did you make any strategic decisions to increase your chances, such as choice of course or university?
One strategic decision was to include in my writing how Loughborough University particularly could raise me to become the talented engineering professional and innovator I hoped to be, based on the knowledge I had acquired about the school and the alumni network. This was important because I knew they wanted to give the scholarships to their best candidates and best candidates are always good ambassadors even before they enrol *wink*
What did your scholarship cover?
I desired a scholarship like the Chevening, Commonwealth or PTDF scholarships that offer everything, even money for toiletries (#justsaying). But Loughborough offered me a full tuition scholarship which was approximately £19,000, about 8 Million Naira in 2015. That was about enough for me then, as I could afford to live as a student in the UK since tuition was covered. It is important to note here that this may not apply to every prospective applicant. I would advise you to plan accordingly like a man who wants to build a house as the Bible says. It is not that simple to live abroad as a student if you ain’t got no money. Squatting is not allowed and restaurants will not give free food. As a matter of fact, if you don’t have money to buy a winter jacket, you will constantly get sick of cold and undermine your studies. You know as a Nigerian, there’s a popular saying that ‘we fit survive anything’ but studying abroad is costly and many students become something else when they don’t have money. I know someone rejected a 50% tuition scholarship because he couldn’t afford the remaining and was not ready to take the risk. For this scholarship too, some awardees backed out when they could not show evidence of providing maintenance for themselves and the scholarship was reallocated. That said, as a man of faith, I believe you should not reject a £19,000 waiver if you can believe for the lesser remainder. You should not be afraid of crossing Jordan River when the God that opened up the Red Sea is still with you, but also be wise in your decisions.
Can you share links to any websites or forums that assisted you with your application?
There are a handful of scholarship websites that publish scholarship advertisements from around the world. The one that was most helpful to me was www.scholars4dev.com .
How have you found the experience?
S-U-P-E-R-B!!! I cannot put in words how great the Loughborough University experience was for me. I was so excited to be in the school that I applied to be a student ambassador where I shared my experience with many prospective applicants. Some of my remarks have been published on the university website here and here .
I also featured in a video campaign for the university.
Are there any other scholarship opportunities are available for Africans?
Actually, after spending almost 3 years applying for scholarships, I eventually got 3 scholarships in the space of 3 months (happy face). I applied to the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and after 1 full year, I was given an offer. Apparently, the professor I applied to (because in Canada, most times you make application to the school and your potential supervisor) delayed my application because he wanted to nominate me for a scholarship based on my CV and academic potential. The Dean’s scholarship came after a year, when I had lost interest in the school. I accepted it but later backed out after I got the Loughborough Scholarship. The Dean’s scholarship was actually more complete than Loughborough’s as it covered tuition fees and living expenses but since it came after a year, I was already interested in a different course and was not willing to spend two years on a Master’s degree anymore when I could complete it in one year in the UK. I was not aware that the professor was fighting to get me a scholarship so there are schools where you can get a scholarship based on your perceived potential. Just don’t give up on applications and even if you are not expressly applying for a scholarship, show your potential in the general application. The other scholarship I got was the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development (PRESSID) which was discontinued after the Jonathan Administration. About 100 of us got the scholarship and the government raised our hopes by posting a congratulatory message with our names on National Newspapers. To date, our names are still on the PRESSID website as the successful applicants but, there has neither been an update nor an apology saying the scholarship will be awarded or cancelled. It’s a shame, but if the scholarship could be monetized, I should probably be rewarded with over 10 million Naira now (lol!). On a serious note, some government scholarships are still possible like PTDF and there are many more scholarships and studentships from individual schools in countries like Canada, Australia, Netherlands, UK and of course USA, which are yet to be discovered. Just put on your search goggles and google your way through a scholarship if you think you deserve one.
Can you share additional tips that may be useful?
My last word to the readers, particularly those applying for scholarships, is to be determined and learn from past failures. I applied to over 20 scholarships before getting mine, some people did more while some were very lucky to have made it after one or two attempts. If you think you deserve to have your dream supported, prove it by having the tenacity of a true winner. That is my story and never forget that yours can be better.
I totally love doing this scholarship series. Maybe I should expand it to encompass general education advancement/progress tips and tricks? What do you think? What I love most about the series is the fact that even though everyone’s story is different, there are some themes that cannot be ignored. One recurring theme is research. Olumide shared how he searched for his scholarship for three years before he finally got one and I encourage you to remain resolute in your quest. To be honest, many Africans need some form of financial support to attend the world’s best schools, partly because of exchange rate issues and also because without such scholarship schemes, there is a possibility that one might be limited by the circumstances of one’s birth. These scholarships offer a lifeline, but they are only available to those who work and dare to take it. So whether you are in university or out of university, or you are planning to go to grad school, why not take Olumide’s advice and do some crazy research to find your opportunity?
P.S. I love answering your questions and I am very eager to assist or introduce you to someone who can help so don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.
Also, if you have obtained a scholarship or part funding for either undergraduate or graduate studies preferably outside the UK (or you know someone who falls into this category), be a sport and shoot me an email using the contact form on the right, so I can celebrate your process and encourage those coming behind.
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