My Chevening Story and Other Tips


November 2017 was the first time I applied for the Chevening Scholarship program. I had wanted so badly to study for my Master’s in the UK, mostly because I yearned to learn differently from what I was used to in Nigeria. I understood the change I was trying to create and the perks of global relevance so a master’s in Nigeria after my bachelor’s and a post-graduate diploma wasn’t part of the plan. Yet, I knew I would never be able to self-fund my studies outside the country. Having learned about Chevening in 2016 and after a failed attempt at studying in the US that same year, I put all my energy towards studying in the UK; first, because applications are often free there and second because I had met some professors from the UK whose work inspires me. But what does it take to get Chevening? Why did I think that I was worthy of one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world? Nobody I knew closely had ever received the scholarship, but then that changed when I learned that Agatha Aduro, a Facebook friend who has now go on to become a big sister was studying under the same scholarship and so I thought if she could, why can’t I?


I chatted her up on Facebook asking her about the steps she had taken and what I needed to do. To be honest, I thought getting the scholarship highly ambitious for an ordinary teacher who grew up in a modest family in Sokoto and struggling to make sense out of her life in Lagos. But I’m also the type of person who not only dreams big, scary dreams but is courageous enough to pursue them. Agatha told me about her applications and was generous enough to share her essays with me which served as a template to writing mine.

And so began nights of writing, erasing, rewriting and lots of self-doubt. I recalled the few activities I had been involved in: Writivism festival volunteer, teacher workshops, the BribeCode campaign, etc and compared to what Agatha had accomplished judging from her essays, mine felt so insignificant. But I didn’t give up until I sent Agatha my essays for review and her feedback meant me rewriting all my essays. To save you the boring bits, I simply made up my mind not to apply anymore. I wasn’t worthy. I can try another time when I’m truly ready. A night before the deadline, I looked at my essays and asked myself what I stood to lose if I submitted anyway. Nothing. So, I edited all of it myself, said a quick prayer and turned in my application.


I’d live every other day in anxiety. Refreshing my email, basically waiting for the bad news even as I hoped for something positive. One random day in February 2018, I refreshed my email as usual and saw that Chevening had shortlisted me for an interview. The joy, oh the joy and the tears! I prepared for the interview as though my life depended on it, because it did. I read everything about the UK, reviewed my essays, watched all YouTube videos about Chevening interviews, fasted and prayed until the D-day. Never in my life had I been faced by a greater panel as the one at the British High Commission. It took me a few minutes to relax while answering the questions thrown at me. My experience at the interview changed my life in so many ways: it became clearer to me what I wanted to do, I understood the path I wanted to take and what is expected of me to get there. I walked out of the interview room feeling really fulfilled and refueled to take on a new journey.

Another End…

But that began another long wait. Post interview, applicants often expect one of these responses: Conditionally Selected (meaning you are successful and have gotten the scholarship if certain conditions are met), Not Successful (meaning they weren’t impressed with your interview, try again next year), Reserve (meaning though they were impressed, their slots are full now and you’ll be upgraded if they get more slots). Man, I got the reserve email in June. And I cried. Because what are the chances that I’ll be upgraded? I waited and waited and waited and waited until the email came in August, bearing the bad news that I couldn’t get an upgrade.

Moving On…

I dusted my feet and recalled everything that transpired during my interview. I told myself that I didn’t need a master’s to bring the ideas I had to life and so in the same August, I launched my education website, Teach for Change Nigeria which has gone on to become a finalist for the British Council ELTons Awards for Innovations in the Teaching of English language. I also started the first teacher prize for teachers of Literature in Nigeria and took part in other ground-breaking projects.

If you fail the first time, try again…

By the time the 2019 Chevening application opened, I had already promised myself that I’d keep applying for the scholarship every other year until I get it. I reviewed my essays and made updates where necessary and like the previous year, I was shortlisted once again for an interview. On the 5th of June 2019, I got the email that I had been selected for the scholarship and the rest they say, is history.

2019 Nigerian (Abuja Cohort) Chevening scholars with Catriona Laing CB, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria.

Thank you…

Right now, I’m in my room in Brighthelm, Brighton where I’m studying for an MA in International Education and Development and I’m grateful for all the experiences I’ve had that led me here:

  1. Building Praxis Magazine with Tee Jay Dan in 2015
  2. Attending 2016 Writivism Nonfiction Creative Writing Workshop in Accra where I was sponsored by African Women Development Fund
  3. Volunteering for 2016 Writivism Literary Festival where I first met John Masterson of University of Sussex who later became a mentor and referee
  4. Volunteering for the BribeCode Campaign and planning a book reading for Chuma Nwokolo at the University of Lagos
  5. Attending teacher training events organised by the University of Sussex in Abuja
  6. My teaching experiences
  7. Starting Teach for Change Nigeria
  8. Getting shortlisted for British Council ELTons Awards
  9. The chat with Agatha Aduro
  10. My general love for knowledge

There were over 6000 applications from Nigeria and only 60 successful applicants. You too can become a Chevener if you so wish. Application for next year is open and if you have your 2.1 or First Class and have great ideas on how to make the world a better place, and you are actively working on these ideas, I have these quick tips for you:

  • Read. Google Chevening and read everything you see. Check their website and make sure you’re eligible.
  • Outline all the major/impactful activities you’ve been involved in.
  • Include dates (year and month) when they happened.
  • Outline the problems you solved or are trying to solve.
  • Show ways you’ve tried to solve these problems.
  • Be clear on who benefits from the solution(s).
  • Make sure the solution is relevant. Think about the SDGs.
  • Be clear on what you want to study, where you want to study and why (make your research).
  • Have a clear post-study plan. When you finish and you’re back to your country, what impact will the course you’ve studied make? Think deeply about this and write down your thought.
  • Be passionate and committed. Only passion can take you through the tough stages of Chevening application.
  • Talk to successful Cheveners and look at their essays. DON’T PLAGIARISE.
  • Use the draft created from the points above to write each of the four required essays.
  • Give it your best shot. If you don’t get it this time, try again.

Good luck.


At the University of Sussex because dreams come true!!!


Written by Jennifer Chinenye Emelife

Teacher. Writer. Interviewer. MA Scholar.

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Lessons for the opposition and NRM from Hoima by-election

Your leaders will make you or break you.