BY ERIN SILVER
Government scholarships are an incredible opportunity that enable Bermudians to attend a postsecondary institution and contribute to our island society upon graduation.
Bakari Simons is an outstanding example of this kind of success. Mr Simons was the recipient of the Ministry of Education Scholarship in 2016, in the amount of $10,000. He was also named the recipient of the Bermuda Government Scholarship from 2017 to 2020, an award that totalled $35,000 per year.
Approximately $1.4 million is set aside by the government each year and given out to approximately 60 deserving students in the form of scholarships. The Ministry of Education provides scholarships ranging from $5,000 up to $35,000. Financial awards range from $5,000 up to $10,000.
These kinds of awards can make all the difference to a student’s future. “Being awarded these scholarships helped dissolve the financial barrier that many face when considering furthering their education abroad,” says Mr Simons. “Having the financial backing to study at the oldest and largest school of osteopathy in the United Kingdom gave me the awareness and understanding that I needed to be a confident, skilled and effective practitioner.”
Thanks to his scholarship, Mr Simons earned a master’s degree in osteopathy (M.Ost) from the University College of Osteopathy in London, England. He currently works in private practice as a consulting osteopath, specialising in the treatment and management of neck and back pain. As he explains: “As a former elite athlete, I have a special interest in the prevention, management and rehabilitation of sports-related injuries.”
A glance at his resume shows why he was chosen. It also illustrates the way in which scholarship committees look for well-rounded candidates. In addition to holding down a variety of part-time jobs over many years, Mr Simons also won several school awards — from a carpentry award to a business essay award.
In addition, he participated in track, football, tennis and CrossFit events. He has coaching, fitness and first aid certifications. His hard work and dedication, plus his clear and concise résumé, highlight his skills, goals, commitment and work ethic, not to mention a path toward his ultimate goal of becoming an osteopath and working in the field of sports injuries.
It’s exactly what scholarship bodies look for in candidates. No doubt, Mr Simons’s various experiences and achievements gave him plenty to talk about during the interview process that’s required for shortlisted applicants.
For graduating high school students who are wondering how they can secure a scholarship too, the process begins online. Information about the application process and scholarship opportunities are available at www.bermudascholarships.com and www.moed.bm. Shortlisted applicants will be called for an interview.
With so many scholarship opportunities available, Mr Simons had to be selective and also strategic in his approach. “I selected 12 scholarships that I was eligible to apply for based on my field of study. I then ranked them in order of importance, based on the amount awarded and the years of coverage. Thus, I spent the most time and effort on the ones that I knew I was a strong candidate for and would provide me with the financial backing that I was seeking,” he said.
He adds that character, drive and ambition hold just as much weight, if not more than grades alone. “As such, you don’t need perfect grades to be the recipient of a scholarship.”
Mr Simons has some additional tips for those currently applying for scholarships:
• Be clear and concise when answering essay and interview questions.
• Be mindful that your resume and cover letter introduces you, so make it good and interesting to read.
• Know that the application process is not designed to be smooth, easy, or comfortable.
• Start the application process early; it will take longer than you think.
• Identify the scholarships that you are eligible for — if you are ineligible, applying will get you nowhere.
• Organise your documents and information by having a separate folder for each scholarship to avoid any mix-up.
• If you are unsure about something, ask questions and reach out to the scholarship administration team to get clarification.
• Be sure to submit all required documents and rename the documents as requested by the scholarship for quick identification and ease of reading.
• Have someone who works in recruitment read your personal letter, essay and resume for grammar, flow and interest.
• Have a smart profile picture!
• Be intentional about your application — understand how being awarded your desired scholarship will change your current situation and future circumstances. It’s never too late to change what the future looks like. Small steps in the right direction can turn out to be the biggest step of your life.
The Government urges students to apply within the application window, which is open until the April 11, 2022 deadline. Late applications will not be considered. Mr Simons wishes all candidates the best of luck.