RG Scholarships

Make Your CV Stand Out

Advice on how to present your best self in writing
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Embarking on the journey of applying for a scholarship can be both exciting and nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first time navigating the intricacies of the application process. As you stand at the threshold of this opportunity, you might be wondering how to make your application stand out amidst a sea of aspiring candidates.

Crafting a meticulously thought-out Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a critical step when applying for a scholarship, as it not only outlines academic qualifications, but it can make the difference between being short-listed for an interview and being passed over for an award.

So, with your future at stake, where do you start?

I sat down with Heather Mello, head of human resources at Conduit Reinsurance, and a member of the Scholarship Award Committee for the Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC), to get some advice regarding how to draft a CV that highlights your goals and strengths in a way that aligns with the values of the scholarship provider.

If you have never needed to create a CV before, how do you suggest that an applicant gets started?

“The absolute first place to start for me is traditional pen and paper,” said Ms Mello. “Think about where you want to go to school and what you wish to study and how that links to what you have been doing during your time in High School.”

Taking the time to make notes on paper “will help you gather your thoughts and decide what are the most important pieces that tell a positive and truthful story of you as a candidate,” she explained.

Is it a good idea to use an online CV template?

Ms Mello said yes, but it should not be your only resource. She recommended looking at a variety of templates sourced from working parents, school guidance counsellors, as well as Microsoft Word. “LinkedIn is also a great place to look for ideas,” she said. “A simple search for “resume writing” on the home page will produce a wealth of articles, interviews and posts from recruiters on the topic.”

Also, keep in mind that if you are applying for multiple scholarships, it is worth the effort to customise your CV a bit to showcase the details most relevant to each individual application.

Would you recommend asking ChatGPT to write your CV?

While she admitted that she has yet to encounter anyone who has attempted this, Ms Mello believes that there are pros and cons to this idea. “I think it would be fine to use an AI tool as a source of ideas regarding what types of things to say, but AI does not know you as a person so it will never portray your true value as well as you can do it yourself,” she said.

If you don’t have a lot of content for your CV, what should you do?

Recruiters and scholarship committees understand that students don’t necessarily have a lot of work experience to put on their resume. “Just put down the things that make you stand out and the steps you are taking to prepare for your intended career and course of study,” she said.  Whatever you do, avoid exaggerating or including untrue information. “A scholarship committee or a potential employer will eventually uncover exaggerations, and if there are exaggerations that come to light during the interview and selection process, you could be excused from the candidate pool,” she cautioned.

Besides good grades, what sort of things are the scholarship sponsors looking for in an application?

“This is a situation where spelling and grammar definitely matter so it is also a good idea to get someone to proofread everything before you submit it,” said Ms Mello. “It may sound simple, but a clear and complete application goes a long way when committees or recruiters are developing their candidate pool. If the scholarship is based on financial need, for example, be sure to disclose not just your family’s true ability to contribute to the cost of your education, but also the details of your backup plan if you are not successful in obtaining a scholarship.”

It’s also important to take the time to provide a complete picture of who you are by including your community service involvements, volunteer experiences, and any part-time or summer employment.

What are some of the most misunderstood aspects of the scholarship application process?

According to Ms Mello, a failure to believe in yourself might just be your biggest obstacle. “If you do not even apply, you take yourself out of the race before it has even started,” she said.

More importantly, understand that from the moment you embark on your quest for a scholarship award, you will be expected to demonstrate exemplary conduct both on and offline at all times. As an award recipient, you will be deemed to be representing your school, your family, your country as well as the company that has provided your scholarship, and poor grades or inappropriate conduct of any kind can result in the loss of your scholarship.

General tips for preparing for a scholarship interview:

Carefully read the details of the scholarship that you are applying for and come prepared to discuss them. For example, if you are applying for an ABIC scholarship, you should certainly be prepared to answer questions related to the business categories that ABIC supports.

Be ready to discuss not just what you want to study but also why you have chosen this path and how you see yourself giving back to Bermuda once you have completed your education.

Be ready to discuss how you have learned from your experiences, mentioning things that you have listed on your CV.

Keep a cool head and remember that the selection committee wants to help Bermudian students achieve their career and educational goals.

The application process for any scholarship can be a difficult task, but very rewarding if handled properly. Spending time and effort to research the entire process is an essential part of the exercise.

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