Understanding The 4 Chevening Essays: Part 1 Leadership Essay

by retnolestari

Chevening requires you to answer 4 questions in a form of an essay with a 500 maximum word count for each. The four essays are leadership essay, networking essay, study plan essay, and career plan essay. Writing a compelling 2000 words essay that can showcase your competency, experience, and aspiration takes time, dedication, research, and a lot of work.

I applied for a Chevening scholarship for the first time in September 2016. Unfortunately, my essays failed to attract the attention of the Chevening reading committee as I didn’t make it to the interview stage.

It took another one year for me to understand and work on those 4 questions to convince the Chevening panelist that I was qualified for the interview stage. I finally received the scholarship at the second attempt to study in the UK in 2018-2019.

Since then, I have trained about 70 people to write scholarship essays. I have also published a scholarship book in Bahasa Indonesia called Rahasia Pemburu Beasiswa (The Secret of The Scholarship Hunters) that I co-wrote with Mogantara Zega in 2020. This book is currently being translated into English to help more people getting a master’s scholarship.

From my experience, I would like to share with you some of the tips I took from the book to understand the four Chevening essays.

Leadership Essay Question

“Chevening is looking for individuals who will be future leaders or influencers in their home countries. Explain how you meet this requirement, using clear examples of your own leadership and influencing skills to support your answer.”

Leadership and influence essay gives us a challenge on how we interpret leadership and influencing skills. What are leadership and influence? Is it a position? Is it a mindset? Is it an attitude? Is there any difference between leadership and influence? Understanding these two terms is the first thing that you should do in order to provide a good answer to this question. And remember, one person has a different perspective from another so the answer will be different. However, I do believe that we should not translate leadership as a position. Therefore, don’t be worried if you’re still in your early career and have not held any leadership position. You still have the same chance as other applicants.

Examples Act as The Support

The second thing you need to do is to understand that examples of leadership and influencing skills act as the supporting to your main idea. Examples are the “how,” to explain the “what” and the “why.” So, if your essays are all about examples but failed to present the context of leadership and influencing skills, it is most likely that your leadership essay will sound like a CV or resume where you list all of your achievements.

This type of essay is usually will be the failed one. Many essays that I have read, unfortunately, fall into a CV-like essay. Maybe you think that pouring in all your achievements will impress the committee. In my humble opinion, it’s not. Your essay should provide a grand design about your thinking as a leader. Writing all about your examples and achievements will only show that you haven’t think strategically.

Showcase Your Solutions

So, what kind of leadership and influence essay that they’re looking for? An essay that shows how you can provide a solution to a substantial problem or how you overcome a challenge. So, it shouldn’t be all about you. I’d like to give a good leadership and influence essay formulation:

10% about the context of leadership and influence
60% about the challenge and the impact you have created
30% about your involvement as the actor behind the solution

To be able to implement this formula, it is better to have one to three compelling stories on how you tackle an issue, rather than to write down your bunch of work or achievements.

A good essay is when you read it, it makes you want to read more and more, not only because the stories are interesting and the language is good, but also the flow is clear due to the good structure that has been built by creating an outline. Again, to be able to do this, you don’t need to provide too many examples. One is okay, two is good, three can be challenging for you to develop the story, four and more is too much.

The Essay’s Structure

There are few strategies that you can use to make a good leadership and influence essay structure. Firstly, using a STAR method.

When you use this strategy, you still need to write an opening paragraph that gives to contact of the topic, in this case, is leadership and influence.

And then, for the next paragraph, write the example for your essay using a STAR methodology. But don’t forget that every paragraph needs a punchy first sentence as your main idea. The second and third sentences will be the supporting idea. The next sentences are the example that you can write using the STAR methodology.

Or, my favorite one, using the same structure as the IELTS Writing Task 2. It is effective and very simple. Find the structure below that you can adopt for your Chevening essay that I took from my favorite IELTS blog

Introduction paragraph

  • A background sentence giving a context on the essay topic.
  • A more detailed sentence linking the background sentence to the thesis.
  • A thesis that presents your point of view on your given topic.
  • An outline sentence declaring the 2 points you are going to use to support your thesis.

Supporting paragraph 1

  • A topic sentence illustrating the first point you will be presenting to support your thesis (this point taken from your outline sentence).
  • A sentence showing a real-life example of this topic in action.
  • A discussion sentence that shows how your example links or proves your topic sentence.
  • A conclusion sentence that links this entire paragraph back to your thesis.

Supporting paragraph 2

  • A topic sentence illustrating the second point you will be presenting to support your thesis (this point taken from your outline sentence).
  • A sentence showing a real-life example of this topic in action.
  • A discussion sentence that shows how your example links or proves your topic sentence.
  • A conclusion sentence that links this entire paragraph back to your thesis.

Conclusion paragraph

  • A summary sentence that briefly states the 2 points you discussed in your supporting paragraphs.
  • A restatement of your thesis using different words.
  • Connect the thesis with your vision and your future aspiration

Show Don’t Tell

Many people don’t understand this phrase. But, the easiest way to show and not to tell is to reduce the use of “I” at the beginning of a sentence and keep asking “How” or “Why” to every sentence.

For example, you write:
“As a teacher, I always try to help my students to get the best mark.” Ask yourself, “How I do this?” “Why is it important to help them?” “

“In 2019, I help my company to reduce the use of electricity by 30%.” How did you do it? Why did you do it? What was the impact of the electricity usage reduction?

So, instead of telling “What,” show it through good storytelling by adding “why” and “how”. Using STAR method can help you. Or plan it with an outline.

Show The Result of Your Solution

Presenting the result of your solution or your action in your Chevening essay is proof that you make an achievement. If you can, put a number. Say that you initiated a business club for women that has been run for two years. Write down how many members joined, how much training has been conducted, etc. If you cannot quantify the result, you still can show the qualitative result. You can say that you have received good testimonials from the club members saying that the program you created has changed their mindset.

Don’t Neglect The Closing

Closing is also a very important part of your leadership and influence essay. For the closing, you can write a summary or link it back to the opening paragraph with a paraphrase. Then, write your thesis that is your vision or your future aspiration. And don’t forget to mention how Chevening will help to improve your leadership and influence skills.

I hope that this first part of the Understanding The 4 Chevening Essays blog series will be useful for your Chevening scholarship application. You can see the second part here, and the third part here. If you have any questions, feel free to drop a message below. f you need help to edit your essays, you can find my gig here.

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Rafili Muhammad Hilman February 15, 2021 - 11:12 pm

Assalamu’alaikum mb Retno

Ijin mb, saya Rafili, PNS di Kemenko Perekonomian yang InsyaAllah akan menghadapi Interview Chevening tanggal 3 Maret 2021 esok.

Mohon perkenan mb, apakah boleh sy mendapatkan feedback dari mb Retno melalui simulasi mock interview di waktu senggang mb Retno dalam 1 setengah minggu ini?

Terimakasih dan mohon perkenan mb.

retnolestari June 2, 2021 - 8:48 am

Aduh mas Rafili, mohon maaf sekali saya baru baca komennya. sudah agak lama saya nggak buka blog karena kesibukan saya..Gimana kemarin interviewnta?


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