Advice for applicants

Advice for Applicants

All of the CSC’s scholarship schemes are highly competitive. This means that many very able applicants will be disappointed. Only candidates whose applications are outstanding across the board are likely to be successful. You must therefore consider carefully what you choose to include. This page provides advice and guidance to applicants completing the application form, including feedback from the selection panel and common mistakes to avoid.

Eligibility and Required Documentation

Before you start writing your application, it is important you check you are eligible to apply. Guidance on eligibility requirements for each programme can be found under the ‘Candidate eligibility’ sections on the individual programme pages.

In addition, all candidates must ensure they include all necessary documentation with their application. Every year many strong candidates are disqualified due to incomplete applications, so please make sure you check this carefully.

See individual programme pages for a checklist of all the essential requirements for an eligible application.

Selection Criteria

The selection panels assess applications using three key criteria: academic merit, impact of the work on development, and study/research plan.

The CSC makes its decisions on who receives a Commonwealth Scholarship purely on the basis of the information provided in the application form. There are no quotas for people from different countries.

For more details on how applications are graded, see the Commonwealth Scholarships Selection Criteria.

Please note that there is separate selection criteria for PhD Scholarships (for high-income countries). Please visit the Programme Page for more information.

Feedback from the Selection Panel

Below is some feedback and advice from the CSC’s selection panels which may be helpful when completing an application form for a Commonwealth Scholarship.


Academic merit

  • Successful applicants are those with strong academic grades at both undergraduate or, where relevant, postgraduate level. Many have a first-class honours undergraduate degree, or a distinction at Master’s level, or other relevant experience and qualifications. While applicants with upper second-class undergraduate degrees or a pass at Master’s level do receive Commonwealth Scholarships, these scholarships are highly competitive in terms of academic quality and must ensure their plan of study and development impact statements are exceptional to have a chance of being selected
  • We understand that external factors can impact a candidate’s academic performance. If there are reasons why an applicant has not scored particularly well in part of their academic career however, it is important that these are explained in the Personal Statement.
  • For PhD Scholarships, many applicants have a good list of publications and conference papers, sometimes in internationally respected academic journals. It is important, therefore, for applicants to ensure that they reference these appropriately if they have them.
  • It is important for applicants to identify referees who will provide references that are detailed and contain sufficient information to be evaluated. A five-line reference is unlikely to provide the level of support necessary.
  • The CSC recognises that applicants with a disability, may have experienced additional challenges or barriers in their higher education experience which has made meeting the minimum academic standard difficult. Disabled applicants with an otherwise strong application who apply through the CSC’s disability nominator may be eligible for consideration under a contextualised nomination policy. Applicants should contact the nominating agency directly.

Impact of the proposed work on development

  • The selection committee places great emphasis on the case made by applicants for how their proposed work will have an impact on development when they return home. Brief statements written in the Development Impact section is unlikely to be as convincing as a well-crafted argument that uses the full word count available.
  • Some applicants focus on how a Commonwealth Scholarship would help them to become personally successful, rather than on how their work can specifically contribute to development in their home country. Such focus does not provide the information that the selection panel requires.
  • There are many ways in which ‘development’ can be defined, and the CSC does not seek to impose specific definitions on applicants. However, it is important that applicants demonstrate how their specific project contributes to development objectives that are relevant for their country and region. It is not sufficient to state that the proposed subject of study is by its nature developmental; applicants must make the case clearly that what they will go on to do after studying will have an impact on development.

Study/research plan

  • Applicants who are unclear or vague about what they intend to do, or who write using overly technical language, are likely to score poorly regardless of content. It is important that this section is written clearly so that a non-specialist can understand what the aims of the research are and how they will be implemented.
  • Applicants for PhD Scholarships who do not provide information about the precise methodology and any sampling strategy to be used in the research do not score highly.
  • All applicants must explain in some detail why they have applied to the courses and institutions listed on their application forms. It is insufficient only to say that the universities are excellent, or even that they are ranked xth on a global listing of universities. Providing further reasons why these are relevant institutions to support academic plans will strengthen an application.
  • Study or research plans must be written by the applicant, and not by the intended supervisor.
  • Cutting and pasting text about a department, course, or institution from a website or brochure is insufficient and may be considered plagiarism. Merely listing the options available for a Master’s course is likewise insufficient.

Personal Statement

Your personal statement is your opportunity to give the selection panel a sense of who you are and why you want to be a Commonwealth Scholar. It should summarise the ways in which your personal background has encouraged you to want to make an impact in your home country. 

The CSC encourages applications from candidates who have faced significant disadvantage or personal barriers to higher education or are under-represented in their field of study/workplace. Please use your personal statement to summarise the ways in which your personal background has encouraged you to want to make an impact in your home country, including personal or community barriers you have overcome.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Please read our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about applying for a Commonwealth Scholarship. This includes answers to many common queries that applicants encounter. 

Please refer to this page for any queries you might have before contacting the CSC.

Hear from Scholars

We asked Scholars to share their experiences of applying for a Commonwealth Scholarship and what it means to them to be a Commonwealth Scholar. You can watch their responses in the videos below.