Feedback for unsuccessful applicants

The CSC does not provide individual feedback on why an application was unsuccessful. However, there are general reasons why many of the applications are not successful. This page provides a short overview of the most important of these reasons.

Generic reasons

There are two fundamental reasons why applications for Commonwealth Scholarships tend to be unsuccessful:

  1. Excellence. All of the CSC’s scholarship schemes are highly competitive. This means that many very able applicants will be disappointed. Only people who are outstanding across the board are likely to be successful.
  2. Failure to follow instructions. The selection panels assess applications using three key criteria (academic merit, impact of the work on development, and study/research plan), as well as taking into account the candidate’s personal statement, and considers all of the information provided on the application form. Given the competitiveness of the schemes, failure to follow the application instructions will seriously disadvantage an applicant.

It is therefore essential that applicants read all of the instructions carefully before starting their application, and then complete all of the questions fully and provide all supporting documentation requested.

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

The following are some of the more common reasons why applicants may score poorly against each of the criteria:

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.
  • If there are reasons why an applicant has not scored particularly well in part of their academic career, 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 absence of full details about the marks/grades gained for particular degrees, in the form of an official transcript, makes it difficult for the selection committee to properly consider an application. Applicants should ensure that full supporting documentation is provided at the time of application.

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. 50-100 words written in the Development Impact section is unlikely to be as convincing as a well-crafted argument that uses the full 500 words 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 nth 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.

Additional information

Recipients of Commonwealth Scholarships are outstanding individuals. When differentiating between closely matched applications, the selection panel uses the information provided by applicants in their application forms. Where applicants have provided no additional information about, for example, voluntary activities or other such contributions to development, this will not be to their advantage. Applicants should also use the personal statement section to explain how their personal background has encouraged them to apply for a Commonwealth scholarship to make an impact in their home country.

All sections of the form need to be completed fully, individually, and originally, not importing text from national or university websites, or from other applications.

Applicants should ensure that they leave time to proofread their applications and that they are written in clear English.

The CSC website provides information on the selection criteria and completing the application form under the relevant scholarship pages. We strongly suggest applicants make full use of the resources on the website when preparing their application.