If you are reading this article, you have most probably progressed to the essay section in your Chevening application, and are wondering how you can sell yourself to a scholarship with one of the most rigid requirements in the world in a mere 500 words? The Leadership essay is undoubtedly the heart of your Chevening application, and it is not an exaggeration to say that it can make or break your application. So, it is important to carefully choose what you write because EVERY. WORD. COUNTS. (Literally).

Here is what the Chevening Leadership Essay question says:

Chevening is looking for people 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

Word of advice

The first thing that you should know (and have hopefully done if you are already in the process of completing your application) before writing the essay is that a good essay cannot be written in a day or two. You cannot just think of one leadership example from your high school and structure your essay around it. It takes multiple iterations to write the perfect essay. However, there is no need to be intimidated by this fact because if you work in simple steps, you will find yourself fast on the right track, that is, illustrating your leadership potential in a convincing and authentic manner to the selection panel.

The first thing that you ought to do is to remember to not be overwhelmed by the essays of successful applicants you have read on the internet, and to not think that everyone who gets accepted to Chevening is bound to have held a high position in a big company. You should simply work on demonstrating your leadership potential from what experiences you have had in your life in an authentic and compelling manner. Remember, Chevening is looking for some indication in your essay that tells them that you have the potential to influence people in your country to bring about positive change in near future, and your essay should provide them with one.
The first step towards writing the essay is to make a list of all the jobs you have held in your professional life in the past 5 years. For each job you have listed, also write your responsibilities, and the reason you are proud of that job. Any examples that you use in your essay should be recent, and not going as far back as high school.
Next, prioritize. Take some time to think and eliminate the least impactful examples. Keep working till you find the ones that you feel can reflect you in the best light. Select top three examples from your life that show you in the capacity of a leader, in a scenario where you faced a problem and took charge, and went beyond your job description to solve that problem. Once you have selected your examples and figured out which leadership trait each example reflects, being with the first draft of your essay.
It is important to begin your essay with one or two lines about what leadership is for you, and how do you describe it. Once you have done that, move on to answer the question of the essay with what is known as the STAR technique. It provides you with a structure for your essay and helps save words by describing your story in an efficient manner.
STAR stands for
S – Situation. This is a problem or a situation encountered by you. Start by briefly describing the problem, including the who, what, when, where, and how.
T – Task. This is the part where you talk about your responsibilities in handling the situation you described above. Describe any challenges that encountered.
A – Action. In this part, describe the steps you took to counter the situation. Be specific about any initiatives that you took as a leader to overcome the challenges you faced. Focus on your individual role in remedying the situation, and not on the team work. This will help Chevening identify you as a potential future leader, which is the purpose of this essay.
R – Result. Finally talk about the results that you were able to achieve, and describe how you were able to avert the crisis using your leadership abilities. Be specific about the outcome that you were able to accomplish, and make sure that the results are realistic and believable in order to maintain the authenticity of the story.
Once completed, do not forget to take one line to describe the lesson you learned from the situation you have mentioned. It will help you transition into your conclusion nicely. To conclude, briefly mention how Chevening will help you on your way to achieving your goals and becoming a leader.
A few words of advice:

  • Use formal English. Don’ts and can’ts are not allowed.
  • Express your thoughts in a concise and clear manner. Do not be wordy.
  • Use words efficiently to keep your word count in check.
  • Finally, proofread. You cannot proofread your essay enough. Edit it and keep rereading it every 3-4 days. This is really important because every time you read your essay after a break, you will be able to look at it from a fresh perspective and see mistakes and identify problem areas that you could not before. Being in that frame of mind will also help you come up with better ways to write your examples or improve the existing ones.