The Power Of Preparation; Grace Shares How She Got Into University Of Oxford With a Full Scholarship
Updated: Apr 15, 2019
Scholar: Grace Mzumara.
Undergraduate Course: Medicine and Surgery
Undergraduate University: Malawi College of Medicine
Graduate Course and University: International Health and Tropical Medicine, University of Oxford, St Edmund College
I studied for a Bachelor in Medicine and Bachelor in Surgery (MBBS) at the Malawi College of Medicine. Academically, I did well in some parts and struggled in others. My worst time was failing an exam in my final year, which pushed my studies back six months. It was painful but it made me reflect on what I really wanted to get out of my life and my potential. One of my lecturers used to say that as much as we were being trained to serve Malawi, we had to aim to be internationally competent. That perspective got me thinking about how I could prove that I could compete on a world stage and that’s how I decided to start looking into post graduate studies.
I graduated from med school in February 2016 and started my 18 month long internship the next month. The internship allows doctors to experience and understand the depth of responsibility in being your patients’ first point of contact. My plan was to get into a post graduate program in September of 2017 so I used my internship time to get some applications started.
My plan was firstly, to use my internship experience to figure out issues in the health system that I was interested in working on. Secondly, to get into the practice of writing and improving my writing with each application I work on. I found out about the Beit trust scholarship about a week to the deadline and I remember frantically running from work to mail my application. I knew I wasn’t going to get it that year, but that moment was important for me because it gave me a sense of what scholarship application questions to prepare for and, it gave me a structure of a list of schools to apply to in the next year. Thankfully, that list, included the University of Oxford.
In 2017, I wrote my IELTS in March, ready for UK applications which open in September. I looked at scholarships a few friends had gotten and prepared for them. My plan was to find a scholarships and programs, apply, forget, and move on to the next one.
I got an offer from Taipei Medical University but I didn’t get a scholarship. I didn’t make it to interviews for the Beit trust, the Chevening, the commonwealth scholarships, and hadn’t received any positive feedback from two schools I applied to, and one where I merely sent an inquiry. Then a friend of mine, made it to the University of Oxford and told me to look up Youtube videos on writing essays for graduate study applications. This was the first time for me to see that getting into Oxford was an actual possibility. I had already started my application because I had it on my list. But after watching the videos, I decided to change everything and start all over.
When watching Youtube, I took notes and wrote up a structure of questions I needed my essay to answer and themes of skills I needed my essay to demonstrate. I researched post-graduate courses thoroughly and chose one that best described my current qualifications and interests. I used that method to apply to the University of Oxford, the London School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Wolverhampton. The website, ‘Scholarship Positions’, helped me look up program and school specific scholarships which I sent along with my applications. This included the Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Leadership and scholarship program.
In February 2018, I got my acceptance to Oxford to study International Health and Tropical Medicine and, after interviews, was granted a scholarship from the Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Leadership and Scholarship program in May 2018. I also got offers to the London School of Hygiene and tropical Medicine to study Tropical Medicine and International health, and to the University of Wolverhampton, to study Medical Sciences Haematology on the condition of doing the pre-masters course.
I have a few main lessons for anyone trying to get into post graduate studies. Firstly, you need a good network of friends that support you with skills and great advice. Secondly, just get started. Get your IELTS if you need it and start researching programs and scholarships. Always explore the funding page of the program and university you are applying to because the options presented are usually well tailored to both the program and the applicant in question.
Thirdly, establish good rapport with at least three references, lecturers you can rely on with an official email. If you’re going to send a couple of applications, you need people you can rely on to respond on time, all the time.
Fourthly, ‘Youtube’ is your friend. Look at courses, schools, programs, find out what life is like where you want to go so that you structure your essay and interview responses to fit that field as much as possible. Lastly, never send the same application twice, even for the same course. You need to evolve every time and structure yourself to reflect the person that course is looking for.
To conclude, the University of Oxford has a great post-graduate scholarships program with scholarships to apply for right from the application portal. Applications received by the January deadline are automatically considered for scholarships upon receipt of departmental offer. The Oxford Weidenfeld and Hoffmann leadership and scholarship program is life changing in its approach to leadership training. It is focused on moral philosophy, enterprise training and on giving scholars a family of friends and mentors within the scholarship. The scholarship offers amazing opportunities to engage with leaders in Oxford, the UK and beyond and shape its scholars to think critically about the solutions we design for the world we live in today. To anyone applying, I hope this has given you some hope and direction for where ever you hope to be.
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