Leadership: The Ultimate Key to Getting Scholarships


Getting a scholarship to continue your studies abroad requires more than just being book-smart. Scholarship providers usually look beyond academic achievements and seek for a particular quality in their scholarship awardees: leadership skill. In this article, a former mentor at Indonesia Mengglobal Mentorship Program, Shofa Ashilah Dariatna, elaborates what scholarship providers look for when assessing applicants’ leadership skill.


“I got accepted in some of the best universities in the world, but I failed to get the scholarships I applied to.”

The above statement constitutes an issue I have often heard from scholarship chasers. When you feel you can get the scholarships but you failed at the end of the day, sometimes it makes you question yourselves. You may wonder why you are not eligible, or even compare yourselves with other candidates who passed all the steps. Before trying to elaborate how scholarships are being judged, one thing to clarify is that scholarships are not awarded just to students with a 4.0 GPA.

Obtaining an unconditional acceptance letter from a university and obtaining a full scholarship are actually two very different things. While universities seek for the proof of your excellent academic background, scholarships always crave for something more. If I may convey in only a word, it is called ‘leadership’.

Scholarship providers will not invest their funds in just anyone. They look for people with great characters to be role models for others, one who can become a strong link in the chain of impact for society. They look for future leaders.

In this article, I would like to try to breakdown what are the characters that constitute leadership and why students who own a great leadership skill deserve scholarships.


1. Resilience

“People are afraid, and when people are afraid, when their pie is shrinking, they look for somebody to hate. They look for somebody to blame. And a real leader speaks to anxiety and to fear and allays those fears, assuages anxiety.”

-Henry Louis Gates, former leader of the African and American Research Institute at Harvard University.

Resilient people view themselves as a survivor, not a victim. When dealing with any problem, resilient people avoid to think that they are a victim of circumstance. They avoid thinking that when something bad occurs to them, it is caused by the deeds of others. Instead, they always look for ways to solve their problems by finding solutions and staying focused on positive outcomes. I am not saying that it is easy to be resilient. It needs struggle and willingness to get oneself up from the ground. Resilient people are aware of situations, are willing to adapt whenever change is needed, are flexible, and have the ability to cooperate with others.

2. Open-mindedness

Have you ever talked to somebody that never frowns at any strange topic of conversation? If you have, then you may consider that they have an open-minded character. The term open-minded is similar with ‘being non-prejudiced’ or ‘tolerant’. One of the most admirable traits of open-minded people is that they are good conversationalists. This is because they are great to talk to, you are not going to be ‘catfished’ nor unfairly berated when you deliver your thoughts in discussion. Open-minded people are willing to consider other perspectives even when they actually disagree with you. They are also mentally strong and optimistic, as they achieve their personal growth by learning new things and gaining insights from other people.

So what is the opposite of open-minded? Well, the literal answer is obviously close-minded, or we may say ‘dogmatic’. One of the example traits of this character is not receptive to other people’s ideas. It is very hard for close-minded people to accept other people’s opinion. They may even feel astonished at the questions of their interlocutors. Close-minded people often would only consider their own perspectives and viewpoints, especially when things they are passionate about are not valued as much as they expected.

3. Listening

Listening is the most important aspect of communication. Michael Papay, the CEO and Co-Founder of Waggl once wrote an article for HuffPost about the power of listening. He said that at its root, listening is the act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another person. A good listening skill would lead to a strong leadership, healthy relationships and thriving organizations.

If you Google-search quotes about the power of listening by the most successful people in the world, you will find similar words: listening makes other people feel that their opinions are valued, listening in an empowering way enhances relationships in a profound way, listening will resolve conflicts as you will emotionally connect with your interlocutors. Listening can result a powerful impact in society, as long as you do not listen only to reply.

4. Motivating

Motivating other people is not easy. Sometimes, when you try to motivate your friends who are in a bad situation, they reject all the suggestions you put forward to them because they think that you are not in the same position. In my experience in handling this kind of circumstance, I never suggest my friends to do things as a way out, instead I ask them what solutions they have tried to tackle their problems. If they said they have not done any, then I ask their permission whether I allow to offer them suggestions or not. I try to be very polite to them because I believe that motivating is not ordering people to do this and that, or to be like this and that, but helping them to see the light their eyes do not see.


If you take a look at articles about what scholarship providers are looking for in an awardee, they always generalize their points, such as good leadership and other special qualities like creativity and participation in social services. The requirements never specify exactly what type of candidate is eligible for the scholarships.

But in fact, they often look for the above-mentioned qualities in the answers you give during the interview sessions. Believe it or not, the judges (who usually includes psychologists) can easily conclude what type of person you are in less than 30 minutes. Your resilience will be judged by the questions asking how you encounter difficult situations. Your open-mindedness will be tested by weird questions they raise and they will easily judge the way you respond to it. Your listening habit is measured simply by waiting whether you interrupt them before they finish their questions. Finally, after you think you gave the best answers, the judges can see whether or not you could motivate others or being motivated by others.


University and scholarship applications to study abroad can be a challenging process. With Indonesia Mengglobal Mentorship Program, we hope to connect applicants with experienced mentors such as Shofa, who can guide them in preparing for their university application every step of the way.

 Application for Indonesia Mengglobal Mentorship Program 2020 is open until 15 May 2020. Click here for more information.


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