“Hello, we are sorry to be sending you some disappointing news regarding your application to... Unfortunately, you have not been selected for the program.” A quick review of my emails will confirm that 30-40% of emails either contain the above quotation in exact words or like the above quotation, holds the same meaning: failure. On the other hand, emails with positive responses like admission and scholarship offers make up less than 5%. Yet, all but one of these positive responses was not good enough to be regarded as success, as most of them ended up in just partial scholarships. This is just a reflection of the struggle I went through to make my way to Scotland’s premier university; it was a real fight, a complete test of every conviction I stand by and an educative experience from which I learnt a lot. Before I came to Open Dreams, I was this hard-working boy who believed that with hard work, I could achieve anything by just simply being hard working. Of course, hard work is the principal prerequisite for success but at Open Dreams, I learnt that it takes more than hard work to succeed as an Open Dreams Scholar. Securing a Full-Ride Scholarship among other things requires you to believe strongly in yourself, to be extra hard-working, to have a strategy of your own, to have a perseverant attitude and to build a spirit of calmness in all circumstances.
On my way to the university of Edinburgh, one of UK's best
Believing in Yourself. “The body achieves what the mind believes”
As an Open Dreams Scholar, I guess this shouldn’t be much of a problem to you but it’s important you keep believing in yourself. During the course of your journey, there will be points where you may be tempted to feel insufficient but I urge you to always meditate on what motivates you to shun such feelings. Surround yourself with positive people who drive you to your full potentials. To achieve the final crown, it is extremely important that you never stop believing in yourself.
Setting the strategies. Open Dreams co-founders, Hans & Blaise (in the first two photos and part of the HALI Access Team in the last photo)
Hard Work and Sacrifice. “Hustle until you don’t have to struggle, then keep hustling to help those still struggling”
Everything has a price; the price we pay for different things may be different but at the end, we all pay a price for everything we achieve. As an Open Dreams (OD) scholar, hard work and sacrifice is the price you must pay to secure a full ride scholarship. Compared to the value of a full ride scholarship, the amount of work you would do is nothing but you must work real hard to secure one. You must put in your best and sacrifice all available resources to secure excellent SAT/TOEFL scores and excellent GCE grades (for high school students). You shouldn’t relent in anyway in securing good recommendations and applying diligently to as many opportunities as possible.
Open Dreams co-founders, Cristina & Hans visit Cameroon
As an OD scholar who was adequately prepared for the SAT during the summer academy, 1100/1600 should be your average score by now, if not, you must work extra hard to catch up. Your aim at the moment should be to consistently increase this score to about 1400/1600 by December when I suppose you would be taking the actual test. This should be your priority now even if you are a final year high school student. You can always make excellent GCE grades if you prioritize your GCE exams as from January. Until then, make sure you secure an excellent SAT score for it is the principal requirement for US-based colleges.
Your GCE A-levels exams is also very important, so, I urge you all who double as final year high school students to endeavor to secure excellent grades. I understand that the security at the ground is not the best. If others could study under similar unsecured atmosphere last year and scored 5As, I believe you can; just be courageous. The Cameroonian GCE, to the best of my knowledge, maintains its high standards abroad. For those of you aspiring to joint Muki Hoffman and I at the prestigious University of Edinburgh, strive for nothing less that 5As at you GCE A-Level exam for it is the principal requirement here besides a good score in your TOEFL.
Applying to full ride scholarship opportunities is the core of your activities at OD and it requires you to be fully committed and diligent. Be 100% focused when
filling any application for the least error or omission can be devastating. Learn to like essay writing and write essays that portray your uniqueness. Endeavor to always be ahead of deadlines; submitting applications earlier gives you a conducive stance and relaxation - and you are confident of your work before submitting. However, roughing over an application can be devastating, so always endeavor to maintain the balance and diligently complete your applications at least two weeks before deadline. Contact admission officers to build warm relationships while tracking your applications frequently. I can testify that contacting admission officers is crucial for success as it was the case with my admission into Michigan State University last year. While doing all of these, endeavor to reach out to your mentors and the OD team for assistance and strategic advice.
Work my friend, work until you get into that plane!
Scholars looking to the future with greater optimism
Strategy and Focus. “Without the right strategy and focus, it is almost impossible to succeed” “Why are you at Open Dreams (OD)?”
Your main purpose at OD is to get a full-ride scholarship and nothing less. Reviewing your activities daily to make sure that they fall in line with this purpose is crucial for your success. Use whatever strategy that works for you best; all roads lead to Rome but make sure you arrive Rome. Learn from others but have a strategy of your own and stick to it; it’s the end that matters. At some points you may be tempted to focus entirely on getting the best SAT scores, applying to the highest number of colleges, gaining admission into prestigious colleges which offer only partial colleges or none at all. By doing so, you may be thinking that the OD team would be pleased with you or in case of partial scholarship, complete it for you or worst still pay for your undergraduate education. Do not be deceived, the OD team maybe pleased with you for scoring the best score or whatever but nothing will change if you fail to secure a full ride scholarship. Scoring excellent scores at your tests and applying diligently to a good number of opportunities are good signs but you should, in no occasion, think that that is the end of the road. Comparison shouldn’t be much of a concern to you; do not be depressed when others do better than you or prideful when you do better than others; rather, strive to be better at all times. In no occasion, should you conceive the thought that OD will complete the funding for a partial scholarship for you; it is selfish considering the number of scholars that depend on OD’s support. It may also compromise OD sustainability. Also, I doubt if any of your families can complete the funding for a partial scholarship. As a general rule, your priority should be only full ride scholarship opportunities. It is your responsibility to research on such opportunities and share with your peers. The MasterCard scholarship opportunities should be your starting point; endeavor to apply diligently to all MasterCard scholarship opportunities. Strategize and remain focused.
Last day of Viktor Mark, pioneer Open Dreams fellow to Cameroon
Perseverance. “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”
As an OD scholar, giving up is simply not an option. Remember, you were selected among a group of extraordinary students; giving up would imply that the OD team didn’t do its job properly, which I would totally disagree. OD provides you with all the resources you need to succeed; the question of whether you do so or not or how soon you do so rests entirely on you. It would be very unfair for you to give up at any given point, given the sacrifices the OD Team puts in. I acknowledge the fact that the path to success for an OD scholar is a pretty rough one but like Mandela said, the greatest glory of living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall. You need to learn how to rise from any fall and step up your fight. Rejections would come in numerous ways; even up to five colleges can turn you down on the same day; that application which you have put in all you best and hope for a positive turnout may just be turned down. But, it takes just one “Yes” to be a victor so, don’t get fed up when the “Nos” keep coming; rather, draw lessons from them and do better. Perseverance, to me, is the main difference between a victor and a failure. Hard- working people fail but perseverant ones never fail. Failure to a perseverant person is only a means to an end but never an end.Persistence breaks resistance, they say.
Calmness. “Train your mind to be calm in every situation”
What happens when you open your inbox and find five rejection letters? Should you just let depression overwhelm you? On the other hand, what if it’s an invitation to an interview for shortlisted candidates or the scholarship offer letter itself? Should you just let pride overwhelm you? No, no and no, you should at all instance be calm. Your reaction to every situation determines the length of time you would probably use to succeed. If you are the type that become overwhelmed with depression anytime you fail or pride anytime you make little progress, you may have to spend more time than anticipated to succeed. As you apply to colleges, you would come to realize that colleges in different parts of the globe operate on different timelines; colleges from the West may made their decisions known to you at the same period when you are applying to opportunities in Africa, China, Turkey, and Russia. Your reaction to these decisions would determine your performance on the opportunities that you are working on. Be calm! I urge you to accept the loss, learn from it and move on in case of any rejection. Always be ready for any failure and open to accept the responsibility of one when it comes; but never be discouraged by any failure; rather, take it as a challenge and go the extra mile. Progress such as admission offer or invitation to interview for shortlisted candidates can be really tempting; with such progress, you may be tempted to think that it’s the end already but until you get on that plane don’t think it’s over, things can still take a U-turn. Caution my friend, be cautious when you make such progress and be extra hard-working especially when it comes to interviews because the least you do or say at this point determines your fate. Be calm and stick to the plan and shun any feeling of pride; pride indeed, comes before a fall.
Peer Encouragement. “Iron sharpens iron”
The quest to securing a full ride scholarship to study abroad is truly a tedious one; giving up would seem like the best option at many points. At these points, only an encouragement from a fellow scholar may be of help. Learn to encourage each other. Get the personal contacts of fellow scholars and check on them frequently to make sure you all are making progress. Endeavor to write congratulatory messages to peers when they make progress and encouraging messages to them when they fail to make progress. In your messages, always emphasize the purpose of your quest and never fail to encourage a fellow scholar who is going through tough times. That is the OD family spirit; we aim for the collective success of everyone. I myself would have been nowhere today without the constant encouragement from fellow scholars, especially Liyeuk Reynard; I thank them wholeheartedly. Lastly, the success of a fellow scholar shouldn’t in anyway make you feel depressed that you are left behind; we all have different paths and destinies. Rather, the success of a peer should drive you to work harder. We count on you all for your collective success and the success of Open Dreams.
I wish you all the best, and I hope to meet you at the top! Thanks.
Field out-reach in Cameroon - The Open Dreams Team
This writing is inspired by my three-year experience at Open Dreams and its contents are based entirely on the lessons I drew from my experience and those of fellow scholars. Hope you find it helpful.