Thinking strategically II

Given the university and scholarship application season, I thought we could discuss applying strategic thinking towards the application process. This could also be useful pointers for job applications. If you need more help, feel free to reach out for career-coaching of course!

Just to distill it down to a quick list of steps to think through:

  1. Consider what is your long-term goal or target and why
  2. Consider how you connect the programme you are applying, to that long-term target, explain how
  3. Ask yourself who are the other people vying for the university places or scholarship slots – what can be a differentiator for you
  4. Put yourself in the shoes of the evaluators of those applications – what are their interests, how do you think they select candidates, what will catch their attention

Long-term Goal

I always explain that this is the logical end of a trajectory you are on. It is not necessary where you will land eventually. And it does not matter whether it can land or not. Being reasonable or outrageous isn’t the point here. It is about extrapolating the path you’re taking to an end point. It needs to be something you convince yourself of.

It can be taking the form of a career, a lifestyle, an activity you get to do regularly and so on. If the logical outcome of what you are about to embark on isn’t to your liking then what is the point of doing it? So you have to consider why you want this as well.

The Programme

Whatever you are applying for must match that long-term goal. If you are applying to a music school you can’t be telling them you want to be a professional wakeboarder. It is just part of telling a story that is compelling, that draws people to desire to help you achieve your goal. When you clearly articulate how the programme serves you; then you’re activating the staff of the programme to see the impact they can potentially make by having you on board.


As much as I don’t want to think about this, there are others applying for places and ‘competing’ with you. At some point, there isn’t really an objective sense of who is perfect for the programme. Because the rubric is subjective to begin with. So we need to consider how they contribute to the pool of accepted candidates if they do get in; and how can you be differentiated from that competition, so that you’re not just pitted against them on simple, obvious attributes.

Evaluators’ interest

We can go back to thinking about what are really the interests of the evaluators in a practical sense. They might want to be entertained by your application; they might want to be surprised. They are interested in reading a good story and be invited to allow their decision to supplement that narrative in a beautiful way. So how is your application going to do that for them?