The ultimate guide to getting a Co-Op scholarship offer

Project Academy recently invited four of the Co-Op’s top performing fellows to speak to students. This is a compilation of the best tips, tricks and techniques gathered over the years to help you maximize your chances of getting a Co-Op scholarship at UNSW, UTS and Macquarie University.

What is a cooperative scholarship?

Co-Op Scholarships are prestigious scholarships that provide students with work placements awarded by the University of New South Wales, the University of Technology Sydney and Macquarie University.

These scholarships give high school graduates the opportunity to participate in three industrial internships during their undergraduate studies, supported by a stipend of up to $18,200 per year. Industry internships at top corporate firms give students the opportunity to gain invaluable work experience and professional networks from day one.

Phase 2: Submission

Written and video applications are your chance to win an interview.

 For the written part of the application:

Tip 1: Make the experience relevant

Think about all your experiences in the context of the scholarship you are applying for. The most important thing here is to demonstrate your interest in the field, which means framing your experience to show it. For example, if you are applying for a marketing scholarship, you can talk about something as simple as selling extra food in the school cafeteria.

If you’re applying for an information technology or information systems scholarship, you can talk about something like building and modifying your own Minecraft server if that applies to you. Look at what you’ve done in school and outside of school over the past few years and think about how those things could demonstrate your interest in your chosen field.

Tip 2: Make sure your device is working

Be sure to test your video and audio equipment several times before you begin. If possible, rent more professional audio or video recording equipment to ensure that the video is clear and the audio quality is high.

The last thing you want is for the Co-Op Office to hear you when they’re watching their hundredth video of the day – don’t give them a reason to kick you out before they hear you at all!

 Tip 3: Be yourself

Don’t be afraid to be unique. Most candidates will have combined experience as a School Captain, Prefect or SRC. Find something that sets you apart. As mentioned, one of the panelists talked about modifying his own Minecraft server to demonstrate his interest in the technology.

Another example of something unique could be growing an online community and experimenting with digital marketing to generate interest in marketing. If the experience answers the question and is relevant to what you’re applying for, don’t worry about it being too unique. Chances are, the person reading the applications has already seen hundreds of applications from school prefects, so your unique experience will stand out in comparison.

Tip 4: Put your best foot forward

Assume the role of a Co-Op officer marking your application. Thousands of applications are submitted to the Co-Op Office each year. This means that at this stage they are looking for easy ways to weed you out to reduce the number of interviews they need to conduct. Make sure you stick to word/character limits, use correct grammar and punctuation, and answer each question at a high level while sounding interesting. 

Tip 5: Proofreading is a must

Make sure you proofread your documents, get other people to help you proofread your documents, and maintain a good version control system for each one. For example, don’t name each paper “Final”, “Final 1”, “Final 2”, etc. Also, make sure you are sending your answers to the correct scholarship.

Don’t accidentally put ‘UTS’ in a UNSW scholarship application, for example, as the questions are similar and you may be tempted to copy answers from another application. These messes will kill your chances, no matter how great your app is otherwise.

Tip 6: Always use the STAR method

Make sure you answer the question as concisely as possible. The easiest way to do this is to use the “STAR” technique — Situation, Task, Action, Result. Begin by giving a quick overview of the situation and providing basic background information.

Next, describe the task that arose from the situation or complication. There can be several options that you can use to resolve the situation.

Then describe what steps you took to resolve the situation and give the reader enough context to understand what you did. Finally, explain the outcome of your action and the impact it had on the situation as a whole. Try to be very specific here because what matters is the result of what you tried to do and whether it was successful.

Tip 7: Practice, practice, practice!

Record yourself answering the question a few times to get used to the camera and watch it again. If you watch how you speak a few times, even though it can be annoying, you may notice little quirks like a tendency to look down or fidget with your fingers, which you don’t want to show during a conversation.

This will also be helpful in understanding what idiosyncrasies you may have before the interview, as you will likely have similar nervous habits in both situations. 

Stage 3: Interview

At this stage, your job is to keep your name in your interviewer’s mind. Most often, you will be interviewed by a professor from the university and a representative of the sponsoring company. 

Tip 8: don’t lie

Be your true self and don’t lie. It’s really easy to see through lies when you’re talking to someone in person. One of the panelists shared an experience where interviewers asked about one specific experience listed on a written application and continued on that topic of conversation for 30 minutes! If they find out that you might be lying, they will ask more questions and give you more reasons to slip up. Don’t give interviewers a reason to catch you lying by not lying at all – you’ll do much worse under pressure.

Tip 9: Practice your interview skills

Talk to a mirror and ask a friend or family member to mock the conversation with you to get used to the environment. Consider filming yourself answering interview questions and re-watching these videos to see where you might have any nervous quirks, such as frequently looking to one side or shaking your hands or using too many catchphrases in your speech , such as “um” or “like”.

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