Firstly, for anyone reading who has no clue about the Gold Scholarship Programme and what we do, here's a brief overview. As a Gold Scholar, you complete 50 hours volunteering, attend networking, personal development, and skill-building sessions and other events set up by the Programme. I believe they ask very little from us, for how much we receive in return. As part of all this, we receive a £5000 bursary each year (not inc. placement year) which is to help support you during your studies.
For anyone who is wondering who I am: I am a first-year studying Management at the University of Bath. I have been lucky enough to be a receipt of the Suzanne Admiraal scholarship connected with the Gold Scholarship Programme.
What I got from my first year as a Gold Scholar:
- My Mentor
The University of Bath has one of the best and most involved alumni I have ever met, and the numerous connections they have are amazing. As part of the Gold Scholarship Programme, we attend networking events, where we meet current staff, alumni, and people from industry: the type of people you would never get to meet unless you were introduced or put in the same room. They give you the means and you have to put the work in to start building your network.
I was lucky enough to be introduced to my current mentor Neil Weaver. Over the past few months, we've have been sharing conversations about what interests me in terms of business. I really needed help with discovering what did I like and dislike in my previous jobs. This is all to help me in my journey to find a placement. Alongside this, Neil has given me insight into what a career in the retail industry is like, what brands are growing, and what job roles there are in the industry currently. The biggest thing I have taken from our conversations so far is the encouragement and support towards finding what may interest me for my placement year. I had previously worked in the retail industry and speaking to someone who has made a career in it really opens your eyes to what else is out there. This has put me in a better position for looking for my placement in the upcoming months.
But the biggest thing the Gold Scholarship Programme has taught me is don’t just take, take and take: building a secure and useful network is all about a two-way relationship. I find it useful to give my perspective to questions adults may have: the more we share viewpoints, the better understanding you'll begin to develop. I hope in the years to come to continue to grow who I am mentored by, and who else would like to hear from me.
- Summer Opportunities
Around February, we attended development sessions on what other students have managed to achieve during the summer to help generate some ideas for ourselves. The biggest thing I have realised is that the work we do in the program immensely supports any application you fill out, and sometimes can give you a foot in the door.
I was lucky enough to be hired by CCUSA to be a camp counselor in Canada. Now due to Corona-virus, I'm not sure whether that'll go ahead. But if it does, this will be such an amazing experience: I will be able to gain international work experience, develop my leadership skills through teaching, and be out of my comfort zone working and living in a place I’ve never been before.
Another thing to note, is we are lucky enough to receive the financial support we do, but the GSP also fundraises to help us receive more financial support to be able to aspire to do anything. This just opens up our opportunities of what we can do, with no barriers. This fund is called the 'Gold Scholarship Opportunities fund'
If you're still struggling with what to do after hearing about what other students have done, have a look at your emails: that's where I heard about CCUSA and where they were holding a talk about the program. Otherwise, think about what you've already done and seen what you may be missing. For me, I didn't want to go home and do the same type of work again. So I ventured to work abroad. Think outside the box, and remember there's no harm in applying and seeing where it gets you.
- Blogging Opportunity
Recently, I was asked by the University to write blog posts for them. I thoroughly enjoy being an Outreach Ambassador, and this is just another way that I hope to inspire and reach students who may want to receive advice about everything to do with student life. I loved writing during school, and I am honored to be trusted to write about the University. Currently, my main focus is everything I've done from participating in 'On track to Bath', applying to Bath, and what I’ve achieved in my first year. This is a really easy way of promoting yourself: I am using this as a way of showing evidence of my activities as an ambassador because saying you are is one thing, but actually showing your efforts is another. I plan to share my articles on my LinkedIn profile to help raise awareness of the things I am speaking about but also showing I am an active member of the University.
- What do I use the money towards?
The financial part of the scholarship is there to ensure that you don’t need to stress or overwork yourself trying to financially support yourself during your studies. It allows you to focus on coursework and extra curriculum activities, as well as your personal development. But you may struggle to find a good use for the money. It's important to put it towards useful things you may not have been able to afford to do before.
What I would recommend working out how much money you'll have after bills, rent, etc in the last semester and then look at what you could use the remainder for. If you are like me and have already got a lot of work experience under your belt and you want something different on your CV, looking into what else you can do during summer could be the perfect opportunity. Whether that’s a summer internship, work/volunteer abroad, or studying abroad. Anything to develop the personal skills you should utilize.
I have mentioned previously I have been lucky enough to be hired by CCUSA to work in Canada. The biggest thing for you to do is put aside a little bit of money to help fund your plans during summer. Before you may have gone on holiday, or relaxed with friends. But this is the perfect time in your career to utilize the free time you have to add to your CV. This is vital to keeping your profile competitive before placement applications begin.
When you first become a Gold Scholar you're put into peer groups with your other scholars. If you are lucky enough you could be put forward to lead your scholar group for the year. This role involves keeping your peers up to date with things needed to be done, helping them with finding volunteering hours and organize and run meetings. It’s a simple and easy way to show leadership skills in your CV during your time at university.
Recently I used the skills I have developed during the GSP to support my application to receive one of six BP Women in Leadership awards, where you nominate yourself and show how you have actively been working on developing yourself and your peers over the years.
- Building my network
Everyone goes on about how much employers look at LinkedIn, but what they forget to mention is you need to be actively posting, looking at others' posts and communicating with your connections.
The GSP provides training on how best to use LinkedIn in Year 2, but I thought I get an early start by writing small posts about achievements, things I've completed and also sharing my connections' posts when appropriate. Alongside, posting things that interest me, this is one way you can show employers and others what type of person you are rather than just saying you're interested in a particular area.
The best thing about this is as a Gold Scholar you do a lot of various things that you can speak about no matter how big or small. So write about them! No matter how silly you may feel, people want to see what you're doing. I have been fortunate enough to be continuously supported by members of staff, alumni and the people I've met through networking events, who share my posts and help further my network.
Recently, I was contacted by a member of staff from the University, who asked me to re-post one of my posts in the School of Management LinkedIn group. This was an honour as I was told I would be the first student to post in the group. This is one way I can build a good working relationship with my department in exchange for advice and connections. As well as building a good reputation! It can be hard to stand out and be remembered amid the 1000's of students. So don't be afraid to make yourself known. This really helps when asking for references or being put forward for events.
For me, the volunteering aspect of the GSP was never about just getting it over and done with. As soon as we saw the type of things other students have done, I knew I wanted to have a focus with all my volunteering. This year's focus was on working with children.
I have been a mentor working with a student from one of IntoUniversity's centers. I hope to continue to work with them with the same or other students over the next few years. This was a more one-on-one teaching and support programme, where the student and I would set development targets, whilst also aiming to increase their awareness of higher education.
I am enjoying working as an Outreach Ambassador for the University. This was important for me as I had participated in one of the University's outreach programs, which helped me get into the University as well as contributing to my application for bursaries and scholarships such as the GSP. I really wanted to give back the support I had received from previous ambassadors.
I believe working with children is one of the best ways to learn how to teach, keep people engaged and learn how to be patient. I hope to be a manager someday, and as part of my own personal development, I want to learn how to work with people in any way I can.
What am I looking forward to?
Well, what a crazy year it's been. However, it's times like these that its important to reflect on what you've achieved over the past year. I am really looking forward to future networking events as I feel this year's experience has better prepared me to attend more. I am also excited to hear about how we should be managing our LinkedIn profiles and advice on placements. It's vital for me to be an even more active member of the University next year as I'm applying for placements for my third year.