Eszter Kabos (Hungary, MPhil Economics, Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann-Sackler) returned to the Trust to talk about her experience applying for the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust Scholarships and Leadership Programme at the University of Oxford. Eszter is currently completing an MPhil in Economics at Oxford.
How did you hear about the Scholarship?
I learned about the Scholarship through the Graduate Admissions and the Graduate Fees and Funding website at the University of Oxford. This is also where I searched for all scholarships. The University has a convenient search engine where you can give your home country and the course you are applying for to get a list of funding schemes you are eligible for. The Weidenfeld Hoffmann Scholarship was not well known in my country so i did not know any Alumni to speak to about it. However, the Trust has relaunched their website with more information about the Scholarship, Leadership Programme and the Alumni Network.
What was the application process like?
I had to fill in a separate application form for the Scholarship. The form asked for some basic information, previous employment and 4 short essays. The 4 essay questions had to be answered in less than 200 words, which means that it didn’t take a lot of time and planning to answer. However, these were on my motivation for applying to my course, my career plans and objectives after Oxford, outlining a challenge in my country and a personal challenge I have overcome. I think the questions were well-rounded and helpful for me to think through my motivation and how my education fits in with my own goals and my country’s interests. The form for the WHT Scholarship had to be sent in with the Oxford application (by early January deadline). I was admitted to my course at Oxford in mid-March. After this, there was an online interview for the scholarship in mid-May and I was informed about the decision within a week after the interview.
Did you need to ask for recommendation letters?
No recommendations were needed in my case.
What advice would you give on the essay questions?
The essay questions for the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust programme are short. I wrote what I felt was important to me and tried to connect the dots in my life about how I got here to apply. I wrote about my country’s history and how that connects with my time at Oxford. I think it is very important that you have something to say not just about yourself but about the bigger picture of why or how receiving the scholarship will be useful for your community.
What about interview tips?
There was one interview which lasted about 30-45 minutes. It was organised in a very, very professional way and many people were sitting in. From that, it was obvious that the University and the Trust, take this scholarship seriously. I enjoyed the interview because we weren’t only talking about things that I wrote in my application but I was also given challenging questions on the spot and they pushed back on my answers regarding my country and region which was very interesting. I always enjoy answering specific questions more than just talking freely about a very broad topic. I felt that I was maybe wrong or could not defend my argument in one of the specific questions that regarded my country’s education system, so I felt after that I failed the interview because of this, but apparently, I haven’t so you don’t have to be perfect to get in, just try to be persuasive!
What sets the Weidenfeld Hoffmann Trust programme apart from other funding schemes?
This Scholarship very strongly concentrates on 1-year (and some 2-year) Masters students who do not want to become academics but rather want to make a change in their region – especially developing and emerging economies. If you want to set up your start-up straight after graduating or want to go (or go back!) to public service or politics immediately, this is your scholarship. I think what is special is that they focus on the training aspect much more than on the funding. You get leadership, business and philosophy training on issues such as liberty, justice and equality that is essential for any leader. There are also practical skills (CV writing, interview skills, public speaking), opportunities to take part in such as debating, organizing or attending conferences, networking and a focus on your emotional and mental well-being throughout your time at Oxford.
What was your educational and professional profile before applying for the scholarship?
I studied Maths and Economics at Cambridge University for my undergraduate Degree and here I am enrolled in the MPhil in Economics. (Most applicants study something a bit more applied like public policy or water management). I did not work before my MPhil. However, I volunteered in my local community at the Cambridge Hungarian Society, I was Deputy Leader for the European Girls’ Maths Olympiad’s Hungarian team and I was working as a Data Analyst and group leader for a Hungarian organisation as a volunteer. Besides this, I also completed a quantitative trading internship at Jane Street. Ultimately, I believe my volunteer and social enterprise experiences were more relevant to the Trust than my paid work.
Were there unexpected challenges in the application process?
The interview process and the questions. As I mentioned before, the questions were quite hard and specific. However, I was able to have interesting discussions about policy issues in Hungary – which was a surprise to me! The specificity of the questions and the level of interest and engagement from the interviewing team were also surprising. It was clear that the Trust’s board of advisers thoroughly considers the applicants they want to fund.
What were your impressions of the Scholarship when you arrived at Oxford?
Once I arrived at Oxford, I realised that one has to absolutely commit to attending the compulsory events (which are 1 week before first term starts in September), at the end of the first term and at the end of the last term. You should also have an interest in attending most non-compulsory events if you want to get the most out of your year at Oxford and the Leadership Programme. You will probably be interested in the programme if you have a mindset for public service or socially orientated business and a passion for contributing meaningfully in your country or region of the world.
Any final words of advice?
I just wanted to add that I believe I have grown a lot as a leader and have matured a lot from this year at Oxford and especially at the Weidenfeld Hoffmann Trust Scholarships and Leadership Programme. This was unexpected because I have spent 3 years at Cambridge before this. have met great, lovely, talented and driven people from all around the world (as fellow Scholars) which created a truly unique experience at Oxford.
WHT Wishers you were here! The Trust accepts applications in parallel with the University admissions timeline. You can apply here. #WHTWishYouWereHere