Project Academy recently invited four of the highest performing Co-Op scholarship recipients to speak to students. This is a summary of the best tips, tricks and techniques accumulated over the years to help you maximise your chances of achieving a Co-Op scholarship at UNSW, UTS and Macquarie University.
What is a Co-op Scholarship?
The Co-Op scholarships are prestigious scholarships that provide students with work placements awarded by the University of New South Wales, University of Technology Sydney and Macquarie University. These scholarships give high school graduates the opportunity to partake in three industry placements during their university study while being supported by a scholarship award of up to $18,200 per year. Industry placements at top corporate firms gives students the opportunity to gain invaluable work experience and professional networks from day one.
UNSW offers Co-Op scholarships for:
- Accounting and Business Management
- Actuarial Studies
- Finance and Banking
- Business Information Systems
- Commerce Information Systems
- Computer Science
- Software Engineering
- Chemical Engineering
- Chemical Product Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Electrical Engineering and Communications
- Environmental Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Mining Engineering
- Petroleum Engineering
- Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy
- Advanced Mathematics
- Data Science and Decisions
- Materials Science and Engineering
You can find out more about each program here.
UTS offers Co-Op scholarships for:
- Information Technology
Macquarie University offers Co-Op scholarships for:
- Actuarial Studies and Professional Practice (Honours)
- Professional Accounting and Professional Practice
You can find out more about each program here.
How Do You Get A Co-op Scholarship?
This guide will help you maximise your chances of receiving an offer to this prestigious program. All Co-Op application processes occur in three main stages:
Stage 1: Preparation
The first stage to preparing for the Co-Op scholarships is making sure you have researched Co-Op, know the application deadlines and have the appropriate extra-curricular activities.
Tip 1: Know Your Deadlines
Make sure you know when scholarship applications are due in context of when your exams are. Note that UTS Co-Op scholarship applications open and close much earlier than that of UNSW and Macquarie University. Remember that you will have less time to prepare for your written application if it is due close to exam time. Start as early as possible and make sure your drafts are ready well before they are due.
Tip 2: Gain Some Experience
Think ahead and see everything as a stepping stone. As a part of the Co-Op application process, you will be asked about experiences you have had, so make sure you try new things and use those experiences as talking points when application time comes. You don’t need to be an expert in the field you’re applying for, but something framed to demonstrate interest in that field, or even more general experiences such as leadership, will help.
Tip 3: Don’t Underestimate Co-Op
Understand how Co-Op scholarships work and make sure it is something that you are excited about. A very compelling part of the scholarship is a yearly payment of $18,200 (which is set to increase from next year). However, it is important to remember that you will also be working full time at three different companies, for 6 months each, while studying. It is these companies that are paying for your scholarship so they will be expecting an enthusiastic student on their team. Make sure that balancing work and study is something you want to do and that working at these corporate companies excites you.
Tip 4: One Application Only
Think about what you want to do and don’t apply to everything. You can apply for more than one Co-Op scholarship, even at the same university, however you can only submit one application per university. Furthermore, the people reviewing your application will notice if you are applying for a lot of different programs just for the sake of it. Find out which one (or two) you are truly passionate about and put all your effort into those, rather than spreading yourself out too thin and looking like you don’t care about any of them. The Co-Op Office want to hire passionate students, not desperate students.
Stage 2: Submission
The written and video application submissions are your opportunity to win yourself an interview.
For the written part of the application:
Tip 1: Make Experiences Relevant
Think about all your experiences in the context of the scholarship that you are applying for. The most important thing here is to demonstrate your interest in the field, which means framing your experiences to show that off. For example, if you are applying for the marketing scholarship, you could talk about something as simple as upselling extra food at the school canteen. If you’re applying for an information technology or information systems scholarship, you could talk about something like building and modifying your own Minecraft server, if that applies to you. Take a look at what you have done in the past few years, both at school and outside of school, and think about how these things might demonstrate your interest in your chosen field.
Tip 2: Be Yourself
Don’t be afraid to be unique. Most candidates will have common experiences such as school captain, prefect or SRC. Find something that will set you apart. As mentioned before, one of the panelists talked about modifying his own Minecraft server to demonstrate his interest in technology. Another example of something unique might be growing online communities and experimenting with digital marketing to demonstrate an interest in marketing. As long as the experience answers the question and is relevant to what you are applying for, don’t be afraid of it being too unique. Chances are, the person reading applications has already seen hundreds of applications from school prefects, so your unique experience will stand out in comparison.
Tip 3: Put Your Best Foot Forward
Put yourself into the shoes of the Co-Op officer, who will be marking your application. Each year, thousands of applications are submitted to the Co-Op Office. This means that, at this stage, they are looking for easy ways to cull you 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 every question to a high standard while sounding interesting. You never know which answer they will read in detail. Give them a reason to want to meet and interview you.
Tip 4: Proof-Reading Is A Must
Make sure you proofread your documents, get other people to help proofread your documents and keep a good system of version control for each one. For example, don’t name each document “Final”, “Final 1”, “Final 2” etc. Also, make sure that you are submitting the responses to the right scholarship. Don’t accidentally put “UTS” in an application for the UNSW scholarship, for example, as the questions are similar and you might be tempted to copy over answers from another application. These mess-ups will ruin your chances, no matter how great your application is otherwise.
Tip 5: Always Use The STAR Method
Make sure you answer the question while being as succinct as possible. The easiest way to do this is using the ‘STAR’ technique — Situation, Task, Action, Result. The Co-Op office doesn’t have a lot of time to go through applications, so make sure questions are answered. Start by giving a quick overview of the situation at hand, providing background information on the context. Next, describe the task that has arisen from the situation or complication. This could be a few options you are able to take in order to resolve the situation. Then, describe what action you took to solve the situation, providing enough context for the reader to understand what you did. Last, explain the result of your actions and the impact this had on the situation as a whole. Try to be very specific here as the outcome of what you tried to do, and whether it was successful, is important.
For the video part of the application:
Tip 6: Make Sure Your Equipment Works
Make sure you test your video and audio equipment a few times before starting. If possible, borrow more professional audio or video recording equipment to ensure the video is clear and the audio quality is strong. The last thing you want is the Co-Op Office straining to hear you as they watch their hundredth video of the day — don’t give them a reason to cull you before they even hear you out!
Tip 7: Practice, Practice, Practice!
Record yourself answering the question a few times to get used to the camera and to look over again. If you rewatch yourself talking a few times, as uncomfortable as that may be, you might notice small quirks like a tendency to look down or fiddle with your fingers, which you don’t want to show during the interview. This will also be useful in understanding what quirks you might have ahead of the interview, as you are likely to have similar nervous habits in both situations.
Stage 3: Interview
At this stage, your job is to keep your name in the minds of your interviewer. You will most typically be interviewed by a professor from the university and a representative from the sponsor company.
Tip 1: Don’t Lie
Be your authentic self and don’t lie. It is really easy to see through lies when you are talking to someone in person. One of the panelists shared an experience where the interviewers asked about one particular experience mentioned in the written application, and continued on this topic of conversation for 30 minutes! If they detect that you might be lying, they will ask more questions and give you more reasons to slip up. Don’t give the interviewers a reason to catch you lying by not lying at all — you will be much worse at it when you’re under pressure as well.
Tip 2: Practice Your Interview Skills
Talk to a mirror and get a friend or family member to mock interview you, so that you get used to the environment. Consider filming yourself answering interview questions, and re-watch these videos to identify where you might have any nervous quirks, like looking to one side a lot or jittering your hands, or too much filler speech in your speaking, such as “um” or “like”.
Tip 3: Be Ready For Tough Questions
Prepare for the hard questions. Show your confidence and commitment when answering them. For some highly technical, tough questions, it is okay to say you don’t know the answer if that is the case. However, you will more likely be asked logic-based curveball questions which test for your way of thinking more than the answer you arrive at, which you should learn to answer. For example, if they ask something like ‘how many windows are there in Sydney?’, take a moment to pause and think about the logic. Explain your entire thought process to the interviewer, as they are looking to test your ability to reason and draw conclusions under pressure.
It doesn’t matter if your final answer is wrong — no one really gets the right answer to these. Another technique is to think about this in context of a real business problem, such as the windows question being a market sizing exercise for your new window-replacement business. By putting it into context, you will be able to think about it much clearer.
Tip 4: Your Interviews Are Human Too
Try to get to know your interviewers. Even if you don’t get a chance to ask anything during the interview, at the end they will ask if you have any questions for them. Make the most of this time to be memorable and to really ask about your interviewer. For example, questions like, “What got you into this industry?” are a good place to start, before asking follow-up questions based on their answers.
One trick is to ask to add your interviewers on LinkedIn at the end of the interview, showing your interest in that career path regardless of Co-Op while also showing your proactive nature since most students won’t even have LinkedIn. At the end of the day, remember to be professional, but memorable.
That’s it! Good luck for your applications and interviews, both for Co-Op and anything else you choose to apply for.