In this student piece, current BPTC students who have received major scholarships from each Inn offer their advice on making the most of the application form.
Anna Chestnutt – Lincoln’s Inn
It’s the biggest Inn; it’s also by far the richest. What else do we know about Lincoln’s Inn?
The first important thing to know is that Lincoln’s Inn do not interview every applicant. In fact, they interview less than half of the applicants. It is really crucial at this stage to make your application stand out and secure your place at an interview.
The next important thing to know about Lincoln’s: their scholarships are not means tested. They are purely based on merit. Chambers also know this, so if you obtain a high amount they know you were an impressive applicant at interview.
Now, the form. The first thing you need to do is make sure you tick the right sections at the top. If you are awarded a major scholarship, you may also be awarded a Hardwicke entrance award. This means you will have your entry fee and BCAT fee reimbursed. It also means you dine for free when you’re studying the BPTC. Financially, it makes a huge difference. So, no matter what you do, make sure you tick that you would like to be considered for a major scholarship and the Hardwicke entrance award.
I won’t say much about what to actually write as everyone has different experience. Make sure, however, when writing about all of your fabulous experience, you link it back to why this will make you a good barrister. Think about the skills and attributes they are looking for and demonstrate them clearly. Don’t let your experience speak for itself, because it won’t.
If you mention something in your form, prepare to be grilled about it. I mentioned I enjoyed Tort and my favourite case was the Fairchild exception. I made sure I read the entire judgement before my interview, because I had mentioned it on my form. Sure enough, they asked my opinion on the case. If you aren’t thorough in your preparation, this will shine through.
Remember, you need to sign your form. This means printing it, signing it and rescanning. Bear this in mind if you’re completing your form close to the deadline.
Finally, congratulations for choosing the best Inn!
Prudence Beaumont – Gray’s Inn
It is important to know two things about Gray’s scholarship applications:
- Candidates are shortlisted; and
- They are based on merit rather than being means tested.
Shortlisting is advantageous if you look good on paper. Remember the interviews are only 15 minutes long so if you have a shining application, all you need to do in that limited time is show that you are as brilliant as your application hails you to be. This also means that you must be prepared and know your application inside and out. If shortlisted, revise you application, annotating it to consider potential areas that you could be asked questions about and prepare answers accordingly.
The value of merit-based scholarships is that they do not take account of your parents’ income. You are being judged on your individual value as a candidate. Do not foolishly assume that this means that all Gray’s scholarship holders are from wealthy backgrounds because that is simply not true. The additional value of a merit-based system is that all the scholarships awarded are of a large sum. Last year, the vast majority of scholarships awarded were for £15,000, £16,000 or £18,000, and none were for less than £10,000. This means that if you are seeking a scholarship to cover the extortionate BPTC fees then Gray’s Inn is worthy of consideration.
Stephanie Chen – Inner Temple
Receiving an Inner Temple scholarship to fund my BPTC has enabled me to pursue a career at the bar without the dreaded financial burden that the course generates. At this point when Christmas is still a couple of months away, it feels as though there is still plenty of time to contemplate scholarships and funding, after all, your course will not begin until next September and most people do not even know where they will be going to study. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The deadline for Inner Temple scholarship applications is imminent and this year it falls on the 6th November at 1pm – which is just over two weeks away!
To apply, you must create an online account and then from that point you have access to the application form. The form itself is divided into 4 sections (personal details, education, work experience and financial circumstances) and isn’t extremely long. Therefore, the earlier you start it, the better, as it will give you more time to fine tune your application before submitting it.
There is ample room to highlight your achievements, special interests and positions of responsibility at every stage of your academic career in the form, so use this opportunity wisely. A good proportion of the interview is based on the information you provide in your application and thus, it is important to use these parts of the form to really stand out. To do this I used capital letters to separate my different roles or achievements and then I elaborated further on each with a small paragraph.
The form then asks you to provide three examples of legal work experience and three examples which are non-legal. Remember to highlight the skills that each role has accentuated when you are describing the work. If you have a variety of experience, I would try and demonstrate this as the interview panel will appreciate the chance to talk about something different on the day of interview. In this section, there is also a component entitled ‘Proposals for Pupillage’; if you are one of the lucky people who knows exactly what they are going to do or where they are going, then obviously use this section to indicate as such. However, do not be afraid if you do not have anything to say here. I left that box blank and still received a Major Scholarship.
The final section asks for detailed accounts of your finances. Unless, you are to receive one of the named prizes, Inner Temple states that your financial situation will play a part in deciding how much money you will receive. As stated on their website, if this section is not filled in then, any award may be at a minimum level as they will assume sufficient finances are in place. Therefore, although this section isn’t compulsory, do try and fill it in as best you can.
As I’m sure you are aware if you are considering applying to Inner Temple, it is one of the inns that does interview every applicant and thus you may be considering throwing together an application last minute and planning to wow the panel at interview, when you have more time to prepare. Please remember, the interviews only last 15-20 minutes and not only is this time structured but quite often, the panel will have already chosen from your form what aspects they want to know more about. The application form really is the first step towards receiving an award, please give it the time it deserves.
Adam Gulliver – Middle Temple
As I’m sure you’ve realised from reading the accounts given above, Inns take different approaches with regards to the applications for BPTC scholarships. Middle Temple, like Inner Temple, interviews every candidate who applies for a scholarship. The application form is quite daunting. It’s 13 pages long. Some questions require you to devote only 250 words to a subject that you think you could write easily 1000 words on. At the same time near the end there is the dreaded ‘any other information you would like to provide in support of your application not covered elsewhere on this form’ which doesn’t even have a word limit. Considering that you’re going to get an interview anyway regardless of what you put down on the form (within reason I would expect) there is a temptation to avoid thinking too hard about what goes into it.
Please don’t do that.
To really appreciate how important the form is, you need to be thinking about the interview itself at this stage. Yes, it’s many, many months away at this stage but the application form is a deceptively huge part of the interview. When you walk into that room in the Ashley Building you’re going to get 12 minutes. And believe me when I say it will be 12 minutes. My panel didn’t seem happy about the fact that they were stuck to this time limit as it hindered the flow of the questions a bit, but they stuck to it and your panel will do the same. And the bulk of that 12 minutes will be spent discussing your application form. But then when you leave the interview your application form is part of the overall impression that you made on the panel. It’s therefore incredibly important and shouldn’t be overlooked.
The application form this year is generally the same as last year’s, albeit with a slightly different financial means form. Whilst Middle Temple scholarships are means tested you shouldn’t be too concerned about the financial means form at this stage as you are allowed to bring an amended version to the interview to account for any changes between now and then. What you need to be far more concerned about this stage is the merit that your application has. Broadly speaking, your merit is what will really get you the scholarship; your financial means is what decides how much it’s worth.
As I said before, the form is daunting. I won’t lie about that. It asks a lot of questions and the best way to approach each one is to consider them as a potential talking point. Therefore make sure that within the answer to each one you disclose something interesting that you’re capable of talking about should you be asked upon it. However the questions don’t cover everything you could possibly wish to talk about and that’s why there’s a section for any other information. I’d personally recommend that you use it to its fullest advantage. The form doesn’t specifically ask about positions of responsibility or other legal work experience for example, so why not throw it in? Mention anything that you think you’d like the panel to know about you that isn’t already obvious from the rest of the form.
The final point I want to make is in regards to the question that you would most like the panel to ask. There’s really no standard approach to this. One approach is to use it to tackle a weakness in your application. I’d say that’s as good approach as any as at least the weakness is being asked about on your terms during the interview, rather in some other kind of unexpected way. The best guidance though is to try and make it interesting and of course, be prepared for them to ask it. In my experience and the experiences of others I’ve spoken to, they’re going to ask this question…so make sure you can answer it!
Don’t forget that the deadline for a completed application form for all of the Inns is 4pm on Friday 6 November!
More details about the scholarships available from each can be found here: