Wednesday 9 January 2019

How I got the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship at McGill University for Postgraduate Studies

Memoir of a Mastercard Scholar at McGill- Hammed Akande

 Written by: Hammed Akande

Mastercard Foundation Scholarship at McGill University for Postgraduate

My name is Hammed Adedamola Akande, and I am a 2018 Mastercard Foundation Graduate Scholar at McGill University, Canada. I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Wildlife Management (First Class Honors) from Osun State University, Nigeria. Please use this link to view our page

I’m honored to be invited to share my story with you, hopefully, it helps and motivates someone out there.

Brief information about Mastercard Scholarship and how I get to hear about it

MasterCard Foundation Scholarship (hereinafter referred to as MCF) is a Scholarship for African students. It’s for academically talented but economically disadvantaged students (See paragraph before the conclusion on this financial issue).

Sometime in 2013 during my undergraduate days, I was checking the internet on a cool night looking for scholarship opportunities, and I saw the advert of MCF. Since then, I have been following MCF and as an active member of the Mastercard Foundation Scholarship thread on Nairaland Forum. I wanted to apply to study at the University of Arizona and University of Michigan, but I could not complete the application for reasons I can’t even remember--perhaps they required a standardized exam I could not afford at that time. I resolved to keep track of the scholarship and promised myself to apply to the MCF scholarship for my master’s program when I am done with undergraduate studies in Nigeria. With time, I garnered experience on the requirement of MCF and how best to approach the application. Initially, the MCF was supporting only undergraduate applicants, but luckily for me, MCF started accepting masters application sometime in 2014/2015. I completed my first MCF application in the 2017/2018 session--I could not complete my application in  2016 because I could not get my transcript on time. I applied to both the University of British Columbia and McGill University and was accepted at McGill University but was rejected from the University of British Columbia.

My Strongest Motivation for Mastercard Foundation Scholarship

MCF--to the best of my knowledge--are interested in students that have shown strong leadership potential and are academically talented. I am the founding chairman and pioneer National President of “Nigerian Society for Environmental Conservation- NSEC”. NSEC is a society of conservation students, scientist, and professionals, which started since 2015. This society is one of the largest (probably the largest) student conservation body in Nigeria with members all over the six Nigerian geopolitical zones. I have also attended many conferences nationally and internationally and published in peer-reviewed journals. In addition to my professional and leadership experience, I graduated in the top 1% of my class, which made me believe I was qualified to apply for the MCF Scholarship and thus my motivation.

How did you make your essays to stand out?

There is no general rule or answer to this question. I believe what works for you might not work for others--so uniqueness is the key here. Try your best to describe convincingly why you should be considered for the scholarship. While writing my essays, I discussed all my professional experiences, from founding a National NGO to organizing two national conferences and many symposium and workshops, coordinating and leading delegates for an International Conference. I stated all awards achieved thus far. It is worth noting that myself (and a lady in my class) were the first students to graduate with a first-class degree from my department, and I stated this when completing the form. I discussed how my academic achievements have assisted me to build my career professionally, how it has motivated me to become a strong leader, how I assisted people by organizing free Maths and physics tutorials for 100 Level students in the University for five years and also how I did data analysis for researchers in my University. Basically, Scholarship organizations want to see and be convinced that you will be an asset and you are worth every penny they spend on you. You must be able to convince them that you are an exceptional student. I would say you should be free to brag about your achievements when writing your essays--since they are noteworthy achievements--but strive to remain humble in real life. If you don’t say it, they won’t know you deserve it. All efforts count including activities in a Church or a Mosque.

Please quantify your essays as much as possible. "I am the president of an NGO". Fine and good. But, why does it matter? Or why should we care? Let them know that you have organized a program that assisted over X people who may be children, youths, adults, women or the handicapped. Be sure to explain why and how your work is significant. Discuss like a researcher, Professors will read your essays. Let them know you have attended conferences and be sure to explain why it matters. Perhaps, you won a grant to conduct the research or present in the conference, and how people/community have benefitted in such a program (even if it is just 10 people).

Like I said in the introductory part, I had my Bachelors degree in Wildlife Management. I have always wanted to study wetland and greenhouse gas emissions, and its impact on biodiversity (bird, and others) and climate. Due to the flexibility of Bioresource Engineering department of McGill, I am studying M.Sc Integrated Water Resource Management (with focus on wetland ecosystem). Having taken some courses during my undergraduate days that qualify me admissible to the department (as evident in my student transcript), I was able to convince the departmental chair while writing my personal statement and I was nominated for the Mastercard scholarship. After my nomination, I submitted my admission document on January 15, 2018, and got my admission on January 25, 2018.

Mastercard Foundation Scholarship Selection criteria

If you have not volunteered for any organization, please do so. It really matters a lot and would go a long way to help your application, Your grades alone would not do you much good. Although MCF emphasizes a lot on community service--of course they want people that will develop Africa--you must also have good academic standings that will make you admissible to that MCF partner school (specifically true in the case of McGill). In McGill for example, McGill prioritizes high academic achievement to secure admission. This means, your grade, your other academic achievements such as publications and your leadership work will make you fit for this school. Grade and other Academic achievements for McGill admission, and Volunteer work majorly for MCF at McGill.

Of course, if you are an undergraduate applicant, you may not have much volunteer work which is quite understandable, and emphasis might be on your O’level results. But as a graduate scholar, you have more experience and are expected to have some volunteer experience.

MCF and the economically disadvantaged background issue

I would argue (of course in my opinion) that priority is not on how poor you are on the MCF scholarship. Rather than focusing on demonstrating how poor I was, I focused on why I deserved the scholarship. It should be noted that my tuition fee for five years (excluding other fees like feeding, accommodation) at Osun State University was N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) and I stated that when completing the form. I also used my mum's statement of account which had an inflow and outflow of money which was not too high and not too low and also included my own bank statement. It is worthy to note that 3 out of the 6 MCF graduate scholars here at McGill University had their Bachelors in the United States, and 1 of the undergraduate scholars had her A’level in the UK. Thus, if the poverty level was prioritized, they should not have been selected. I’m encouraging people to focus on why they deserve the scholarship and show all their achievements. If any scholarship organization will show financial pity on a nation, they will likely consider some East African countries and not West Africa (especially Nigeria, as they believe we are rich).


It has been a life changing experience here at McGill University, thanks to God, my family and the support of the Mastercard Foundation. I’m glad to be among the 6 M.Sc scholars selected throughout Africa for MCF scholarship at McGill University. McGill is proud to be a global school in the beautiful city of Montreal, home to more than 10,000 International students and ranked in the top best 40 Universities in the world and second in Canada after University of Toronto (QS University rating). I would encourage everyone to try and never lose hope. It is really worth the try. Lastly, diversify your chances, and don’t limit your scholarship search to one application. There are many fishes in the ocean, the more you applications you put forward, the better your chances of landing one of them. I wish you success.

N.B; The above write-up is my own opinion, and do not in any way reflect the opinion of MasterCard Foundation, McGill University, or any other organization affiliated with Mastercard or that I am affiliated with. Lastly, I declare no conflict of interest.

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  1. Thank you Hammed for sharing your success story .Congratulations

  2. Congratulations bro. I wish to share my testimony in similar fashion by God's grace.

  3. Thank you for sharing these tips. It is helpful. Congratulations for a great life ahead

  4. Congratulations Hammed! This was insightful to read.

  5. Nice one, I am motivated to carry on with my application

  6. Thank you Hammed, this is very inspiring.

  7. Thank you for this bro, It's helpful.

  8. Thanks for this guide. It's most helpful


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