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In-Depth Review: How to Succeed at Writing Applications

This course from the University of Sheffield will be your personal guide to creating a stellar application.

Katie Casserly, lead instructor

I got to know about FutureLearn, a digital education platform that gives you access to courses that span a broad range of topics from the world’s leading universities and brands, when I enrolled for a course on policy-making. During my interaction with the course, I became smitten by the professionalism and expertise of the course moderators, and the effective delivery of the course. Hence, I decided to check for other courses that appeal to my interest.

As a recent graduate seeking for career and academic opportunities, I have always wanted to master the art of personal branding and communication to enhance my chances of securing opportunities. Luckily, I found a flexible short course with the caption, “this free three week course will help you produce a perfect CV, application and online profile when applying for a job or course”. I was so excited that I enrolled immediately.

I believe the first step when you enrol for a course is to set a learning plan and intention. This was my learning intention:

Through this course, I hope to improve my professional communication skills, master the art of being professional in my tone and mannerism in writing. This will help me achieve my career and academic goals.

In my perspective, How to succeed at: Writing Applications is a course that will help you to create stellar applications, understand personal branding, and improve your professional communication skills to attain career and academic goals.

The Course

How to Succeed at: Writing Applications seeks to enhance your chances of success in getting a job or securing a place in your chosen course of study.

The course is written by experts from the Careers Service at the University of Sheffield. You have the opportunity to learn from Pamela Hafekost, Katie Casserly, Marcus Zientek, Alison Clay, Gavin Smillie, and Stephen Davie. They have relevant years of experience providing insights for employability, and helping students and recent graduates to make successful applications for placements, graduate jobs, and further study. In addition, University of Sheffield is one of the world’s top 100 universities with a reputation for teaching and research excellence. I need not say, but then, you are in good hands.

One thing I love about the course is that it goes further to interview employers and admission tutors to grant learners a snapshot of what skills and features employers look for in a candidate. As a result, you not only learn from the expertise of the course moderators, but also have the opportunity to get into the mind of recruiters.

Smitten for three weeks…

Learning through practice: reviewing a sample application

What stands out for me is the structure, interface design, and delivery of the course; capable of captivating the attention of any willing learner. The course, delivered in a clear and concise manner, is split into three parts to cover the three weeks with relevant topics that address the focus for each week. Although I completed the course in less than 3 weeks, it is designed to enable learners to interact with the course at their own pace with a commitment of 3 hours per week.

I love that the course is thorough and well-structured. It starts from the most relevant content, and guides you as a beginner to mastery; Preparing to Apply, to CVs and Covering Letters, Application Forms and Personal Statements conclusively in week three. I will advise learners to take the course in this order, as each week builds on the previous one.

During the three weeks of the course, you learn through video lectures, articles, and the discussion forum. There are downloadable samples, templates and external reading to help organise your thoughts, enhance your learning, and build your portfolio when applying for jobs, placements and courses.

In addition, the content is embedded with practical examples, which makes it applicable. The learning materials are concise, detailed, informative and applicable. I did not struggle to understand the content, which is something rare in today’s world of complexity. Hence, the reason I was able to apply what I was taught. Also, the quiz at the end of each module is worth mentioning as it’s to test your understanding of the course.

Week 1

Week 1 focus is on sharing tips and insights needed prior to making any application. You know how they say, “To be prepared is half the victory” which denotes the importance of preparation in achieving success. It’s the same way the week one content is to reveal what you need in preparation for an effective application. As a result, you will learn about personal branding, analysing job requirements and adverts, and answer questions that lead to understanding of what you have to offer (value, strengths, and skills). This will help you match your skills to suit the requirements.

Personal Branding is all about understanding yourself and creating a strong professional image.How to Succeed at: Writing Applications.

One thing I love about this section is that the course content and tasks became a reflection experience for me. While engaging with the materials, I was opportune to reflect on critical questions that led me to recognition of my skills and value. Most importantly, I learnt how to market it better to recruiters.

Week 2

Modern aspects of applications are also covered, such as how to improve your LinkedIn profile.

After understanding your value, what next?

The next is communicating your value effectively. As a result, this section will teach you how to create a stunning CV and Covering letter to communicate your value, in such a way people want to listen to you. In addition, you will also learn the basics of improving your digital footprint by using social media, such as LinkedIn, to research opportunities and promote yourself.

This section was insightful, as I was able to develop my career content and portfolio with ease. I love that, the course took into consideration the changes in the world system and labour market. Hence, the lesson on Applicant Tracking System, Digital Footprint, and Video CV. This truly shows the thoughtfulness inserted while creating the course and the relevance to the labour market.

Week 3

Here, you learn about application forms and how to approach application questions. Hence, the content teaches you how to write captivating personal statements for courses and jobs, and how to deal with competency based questions, motivational questions, strength based questions, and situational judgement questions.

It was quite surprising because I adopted the tips shared in this section for my interview. Yes, it’s not an “Acing your Interview” course, but the tips and lessons in this course can be applied even in an interview session.

Interacting with other Learners

You have the opportunity to interact with other learners in the Discussion Forum. I commented on other learners’ opinions, shared mine, and answered questions asked during the course. This is one part of the course I enjoyed. Lest I forget, I also got likes on my comments, this made it all interactive.

Although the discussion forum was another medium to learn from others, I would have loved to see the course moderators participate and interact with us by replying to the comments and inquiry of the learners.


The content of the course is across the board; regardless of your country or aspiration. Hence, either you are an individual seeking academic opportunities, jobs and placement, a recent graduate, entry-level or mid-career, or an individual with a gap in your application, How to Succeed at: Writing Applications is the course for you. It will expose you to the tools in writing an effective application, and enhance your confidence while at it.

You don’t need any prior knowledge to take the course. The course will guide you to mastery as it contains the essentials, like what the recruiter is looking for, how to identify your skills and strength, and ultimately, how to present that skill you already possess in the best possible way. It focuses on you, and helps you communicate what you have to offer.

Come with an open mind to learn and a note to write. I will advise you to create a folder where you can store the materials and samples. They will come in handy when writing your applications.

What Next

You should enrol for the course. While at it, you should consider applying for another course with similar content by the University of Sheffield; How to Succeed at: Interviews. An intensive course for your next step in getting that job or academic opportunity.

Ilerioluwa Olatunde Profile Image

Ilerioluwa Olatunde

A graduate of Economics and writer; passionate about using data to make an impact.  As a voracious learner, when I am not reading, learning, or writing, I am listening to a podcast.

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