Top Tips for completing your York Award application

By Govind Panesar, York Strengths and York Award Assistant

The new York Award is here! For those that don’t know, this is a formal award of the University that demonstrates to employers that you have taken a proactive approach to life during your time of study. The award aims to recognise personal and professional development within and outside your programme of study and can be a great addition to your CV, helping you to pull together and reflect on your experiences. The award challenges you to critically reflect on experiences in a way that becomes useful at assessment centres and during application processes. In this blog, we’re going to talk about some top tips that will help you as you begin to complete your application.

Here are our five top tips for completing your York Award application:

Tip 1: Check the eligibility criteria and apply at the right time for you

Typically, you’ll complete the application towards the end of your programme of study at the University, either postgraduate or undergraduate. For more information, make sure to visit the York Award web pages which will outline the application opportunity for your year group. 

You can prepare for the York Award from your first day at university by taking part in York Strengths and getting involved in different activities to develop your skills and experiences

So, if you’ve gone through the web pages, checked the eligibility criteria and you’re up to date on the York Award, it’s now time to start the application.

Tip 2: Revisit York Strengths and check your CV

The first part of the application is about capturing your engagement with the key Career Journey checkpoints – having explored York Strengths (and have a copy of your current York Strengths grid ratings), and an up to date CV (with a score from CareerSet). 

Now’s a really good time to make sure your CV is up to date and run it through CareerSet. CareerSet will score your CV and give you tailored advice on how to make it better – 70% is a really good score to aim for.  You can also get advice on creating your CV, and access personalised CV support through Careers and Placements if you need it.

You can complete a York Strengths assessment using the tools in York Strengths Online. If you completed a York Strengths Development Day in your first year, or York Strengths Online in Summer 2020, you may wish to revisit your strengths assessment.  Even if you’ve done it before it is always worth revisiting York Strengths again as your rating for each of the strengths might have shifted throughout your time at University.  

 Tip 3: Gather your evidence – think back to everything you’ve done during your time at York

Before starting your application, make sure you have all the evidence you need and think back to everything you’ve done during your time at York. You can find out more about what’s required to make an application on our York Award webpages. 

One of the initial sections of the application asks you to tell us about the activities you have been involved in, including work experience.  Make sure you tell us about everything you’ve been involved in – no matter how big or small! To prepare, gather as much evidence as you can, including some elements of meaningful work experience.

We tend to find that many students think that experience only refers to paid work, such as internships or a part time job. However, in reality “experience” is so much more than that and it can refer to work shadowing, work exposure activities, committee membership, organisational roles, representative roles and any volunteering roles as well. 

Remember you need to think of work experience as anything that an employer will value. The York Award aims to help you practise for job or future study applications – so use your strongest examples when talking about work experience. We appreciate that getting experience and accessing opportunities is more difficult at the moment. However you’ve found the last 12 months, the York Award can help you to find value and meaning in the things you have done (Careers issues during Covid-19 page).

Tip 4: Use CAR to structure your answers

Another tip I would like to talk about revolves around reflection and articulation. When you submit your answers one thing we promote is the use of CAR. CAR stands for Context Action Result, and as you answer the application questions you need to make sure you include all three elements to get a great answer. Each element of CAR needs to be written and discussed in an appropriate depth too, in order to show that you have properly reflected and articulated on the experience.  When it comes to context you need to explain the situation you are discussing. When it comes to action you need to describe what you did, how you went about the task or solved the problem. When it comes to result, you need to talk about the outcome of your actions and how it benefited you or the people around you. 

Reflecting on your experiences, and keeping a good record of these reflections, will help to prepare you for future applications as employers often use situational based questions and will want to know how you have learnt from your experiences. When you’re applying for jobs and graduate schemes, employers will be looking for you to demonstrate your skills, strengths or competencies through the use of examples. These examples are vital, as they provide important evidence for an employer when assessing you as a candidate. You can’t just describe your skills, you need to show how and when you’ve used it for it to really count!

You can find out more about the CAR technique in our ‘Reflective Methods’ video on our website, in the reflective writing skills guide, and our youtube channel. 

Tip 5: Have a final read through

Finally, let’s discuss more general application tips. After completing all sections of the form make sure to check your spelling and proofread for any errors in your work, as once you’ve confirmed your application is complete you won’t be able to make any further changes. So, making sure you read through your application before submitting it is also important.

Make sure you use the guidance document and the application resources as much as possible as it will only help and make sure you are on the right track when completing the application. Remember the guidance notes are there to help structure your application. Another thing to take note of is the word count, make efficient use of it and if you’re going over the word count make sure you’re being relevant and not waffling. If you’re under the word count have you really looked at CAR in as much depth as you can? 

For any more information be sure to visit the York Award web pages where you will also find a link to get you started on your York Award application. Good luck and whatever you have been able to do at your time at York, make it count!