The New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholarship Program is an Australian Government initiative that facilitates student, business and institutional engagement at an international level by sending 100 Australian undergraduate students to live, study and work in the Indo-Pacific region for up to 17 months.

Isaac Bennett, a current member of the AIYA Yogyakarta team was fortunate enough to receive a 2016 NCP Scholarship and is currently studying at Universitas Gadjah Mada. Read on for his top ten tips for applying for this unique and extremely worthwhile opportunity.


Be confident

Okay, so you’re applying for the NCP. Brilliant! You’ve made a great decision – be confident with it. The proverbial road to success is paved with a good dose of self-confidence. Being dedicated and committed is, truly, half the battle. This is your moment; believe it. Be realistic and take things as they come, but always be confident.

Get started now

Survey your situation – what are you doing? What are your commitments? How do they reflect you and what you can bring to the table with your application? Could you get involved and start the process now, and grow as a result? It’s never too late to begin a new experience, and the benefits are usually plural, not singular.

Study hard

It might come as no surprise that academic achievements are highly valued and very important when it comes to overseas scholarship applications. It’s no different with the NCP – putting in the hard yards now and into the future can only achieve positive results, and it provides the essential core basis for a good NCP application.

Do your research

If you’re hoping to work and study in a foreign country for a year and a half, it’s probably best to know a fair bit about that country first. Do your research and find out where best suits your field of study and areas of interest – in your case, we’re going to assume it’s probably Indonesia. So put forward your case with a sound and informed research base, which will increase your chances of success.

Consider the bigger picture

Another important aspect of your application doesn’t actually focus on you, but rather on the wider, international community. The New Colombo Plan is all about forging institutional and business links between Australian and Asia-Pacific countries including Indonesia through study and internship scholarship components, and therefore it is vital to consider your potential contribution to that process. How can you make your field of interest stand out and potentially offer something to help larger-scale international engagement?


Isaac (right) with fellow Scholar Lachlan at the NCP Pre-Departure Briefing in Canberra. Photo: Isaac Bennett

Be succinct

The word limit for the written application is fairly small so brevity is key. Ensure your list of experiences and achievements is exhaustive and let each speak for itself as much as possible.

Choose your referees wisely

Obviously, ensure your referees are relevant and appropriate, but beyond that, choose whomever you think will reflect most accurately on you and your relevant qualities. Don’t choose one academic referee and one non-academic referee if a second academic referee might know you better.

Seek help

Don’t hesitate to get in contact with previous NCP recipients at your university or to take advantage of the many helpful services likely available to you at your university. Your university has a great interest in your success in applying to the NCP and should be very eager to help.

Don’t stress about the interview

Do your best to relax before and during the interview – there is a limit to how prepared you can realistically be, so don’t overthink it. Don’t stress – the DFAT staff and interview panel are extremely friendly and reassuring. That said, the panel has to sit through the same interview repeatedly, so if they seem bored, bemused or generally unimpressed, remember that it’s probably not your fault.

Get involved in AIYA

Well, this goes without saying! Involvement in AIYA is an excellent start in living out your dedication to Australia’s relationship with the region. We’d like to think you’d be keen to get involved anyway, but if you need extra incentive, it could potentially be a great help for your application.


A collection of NCP Scholars meeting Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta.

To find out more about the New Colombo Plan Scholarship Program, head over to the website. Good luck!