A Guide to Applying for the Australia-China Emerging Leaders Summit

If you’re applying for the Australia-China Emerging Leaders Summit (ACELS) this year you may want to get a feel for the application process and the kind of people you’ll meet during the Summit.

What kind of person will you see at the Australia-China Emerging Leaders Summit? What motivated them to apply? What new knowledge did they walk away with? And what, to them, makes an outstanding leader in the Australia-China space?

With these questions in mind, Asia Options spoke with a handful of the ACELS Sydney delegates to hear their advice. Knowing how previous delegates tailored their application will help you stand out from the pack when applying for ACELS.

ACELS – Online Application

First page of ACELS application form
First page of the ACELS application form*

*This information was accurate at the time of writing. Future ACELS conferences may use different application methods, different questions and different selection criteria. This should be taken as a guide only.

Applications for the Australia-China Emerging Leaders Summit opened on the 1st of June and closed on the 15th – two short weeks for applicants to make a good impression. If you’re applying for future ACELS make sure to keep an eye on the tight submission deadline.

The ACELS 2016 Sydney online application quizzed potential delegates on their experience and motivations.

First, applicants filled out some basic demographic information including their university, degree and current occupation. Secondly, applicants provided information about their experience with the Australia-China Youth Association including whether they are a current member, their affiliation with local chapters, and their experience, if any, in an ACYA executive role.

While the majority of the delegates at ACELS Sydney were ACYA members, being an active ACYA member is not a pre-requisite to attend the Summit. One delegate, Joe Harris, had no interaction with the Association outside of an ACYA chapter drinks, and was encouraged to apply to ACELS through the New Colombo Plan network. All the same, you will strengthen your application if you can demonstrate how attending ACELS will benefit not just you, but also your local ACYA chapter. If you haven’t yet, you may like to become more involved with your local ACYA chapter to get to know the organisation before applying.

After the demographic questions, the ACELS application asks four long-form questions, covering:

1. Experience in the Australia-China space
2. Interest in attending ACELS Sydney
3. Expected outcomes
4. Additional supporting information

Speaking to previous delegates, Asia Options learnt that the long form answers are your chance to tell your Australia-China story. Don’t be discouraged if you think your story doesn’t ‘fit the mould’ – ACELS Sydney delegates came from very diverse fields and interests including fashion journalism, viticulture and the performing arts. Make sure to write about concrete experience, not just future plans, and demonstrate your interest in the Australia-China relationship.

Networking and meeting like minded-delegates were commonly cited as interests and expected outcomes, though in and of themselves may not be strong responses to the criteria. Try to flesh out who in particular you’d like to meet (e.g. ACYA chapter presidents, or other ACYA marketing executives) and what industry connections you’d like to make.

Having realistic expectations about ACELS will help you draft your application responses. As ACELS Sydney is only a one-weekend program, there are only so many insights you can walk away with and so many people you can talk to. Writing general outcomes like “By attending ACELS, I will understand more about the China-Australia relationship” is too broad. A specific answer like “Through keynotes and networking, I hope to learn more how Hangzhou supports innovation in the tech-start up scene” would serve you much better.

Finally, the additional supporting information question allows you to explain or supplement your written answers. You can write in this field about what you aspire to do post-ACELS.

Now that you’re clued up on the application process, join Asia Options as we hear from Mary, a 2016 ACELS delegate, on how she made her case to rank amongst the 60 successful delegates.

ACELS delegates in a open discussion at the New Law Building, University of Sydney
ACELS delegates in a open discussion at the New Law Building, University of Sydney, photo credit Jack Williams


Mary – Wang Yifan

What is your background?

I’m in my last year of a Bachelor of Commerce at University of Newcastle. I was born and raised in China and moved to Australia in July 2015 with the articulate program at Sichuan International Studies University. I devote myself to accounting, international business and public relations with an end to enhance cross-cultural communication skills in the Aus-China relationship.

How did you find out about ACELS Sydney?

I’m on the executive committee at the University of Newcastle (UoN) ACYA Chapter. I applied for ACELS via a Facebook link shared by the ACYA National Managing Director Vic Luo because I wanted to learn more about how other university chapters were doing and improve activities at the UoN chapter.

What did you say in your ACELS application, how did you tailor your application as a potential Australia China emerging leader?

On top of mentioning what ACELS could offer me, I focussed on what I wanted to achieve through the Summit. I’m ambitious to engage more Aussie and Chinese students at UoN, and have been offered a job as an International Engagement Assistant at UoN Global. I hope to learn more about the challenges of cross-cultural communication.

I wrote that while the keynote addresses at the Summit would be fabulous, the mentoring experiences and professional workshops from senior ACYA executives attracted me the most, as they would help me train my project management skills. It has given me better insight to coordinate the China Road International Conference at UoN in August.

Instead of defining myself as a prospective Australia-China emerging leader, I presented myself as a passionate and fast learner who would be comfortable anywhere in the broader business world. Bilingual proficiency, cultural sensitivity and regular engagement are part and parcel of a good leader in the Australia-China space.

What is the most important thing you will take from ACELS Sydney? What programs similar to ACELS have you attended?

I have walked away from ACELS with ideas from other chapters on how to run more engagement activities at my own university. More importantly I learnt from other delegates’ inspiring stories and experiences. This helped me realise that I can implement a lot in my job, and have scope for personal career development. I also appreciated the opportunity to interview with the HNA group, whose philanthropic culture is on the same track as mine.

As for other programs, I attended the National Conference of the Council of International Students Australia in early July, but ACELS is the first time I’ve applied for a Summit focusing on the Australia-China space.

I reckon I’ll unpack ACELS over the next few months, organise a variety of activities at the University of Newcastle, and discover more insights as I go.

Delegates Bill Wang and Joe Harris also shared their take ACELS takeaways with Asia Options:

Bill Wang

There’s been no other program I have participated in that compares to ACELS with respect to the quality and diversity of content. I was originally motivated to apply to meet like-minded people, and those who understand the sociological and commercial differences between Australia and China. The experience delivered more than I expected – it strengthened my confidence in the Chinese market and my ability to contribute to a stronger Sino-Australian business relationship. I am extremely grateful to have been selected into the program.

Joe Harris

I have never been to any similar program to ACELS, so this was my first experience in the space – it was definitely positive. At ACELS I met many new people, I hope to stay in touch with most of them and see them in both China and Sydney. ACELS is a great platform to meet people with high aspirations and it brings plenty of fantastic speakers into the mix. The Summmit has encouraged me to want to stay longer in China and to take as many opportunities in the space that I can. It has reaffirmed my belief strength of the Chinese market, and country as a whole.

ACELS Shanghai 2016
ACELS Shanghai 2016

Applying for any scholarship or leadership program can be daunting – check out Piero Craney’s Eight Tips for Applying for the New Colombo Plan for some great advice on successful applications.

Having a good understanding of the program, and inside knowledge of the selection criteria are also half the battle. The second half is taking the time to write and, importantly, revise your application.

Put your best foot forward! Read Asia Options’ coverage of the ACELS 2016 Sydney and ACELS Shanghai.

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Will Breedon

Will graduated from Monash University with degrees in Economics and Arts (Mandarin) and studied at Soochow University as a Hamer Scholar.

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