The Astro Scholarship

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Hello readers. This short piece is to give some insight into the whole selection process for the Astro scholarship. Just to start off, I would like to say that having been in your shoes I can understand any nervousness, anxiety, worry, butterflies in your stomach, etc. As a Christian, my first advice would be to take a deep breath and say a prayer. Remember that if you do your best and leave the rest to God, you have already done the best that you can do. So it becomes pointless to stress over things beyond our control.

How many stages were there in your scholarship assessment?

There are about 4 stages after the submission process.

1st stage – The online assessment

Say you have submitted your resume and are now asked to take the online assessment. This part is done online at your own convenient time. However, you are required to submit your answers before a certain date.

The online assessment is divided into two parts.

  • The first part is an English/Maths questionnaire where you will be tested on mostly your logic and IQ. It resembles the A-levels Thinking Skills questions (if you are familiar with them). Most people find this part fairly easy so don’t stress too hard over this.
  • The second part of the online assessment includes writing an essay. You are given two questions and are required to choose one to write an essay on. My question was something along the lines of “Astro is primarily a media broadcasting company. Propose a few ideas to expand the company.” Hopefully you can tell that I am paraphrasing the question.

2nd stage – The Interview

So 1st stage is done and dusted, thank God. Now comes the second stage where you will be invited to an interview at the Astro centre. Here you will be given a time slot to come and attend the interview. Come early as it gives you time to prepare mentally and just to calm down a little. The environment was really pleasant and exciting.

The interviewer was the Vice-President of Human Resources. She was very friendly and hopefully this will put you at ease. The questions were fairly standard like “Tell me about yourself?” “What would you say are some of your weaknesses?” “Tell me about something you did that shows your creativity?” and “How can you contribute to Astro if we select you for our scholarship programme?”

Try to put a little more thought in your answers. Remember, the interviewer will be having interviews that can stretch across a few days. Having the same responses to the questions as most other people will not be very favourable. Also, remember to be honest and polite. Give a proper greeting when you enter the room. Try to remember the interviewer’s name to address him/her properly. Be pleasant. Also, show serious interest in working for the company if you plan to be their scholar.

3rd stage – Group Assessment

Phew. Congratulations if you have made it this far. *Wipe imaginary sweat*

For this stage, Astro will use outside examiners to assess the candidates with a few of their own personnel overseeing the activities. During my time, the people from Leaderonomics were invited to assess the candidates. It was really exciting and the facilitators from Leaderonomics were very outgoing and vibrant people.

You will initially begin with a few ice-breaking activities to ease the tension and loosen up our tongues. Then, the facilitators will start dividing the batch into a few groups. There were about 4 groups, if I am not mistaken, with each group having around 7-8 people. A leader was chosen from each group randomly. My advice would be not to sweat over this. You will not be in anyway handicapped if you do not happen to be a leader of a group. Instead, try showing that you can also be an efficient follower.

After being split into groups, we were given a few tasks to do as a group. Almost all the activities given were fun and resembled high school camping activities.

For example, we were given a bunch of materials and told to create the most innovative Astro centre we could come up with. Also, we were given chocolate bars and mineral water to sell to raise funds for our “Astro centre.” The funds allowed us to buy more material for our project. Selling the chocolate bars and mineral water wasn’t easy though as we had to sell them at a fixed price to either the facilitators from Leaderonomics or Astro. Also, you were competing with other teams to sell the exact same item. I managed to sell the bottle of water by including my own home-packed bottle of water for a buy-1, free-1 deal. Let’s just say some sweet talking was also required.

After a certain amount of time, we were required to give a presentation of our Astro centre and this was when all sorts of ideas were presented. There was even one where the team built missiles as a defence for the centre. Again, this is about creativity and the ability to present rather than what is plausible. Ability in public speaking came in handy here. Other teams were allowed to question your design to test your ability to defend your ideas. Remember that your attitude is being watched throughout the process. Many people here tried asking questions just for the sake of it, which did not impress the judges. Ask only genuine and intelligent questions. Try answering a few as well as the facilitators notice this.

There were many other modules that tested our ability to think on our feet, things that you normally find in a leadership camp activity.

My time spent in Red Crescent camps really paid off here, thank God. My advice would be to get involved in all of the team’s decision making. Voice out your ideas and concerns. Once your voice is heard early (especially if it is beneficial), it makes it easier to state your points throughout the day. Also, remember to take an interest in your teammates’ ideas as most of the people there are intelligent and capable individuals. Be a team player, take up the challenge to lead if appropriate, and try thinking of ideas that are out of the box. Use the opportunity to make some friends as well. Most of the friends that I made ended up getting the scholarship as well.

This stage was the most fun I had in all the scholarship stages I had been in.

4th stage – The Final Interview

Finally, this is the stage before the scholars are selected. You are given a slot to come in for the interview. The interviewer panel on my day consisted of 3 senior Astro employees. There was Mr Alex, the Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Andrew, the head of human capital and a lady interviewer (whose name I can’t quite recall), who was the Chief Information Officer. The questions in the interview ranged from “What are some of your interests?” to “Why is the piano an interest of yours?” even up to “What are your favourite periods in music and why?” I guess my point here is they get really thorough in their examination and see how we react to unconventional questions under scrutiny.

It’s not all about music though as they also asked me to defend my choice to study in London as opposed to studying somewhere in the States. Their argument was that the United Kingdom was seeing a decline in terms of competitiveness compared to areas such as China and the United States. Chinese universities are on the rise and the U.S. had traditionally “stronger” universities and was the number one destination worldwide in terms of higher education. Also, universities thrive on government grants which depended on the GDP. With the economic power shifting toward China and the U.S being the powerhouse it has been, British universities are expected to slowly decline.

My advice in this stage would be to pray beforehand, and remain firm with your choice with proper reasons to back your decision. Do not be rude or ignorant however as they are not the same as being firm. Remember that a scholarship is a blessing and the company does not owe you anything.

There are no set number of scholars chosen each year at this stage. 15 were selected for the final interview with 7 finally chosen as Astro scholars. The number was 5 the previous year. It comes down to how many applicants are deemed suitable for the scholarship by the interviewers.

Old man’s ramblings

I sincerely hope this article was some sort of help to you guys. Most of this happened nearly 18 months ago, so most of the details are rather unclear. The Astro scholarship is slightly different from say Khazanah or Shell scholarship. Each scholarship has certain expectations from its candidates and so different people fare differently in each scholarship. Since most of the people that are shortlisted after the first 2 rounds are generally bright, Astro chooses to focus more on individuals who are great at fitting into a business team environment. Sort of like a prefects selection process in some ways.

Also, don’t be afraid to apply if you are studying something that does not seem like a direct fit for the company. I chose to study Geophysics and still managed by God’s grace to get the scholarship. I knew of another applicant who studied gaming design who got shortlisted to the 3rd stage (although he eventually did not manage to get the scholarship).

Finally, it’s not the end of the world if you are not chosen for the Astro scholarship. There are plenty of other scholarship providers. Also, getting a scholarship is not the end all and be all of your life. If you do not manage to get any scholarships, fret not. Life goes on so long as you do the best that you can do. It’s not necessarily the place you study or the scholarship you win. Life should not be a rat race.

There, I got it off my chest. So I wish the very best to all would-be applicants and remember…

THE TIPS AND RECRUITERS’ P.O.V. ARE MY PERSONAL OPINION AND DO NOT REPRESENT THE COMPANY’S STAND.


New Jo-Shua is a devoted Christian who reads Geophysics in Imperial College London under an Astro Scholarship.

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