In 2013, Jeffrey Cheah Foundation and Sunway Group Joint Scholarship consisted of 4 stages in total. Upon submission of your application form, you will need to go through the following stages:
- Phone interview
- Individual interview and aptitude assessment
- Group assessment
- Final interview
As this scholarship was offered for the first time in 2013, there are various opportunities for amendments in scholarship assessment method in the years to come. Hence, this can only be served as a reference.
In 2013, the form could be accessed in the official website of the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation. It was an extensive 4-page-long (longer) form as compared to most other scholarship applications. I was required to attach my curriculum vitae (CV) as well. The deadline for submission was in late May in 2013.
I didn’t even know that this was an interview until the person-in-charge told me so after I was awarded the scholarship! The questions asked were mostly your personal information, such as family, education background, co-curriculum activities and choice of university and courses, and was conducted by a Human Resource Assistant Manager. No specific preparation is needed as the questions are only at the personal level. Be honest, articulate, and elaborative in your answer.
I was invited to Sunway headquarters for my first face-to-face interview, conducted by 2 interviewers: the same person who did the phone interview, and a representative from Jeffrey Cheah Foundation. Common interview questions were asked: Tell me about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses (an interview trick: I didn’t just stop after explaining my weakness, but to continue to explain how I tried my best to overcome it), leadership experience etc. Nothing too daunting as the interviewers were very friendly! (Even if they are not, don’t be discouraged! It is part of the assessment!)
Right after the individual interview, I was brought to a room for a computerized aptitude test. The aptitude test I took contained 3 multiple-choice sections: information abstraction (abstract information from graphs, tables or paragraphs), critical reading (very similar to SAT critical reading section) and geometric deduction (3 to 4 consecutive shapes/geometrical alignments are given and I was asked to deduce the next possible one). I personally found the test harder than the Khazanah Stage 1 test due to the extremely short time allocated for the harder test questions. Don’t worry if you find the test hard as well: I almost failed my test, but still was able to proceed to the next stage.
I was given a stack of information and a proposal: I was then required to decide whether the proposal was a good one based on the information provided. In a team, we had to draft a complete report on this. (Not all information given was necessary: some was redundant.)
After that, I was brought to a room for an individual interview. Two interviewers questioned our proposal.
Finally, we were required to further modify the proposal based on another set of information given. A group presentation was given to convince the interviewers that this new proposal was good.
Tips: It is essential to evaluate both sides of the argument before a decision is made. The interviewers were seeking for candidates who could draw comparisons between pros and cons. Also, when tons of information are given to you, keep calm and be ready to filter the unnecessary information.
My final interview was an interesting one: the panel of interviewers consisted of 3 Sunway CEOs (all Tan Sris) and the Head of the Group Human Resource. Common interview questions were asked as well as some personal-specific questions: ‘Tell me about yourself’, ‘How did you prepare yourself for exam and activities’, ‘What is your biggest challenge/hardship’, ‘How did you prepare yourself for the transition from a Chinese school to English-speaking college’, etc. Surprisingly, the interview was casual enough that I could speak comfortably and frankly, which was probably the reason I got the scholarship. I strongly encourage interviewees to be honest with your answers as it is plain hard to ‘make stories’ or ‘cheat’ or ‘exaggerate’ due to the interviewers’ experience.
What do I think helped my application the most. Of course, consistent excellence in academic (school and competition) results helped me in convincing the panel of interviewers that I had the sufficient aptitude to tackle problems in work. Therefore, even if I almost failed my aptitude test, I was still able to secure the scholarship.
However, the panel (particularly the final stage interviewers) was actually looking for people who were honest, critical and humble. Therefore, it was vital for the candidates to have a positive attitude during all stages.
Some ECA activities, particularly leadership activities, also helped in the interviews.
I did not prepare for it as it was the first time they had this scholarship, and so I did not know what to prepare for. However, I would encourage students to prepare for the aptitude test; there are online sample questions on several websites. Also, it is advisable to ask yourself some ordinary interview questions before the actual interviews such as, “Tell me about yourself”. This allows you to understand yourself better so that you are better prepared for the actual one. However, there is a fine line between being well-prepared and over-rehearsed. Be careful so that you won’t sound too artificial.
Liew Ziqing is always the lucky one in terms of his education journey. Formally a Chong Hwa Independent High School and Sunway College A levels student, he is now an engineering student in University of Cambridge. He is the first student to be joint sponsored by Sunway Group and Jeffrey Cheah Foundation to study in Cambridge. He likes karaoke, but doesn’t want to be a singer.