For the uninformed, the Great Eastern Supremacy Scholarship is one of the leading education sponsorship awards in the local insurance industry scene. The scholarship program is opened for both overseas & local undergraduate programs, offering a specified quantum that covers tuition fees & living costs. For overseas applicants, only candidates applying for Actuarial Science and Accounting & Finance are considered. Meanwhile for local applicants however, the field of studies that may be considered for sponsorship encompasses a larger scope. Since its inception in 1998, the award has successfully benefited 117 students, with a cumulative human capital investment of RM7.9 million. Further technical information can be found on their website.
This year, close to half a thousand students sent in their applications to be part of this prestigious program and the numbers are just going to increase every year. With competition being this tight, how are you able to differentiate yourself? Well, let’s find out.
First Stage – Application Submission
The application form is pretty straightforward like applying for any other sponsors. A short essay to explain why you should be awarded this scholarship is not too difficult to manage. It is very tempting to write a self-glorifying piece or fabricate false promises at this stage. My advice; do not. Write truthfully. Slot a few assertions of your leadership qualities. A dash of compassionate points but most importantly keep it short. If English is not your first language, get a friend or lecturer to proof read your essay.
Second Stage – Preliminary Essay Writing
With your application in place, it is time to give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve gone through one of the toughest stages in the entire process; taking the first step. Now, in the spirit of professionalism, please do not pester the assessment panel every single day asking if you’ve made it through. The screening panel also has other work priorities beside you, understand that.
About after 2-3 weeks past the closing date for application submission, you should regularly check your email. If you are successful, you will receive an email from the company on your next preliminary assessment. At the time of my application, the issue that was a major focus of the country was free tertiary education. For this assessment I was required to write an essay on this topic. I was asked to elaborate my stand on the issue & critically justify my reasoning. It was to be submitted in 2 days’ time & 500 words in length.
This task is hardly to be classified as difficult unless you do not read a whole lot. The time allotted is also extremely generous for you to do enough research to write a convincing article. The only way I can see anyone failing at this stage is that they had unfortunately forgotten to check their email.
Third Stage – Panel Interview
Continuously check your email at least once a day and more so after 2 weeks have passed. Beyond this point, it is more or less safe to assume you unfortunately did not meet their expectations. This next stage in my opinion is one of the most important & therefore, I will give a very comprehensive recollection of my experience. Now it’s time for a company visit!
Upon arrival & registration, you will be invited to have breakfast, mingle with your other candidates & the Human Capital (HR) team conducting the assessment. Make full use of this opportunity to expand your network & be proactive in interacting with the staff. Although it was never clarified, but judging from my experience, scholarship assessments also focus on the silent observations of the staff strategically placed there.
You will be invited to have a brief introduction to Great Eastern as a company and the journey of evolution into the entity it is today. Do take notes actively as if you are sitting for an orientation for your first day in college. After, there will be some icebreakers. At this point, my advice is to enjoy yourself & forget that you are in an assessment.
After a short tea break, you’ll be asked individually to each come up with an essay of about 500 words. You will be given 1 hour to write, and again, it is usually a relevant topic of current issues. After, there will be lunch & more networking opportunities with some invited alumni serving their bonds in the company.
After that, you will be invited to be the main agenda; the panel interview. There will be 2 sessions of interviews with 2 panel members each, depending on who is available that particular day. You will be attending each interview session in pairs as well. Let me reinforce the fact that at this point of time, you’ll find pretty much everyone in Great Eastern is super friendly & they really are. So, relax or it could hurt your chances. Standard questions will be asked about your family background mainly as to gauge what kind of socio-economic situation your family is in. You will also be asked to reaffirm some of your CV assertions like ECA participation, letter of recommendation & forecast/actual results. Enlighten them on your aspirations & career plan. Think about how you can contribute in return and link that to your personal brand. Most importantly, show the panel you understand the commitment you are signing up for as a scholar & that you have a sound understanding of the company & industry you are about to be tied down with. The thing about Great Eastern’s interview assessment was, I felt that there was not exactly one area of focus that got me through & that they were very much more interested in you as a person. One of the more memorable questions posed to me was to market why my partner deserved the scholarship more than I do. I believe why both me and my partner advanced through this section was because we personally knew each other beforehand & therefore, we were better able to promote each other without the needs to sabotage each other, which could have been disastrous.
Before adjourning, you will also have another tea break. This is what I love about Great Eastern’s scholarship assessment. Other than the fact there is just always food around you, you will also be reimbursed for your travelling expenses! For those of you who had to catch a flight or bus to attend the assessment, you will also receive reimbursement & accommodation if necessary. All this must be prearranged beforehand, mind you.
Fourth Stage – Assessment Workshop
Alright, we’re almost there! Believe me when I say the worst is over because this next & FINAL stage of the assessment will be one really fun day. The last of you remaining will be gathered in Great Eastern for one final workshop day. The main areas of assessment will be leadership qualities.
The first main agenda for me that day was to create a mind map to explain some unique tidbits about myself. Even if you lacked artistic qualities, impress both the panel & audience with how much you know about yourself & articulate the flow of information well. A leader is a person who knows himself/herself better than anyone else.
Next assessment would be an advantage for those of you who have a background in Toastmasters. I was asked to draw a table topic from a bowl & asked to speak on my feet. As a leader, giving a speech, be it informative or opinionated, should be a knee-jerk reaction by now. Not only does the quality of your matter is important, but the structure is also imperative. The same goes to say for your mannerism or your body language. I also remember taking Q&A’s from the audience on my topic with some coming from the Human Capital team.
Next, all of us were taken to an assessment centre where you will be required to complete a digital aptitude test on our mathematical abilities & work personality survey. I recall both had a specified time limit that you needed to complete in but it was not a very tight one. Take your time, gather your thoughts and relax. Do not feel pressured if someone else finishes faster than you because at the end of the day, it is the quality of your answers that matters, not your speed of your completing.
Following up after a delicious lunch break, all of us were divided into two groups for some group assessments. The more memorable one that was important was the case study & solution pitching session. I remember our topic of the day was regarding creating a product awareness of Takaful insurance products. We were then asked to critically evaluate & debate each other’s solutions in an impromptu manner. At this point, I was enjoying myself too much to be really focused on recollecting what happened that day & I figured that this was their intention. It was simply to conduct a session of bonding amongst ourselves. We found out later that every attendee of the final phase received a scholarship offer, except one person due to the unique circumstances of his undergraduate study offer.
Many people (particularly my batch) did not really know or paid serious attention at the prospect of attaining a scholarship with Great Eastern. In fact, I ALMOST skipped applying for it (which I did for many other scholarship opportunities) mainly because it was not as glamorous in comparison to likes of say, Khazanah or BNM. I was also discouraged at the thought of rejection due to my less than stellar forecast results. Besides, I had just been rejected for almost every other scholarship I had applied to that year. Nevertheless, it is never an excuse to not try. Even if you did not meet some requirements or your chosen field of study is not mentioned, you risk nothing applying! Be proactive in shaping your future, because no one else will do it for you.
This is a recollection of an event that transpired almost 3 years ago. Chances are the assessment will not be exactly the same, even more so that the scholarship coordinator & team have changed since then.
Andrew Chin Chee Loong is a recipient of the Great Eastern Supremacy Scholarship & is currently reading Accounting & Finance in HELP University, under the University of London External Programme. He’s also part of the university’s student representative council & has recently joined a student organization known as the International Council of Malaysian Scholars & Associates (ICMS). When he’s able to find the time to settle down with a good book, he loves reading fiction, preferably dystopian & sci-fi.