One of the most common questions I get in college is, “Why did you choose to come to Wesleyan?”
My short answer, which I say half-jokingly and half-seriously, tends to be: “They gave me a lot of money.”
I’ve been fortunate to have received the Freeman Asian Scholarship, a merit-based award valued at around USD 50,000. The bondless award, such that I don’t have to work for any particular organisation after graduating, covers my full tuition fees for all 4 years at this liberal arts college, not including food, accommodation, health insurance and pocket money.
There are a total of 11 scholarships available, which are awarded to one student from each of these countries: The People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. In short, there is only one scholarship up for grab in Malaysia.
Since financial aid was a priority in my college application, it made perfect sense to apply for this scholarship.
Since I’d already completed the Common Application, I only had to work on the Freeman Essay, whose prompt was: “Please tell us how you would use your Wesleyan education to make a contribution to your home country.” I wrote the first draft in the evening, on my bed (specifically before dinner) several days before the deadline, just to give myself time for editing and proofreading, which didn’t take up much time.
It was one of the easier essays to write because I’d already had a good idea about the academic opportunities in Wesleyan which piqued my interests, and how I could use what I learnt beyond the classroom. These were thoughts I’d flirted with during the frenzy that was the college application process, so it wasn’t too difficult to translate them onto paper.
Writing the essay came very naturally also because I wrote about debating, something I felt very strongly about. Having spent weeks thinking of potential ideas for strong college essays—for context, I applied to 6 other US colleges—I’d observed that superficial subjects with which I had no profound connection were harder to write about.
There were two parts to the interview day, the individual interview and the information session.
Three alumni interviewed me. It was highly conversational, which is the case with many US college interviews. The alumni were interested in putting a personality to my application so they could make appropriate recommendations to the admissions office.
We spoke very casually about the opportunities at Wesleyan which attracted me, my academic interests and extracurricular involvements. My favourite part of the interview was talking about what I was reading at the time, The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuściński, short stories by Borges and The Land at the End of the World by António Lobo Antunes.
I’d been through interviews before (both for college and non-college purposes) so I had a sense of how things would play out. I was very calm before the interview. Ironically, since I was early, I checked out the exhibition of Australian universities which was held downstairs. I politely told the representatives I was not interested.
My parents accompanied me to the information session, which took place several hours after the individual interviews. Since it was rather informal, it was a great opportunity to chat with Wesleyan alumni and the seven other candidates who were shortlisted. During this time, we watched videos of Wesleyan alumni and faculty members talking about their Wesleyan experience. Little did I know that I’d eventually take an Economics class with one of the professors!
After the Q&A session with the alumni, I had a much rounder idea of Wesleyan and the Freeman community.
Receiving the Scholarship
It was 4.45 PM, I’d fallen asleep in the library and missed my bus home from school.
I called my mother to tell the bad news, and in turn, she told me the good news.
The Wesleyan community was very welcoming. Not long after accepting the award, I received emails and Facebook friend requests from upperclassmen and graduating students. Prior to attending college, I met with Wesleyan students and alumni, Freemans and non-Freemans. As I learnt more about Wesleyan, I was satisfied with the choice I’d made.
What’s nice about the Scholarship is the community you’ll be part of. The Freeman scholars are pretty tight—we plan and attend events together—but not limited to each other. The Freeman alumni come back every once in a while to meet up with current scholars. All in all, being on this Scholarship has made for a very rich college experience.
Amanda Yeoh is currently studying at Wesleyan University under the Freeman Asian Scholarship. If you intend to contact the author, feel free to contact the CollegeLAH Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.