What is the Jardine Scholarship?
For scholarships, I’m sure we’ve all heard of the big names like Bank Negara, Petronas and Khazanah which sponsor many students every year to further their studies overseas. But for students applying to Oxbridge, the lesser-known Jardine Scholarship should be on their radar.
The Jardine Scholarship is a bond-free scholarship offered by Jardine Matheson, a Hong Kong-based conglomerate with a presence across Asia Pacific (they own Giant, Guardian and Mercedes Benz dealerships here). The scholarship will cover your tuition fees, a stipend for living costs and one return flight to the UK. Additionally, you’ll be connected with a huge network of Jardine scholars across Asia.
It is important to note that only students applying to the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge are eligible for the scholarship, and even then you’d have to apply to specific colleges in each university (Queen’s, Exeter, Oriel and Trinity for Oxford and Downing, Magdalene, Peterhouse and Trinity for Cambridge).
Back then when I was looking around for scholarships, I myself wasn’t aware of Jardine. I was really lucky to have chosen Queen’s (based on reasons unrelated to the scholarship), and they emailed to inform me that I was eligible to apply for the scholarship since I’m Malaysian.
Stage 1: Online Form and Personal Statement
Another difference between Jardine and the major scholarships in Malaysia are the application timeframe. Applications for Jardine open around August and close mid-October (21 October for this year’s cycle), which coincides with the UCAS application timeline for Oxbridge applicants. I found that finishing my UCAS early was super helpful as it gave me ample time to prepare my scholarship application.
The application form is quite standard. You would have to apply through their website, and fill in an online form which would ask you for some personal and academic information. However, Jardine also asks for a personal statement, which is different from the UCAS personal statement. The personal statement should focus on your aspirations and future plans, as well as highlight your extra-curricular activities and engagement with your community. If you’re confused about what to write, I’d highly recommend just taking some time to think about your objectives in the years to come, and how studying your course can help you towards those goals. It sounds daunting but don’t worry! You can always talk to your friends or school counsellor for input.
Additionally, your teacher (or even principal or counsellor) will have to provide a reference to support your scholarship application, very much like for UCAS. Jardine would give information on what the reference should include, so do communicate that to your referee.
Once all this is done, you’ll have to submit your application form and complete the first stage!
Stage 2: Automated Video Interview
If your application has been shortlisted, you’ll receive an email from Jardine inviting you to complete a video interview. But this isn’t going to be a typical Zoom call. I was surprised to find out that it was an AUTOMATED video interview that could be completed any time before a specified deadline. Here’s how it works:
- You’d log into a website
- You’ll be given clear instructions on how to answer the questions, and you’ll be allowed to test out your microphone and webcam and familiarise yourself with the software by answering a few sample questions (which won’t come out in the interview).
- Once you’re ready, you’ll press start. Each question will be displayed for a limited time, and then your webcam and mic will start recording to capture your answers, also for a limited time (I think around a minute or two).
- After all the questions are completed, the video interview is sent to Jardine to be reviewed.
I was super scared at this stage for I’ve never done anything like it before. The time limit means you have very little room for error in answering questions. But after I finished it, I thought it wasn’t too bad. The questions they asked were quite straightforward (a few about where you think you’d be in the future), and you will be given sufficient time to answer.
General advice for interviews would apply here, but I’d also like to offer a few extra for this automated version:
- Dress well! Even though you’re doing the interview remotely (probably at home), you should still dress presentably as Jardine will be watching the video recording. Doesn’t have to be too fancy. A collared shirt will work fine.
- Make sure your internet connection is stable. You don’t want to risk your connection being cut off mid-interview, triggering a wave of panic.
- Be mindful of the time you’re given. I sometimes found myself rambling when I was answering the questions, only to have to rush to a conclusion when I see that there’s 10 seconds left. Remember to look at the timer and make sure you get your point across before time runs out. This really is easier said than done based on my experience, but practicing under timed conditions could help.
- Test your mic and webcam. I assumed they would be fine but tested them anyway, only to realise that my mic was way too loud. You can adjust it so that it’s at a comfortable volume for the people who will be watching the video recording.
Stage 3: Final Interview in Hong Kong
If you’ve made it to this stage, congratulations! You’ve been picked among many applicants for the best part of the application process: a trip to Hong Kong for the final interview, all paid for by Jardine.
The final interview is usually held in early January, and it is a must to go to Hong Kong or else your application will no longer be considered. Jardine is generous enough to pay for your return air ticket, your accommodation at a nice hotel owned by them (usually The Excelsior but it has closed down), your transport between Hong Kong airport and the hotel and a buffet dinner with other applicants.
Since this is the last stage of the application, you will be going up against a panel of 6 for your interview. I was immediately terrified after realising that fact, and more so when I looked up the panelists and found out that 3 of them were the heads of Oxbridge colleges. The provost (equivalent to principal) of my college was not there, but I know applicants who were interviewed by the principal of their college. However, the interviewers were all super kind and friendly, and will try to make you feel comfortable.
I was asked to fly to Hong Kong the day before my interview. When I arrived, I was brought to the hotel and checked into my room. Jardine makes you share a room, which is great because you’ll get to meet someone who’s likely from a different country in Asia. If you arrive before dinner time, you’ll have liberty to explore the city a bit. The Excelsior was very centrally located in Causeway Bay so there was easy access to shopping and soaking in the city atmosphere.
Jardine will organise a buffet dinner at the hotel for all the scholarship applicants. This was a very nice time to get to know other people who may be headed to the same university or college as you. Though we were competing against each other for the scholarship, there was never a sense of tension or competitiveness. Everyone I met was friendly, and the conversations were super chill and informal.
After you enjoy a night of sleep (please do get enough rest!), it’s time to face the interview. I woke up early so that I’d have enough time to take a shower and put on my suit (dress code for the interview is formal), then headed down for breakfast. If you’re feeling nervous, you’re not alone. Everyone else is feeling the same way, and just chatting with them at breakfast can help ease some of the nerves. After eating, you’ll have to arrange your own transport to Jardine’s office, Jardine House. All of us decided to take a cab there, splitting ourselves into small groups.
The first stage of the final interview is an essay. I was given about half an hour to write about a specified topic, and Jardine allowed us to use our phone or laptop to do research. I think the point of the essay is to see how you structure your arguments in a short time, and my response in my essay would be later brought up during the interview.
The interview itself would also last about half an hour. You’ll have to wait for your turn depending on what time slot you get, during which us applicants who were waiting mostly talked. Those who had already finished their interviews would tell us about the experience, which made for interesting conversation but also made me more nervous.
When it came to my turn, I waited outside the interview room to be called in. The interview itself centered around your aspirations and future plans with some related critical thinking questions thrown in. They asked me about things I wrote in my Jardine personal statement, as well as the essay I wrote in the morning. Do also make sure you have a clear idea of your goals and plans, as well as your reasons for pursuing those ends as they will likely ask you about that. There’s no definite answer they’re looking for with these questions, but a piece of advice I would give is to stay composed in answering their questions. It’s alright to take a few seconds to think and organise your thoughts before you answer, rather than ramble on nervously without making your point clear. I was asked a question that I had no idea how to answer, but tried my best to present my view along with some justification. It turned out to be a bad answer, but the panelist who asked the question was super nice in sharing her thoughts with me. I listened and then asked her more questions about her views, which I think is good because it exhibits to them that you’re eager to learn. It’s very rare to be able to have a conversation with these people who have had such illustrious careers, so do seize the opportunity to talk to them and learn from them!
As my interview was completed, I felt relieved. It had been a rigorous process, and now I was almost at the end. The last part of the interview process is a lunch with the panelists, which some believe is also a part of the assessment. There are rumours that the lunch is a test of your etiquette, and how you present yourself during a meal. Hearing these rumours and not wanting to take any chances, I watched videos on table etiquette to make sure I was prepared. But in retrospect, it shouldn’t be something to stress over. Obviously, you would have to exhibit a basic level of table manners (which should hopefully be something you already adopt), but I wouldn’t stress too much about more minute details like how to eat a grape. Fun (but probably useless) fact: the table etiquette video said to poke the grape with your fork, take it from the fork with your fingers, then put it in your mouth.
I would say that the lunch is more a test of conversation as you will be seated near the panelists (according to a seating chart) and have to talk to them. I sat next to the chair of the scholarship committee, and talked to him about Malaysia and Oxford. I remember having to talk a lot, and since I didn’t want to talk with food in my mouth, I ended up barely eating. But I really enjoyed my conversations with the panelists and fellow applicants near me, so I thought it was a worthy sacrifice (and I could always grab a bite after).
Once lunch ends, you’re free to go if you’ve already done your interview! At this point, I said goodbye and good luck to the other applicants, and went to explore Hong Kong a bit more before my flight home. About two weeks later, I got an email from Jardine offering me the scholarship, and happily celebrated the achievement. For my year, two Malaysians got the scholarship, but there is no fixed number of scholarships as there have been years where only one or no Malaysians have gotten it.
The best part of this scholarship is that it’s bond-free. You will be fully-funded to study your course of choice at Oxbridge, but can freely choose what you want to do after you graduate. The people at Jardine are also super supportive of your career development, and will readily provide you with career advice and internship opportunities. Additionally, I found the application process to be an amazing experience, especially the final interview. Rarely does a company give you a free trip overseas as part of a scholarship application, and the experience was made all the more special by the wonderful people I met. The Jardine scholars are also a tight knit community, so expect dinners and events together once you’re in Oxford or Cambridge. If you’re applying to Oxbridge, I’d highly recommend applying for this scholarship. Many Malaysian students don’t know about the opportunity, but I hope more of us can benefit from this generous scheme and fulfill their dreams of studying at Oxbridge.
As Covid-19 continues to upend life globally, it is possible that Jardine might switch to a fully online assessment of scholarship applicants, which means shortlisted candidates will no longer have to fly to Hong Kong. Though the interviews this year might have a different format from before, I do hope you still find this article useful in demystifying the application process. Good luck for your application!
Chee Gee Ren is a Jardine Scholar currently reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Queen’s College, Oxford. He loves to cook and first year at Oxford taught him it’s possible to cook rendang using a rice cooker.
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