Hello there! I’m Ashraf and I’m currently a CIMB Scholar studying ‘International Social and Public Policy & Economics’ at LSE. Before going any further, I highly recommend you first read what Debra and Edmund (previous CIMB Scholars and LSE students as well) have already written as they’ve done a good job of laying out the need-to-know (Eg basic info, stages, do’s & don’ts). Therefore, in this post, I hope to instead offer a slightly different perspective by giving advice regarding the virtual element of the assessment, as well as tips from the standpoint of someone who took the road less taken to hopefully encourage and inspire those who may think of their “unconventional” profile as being a drawback to start leveraging it as a strength instead.
What’s your story?
Going into scholarship applications, I knew that I didn’t have the best grades nor did I have the most outstanding co-curriculars. But what I did have was a story. Put simply, due to financial hardship, I was forced to drop out of school and had to take a gap year to apply for overseas universities & scholarships – with the former being dependent on the latter. During that time in overcoming challenges, working different jobs and taking a different path, I had time to reflect and live a life many others didn’t get a chance to. However, it was all those experiences that helped define who I was, what I valued, who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to spend my life working towards.
Reflect and draw from the lessons you’ve gained from hardships and/or different experiences and most importantly show how you grew/came out of it as a better person – specifically more resilient, adaptable (agile) and principled. Not only does it help you provide better examples of showing how you already possess the characteristics of a CIMB scholar, but it also differentiates you from the stacks of other typical applicants. Having a unique story, a clear vision of who you are, what makes you different, and what unique thing you can bring to the table goes a long way – more than you may think. At the end of the day, the question behind the assessor’s head is: “What makes you so special?”
With that in mind, I’ve jotted down some quick and concise pieces of advice which I found useful in keeping me grounded in the application journey, and hope that you find useful too.
Personal Statement & Interviews:
- Define your story/pitch.
- Story = who you are as a person, how you got here, where you’re going
- Pitch = how you fit (imagine yourself already working in CIMB) with the values/goals and can contribute to CIMB
- Imagine yourself as a CIMB employee already and/or from the POV of the employer. Who do you think you’d want to hire? (this requires reading and knowledge of CIMB)
- Be creative – I applied to study Social Policy & Economics which isn’t really related to banking but be creative in making the link in how it can help you contribute back to CIMB in your own way (think transferable skills or overlapping knowledge areas)
- Reflect on the experiences and circumstances that have led you to become who you are today so that you know the kind of person you want to be and remember as before you leave this world, and what you need to do to work in that direction.
- In working towards it, know that there’s more than one way to reach a destination. (applies to university applications, scholarships, and life in general)
Virtual Group assessment:
- With regards to the group assessment, last year it was around a few hours long with 2 case studies (with a short break in between) in which you have to work as a team to solve a business problem, and present it at the end.
- My advice in preparing for the group assessment would be to approach it with a positive and constructive attitude/approach. In an environment where everybody might be competitive and anxious in trying to stand out, being positive, collaborative and supportive puts you in a better light.
- A good leader is about being as good of a teamplayer. Build up ideas with each other in a team, and back your team members.
- Show your leadership by making sure everyone is involved (reach out to those who may be left out – it’s easy for someone to feel hesitant to interrupt without seeming rude, especially virtually), take initiative and suggest next steps.
- No specific business knowledge/theory needed. Just business acumen (an eye/ intuition/way of thinking towards opportunity and problem-solving) and background reading around trends and challenges in business/industry
- Focus on action and progress (So what? What now?)