Shell Scholarship


Shell runs a very attractive scholarship program. It’s open to applicants who want to pursue their studies in a variety of destinations, be it the US, UK or even Australia, and they do not have restrictions on the degrees they sponsor. Trust me, I applied with a weird non-engineering course and got accepted. This is mainly because the Shell Program is intended as a Corporate Social Responsibility activity, which also means it has no bond (you heard me right, no bond).

First Stage

Start with applying. Go to their website and get the necessary information. Compile the needed documents and be sure to be careful enough to send all the right documents.

Second Stage

The second stage is a phone interview (in English) conducted by, I presume, a Shell employee (my interviewer’s phone number indicates she’s from India). They’ll set a date and time with you for the interview. Be on your phone during this period. Plan your day, make sure you’re not out or anywhere distracting to have this interview.

It’ll start with the usual “What are your strengths?”, “Why are these your strengths?”, and “What advantages can you offer to your team?”. It went well, until she started rolling out more difficult questions, such as “If you could start a business, tell us how, where and why.”

Take your time, gather your thoughts. She’s hoping for a well-thought-out answer. She understands that you’re being put on the spot here but that’s exactly what she wants. In a matter of minutes, you interviewer wants to gauge how much you can consider and how thorough your thinking process is.

Third Stage

Congrats! You aced your phone interview; it’s the phase where a lot of applicants get dismissed. By now you should have been invited to a venue (mine was the Intercontinental Hotel, KL) to have your interview stage. If you happen to live in Sarawak or Sabah, rest assured that they’ll pay for your expenses and accommodation. And I also found out that they allow you to bring a parent as well (they’re awesome that way).

The third stage is divided into 2 sections. In the first section, you’ll be given a case study where you have to solve real-life problems with real-life (replicated but still) documents. They’ve placed you as a manager somewhere and you have to attain your goals given your constraints.

Here’s a key thing you should know. There are no right answers but there is a ‘right’ answer. All proposed solutions are equally bad (mainly due to your constraints) but some are more unique. So it tests your ability to contextualize and choose the ‘best’ one available. You also do not have time to propose a new solution (I barely had time to finish reading the thing) but you can try.

Next, you’ll be placed into groups and given a portfolio. There your group should prioritise what the key things that your portfolio should achieve are. Here’s the catch, the other group also have their portfolio and goals, and both our groups will be placed on one table to negotiate. Again, constraints will force some choices but now you’re in direct competition with the other side. Luckily enough, my team was filled with capable arguers and we got more of our agenda onto the final paper (which I think did wonders for my chances).

After, the interviewer will hold a ‘press conference’ to grill the 2 groups on the final paper. This is where having more of your agenda will help, the interview can’t ask you hard questions. The other group however, had to engage in damage control on questions like “It seems that the solution leaned more onto the national agenda (my group) rather than the local agenda (the opposing group)”. Better hope you have a politician in your group for these questions.

And that’s the overall process. You patiently wait for their reply on whether you got the scholarship. This could come by phone or email.

General Advice for 3rd Stage

I’ll be honest, some of the best apply for this scholarship and the people who get through seem to have their own niches that make them special. At the ice-breaking session, I sat next to a Cambridge aspirant who plays some instrument for the Malaysian orchestra and the other person next to me climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (I had to Google where that was) and was going to do Geology at Imperial. Its very likely that you’ll be sitting next to very impressive people and wonder why you’re there.

Just remember this, you are there. There’s something special about you just by being there. And it’s not worth bothering yourself on ‘why’ and concentrate more on ‘why you’re there’. You want that scholarship. You can get it. You just have to keep calm and scholar up (whatever that means).

This article is written by a Shell scholar who prefers to remain anonymous.



Another Great Eastern Scholarship Application

95 Andrew Great Eastern Scholarship

Andrew and his scholarship mates at the Great Eastern Supremacy Scholarship Award ceremony

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.

Parting Words

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.

imageedit_8_7814793404Andrew 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.

Jeffrey Cheah Foundation-Sunway Group Scholarship

Sunway Scholarship

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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:

  1. Phone interview
  2. Individual interview and aptitude assessment
  3. Group assessment
  4. 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.

Application form:

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.

Phone interview:

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.

Individual interview:

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!)

Aptitude test:

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.

Group assessment:

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.

Final interview:

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.

Zi Qing

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.

AMCHAM-MACEE Scholarship


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Hi there! My name is Roumen Guha, and I am an 18-year-old Malaysian studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My intended major is electrical engineering, but mechanical and biomedical engineering are both fields that I am interested in as well. My graduating class will be the class of 2018, although I am trying to finish my course in 3 years instead of 4.

I was jointly awarded the 2014 AMCHAM-MACEE Scholarship by the American-Malaysian Chamber of Commerce and the Malaysian American Commission on Educational Exchange. It is a partial scholarship worth $5000 annually, lasting for 4 years of study. To maintain the scholarship, I am expected to maintain at least a 3.25 Grade Point Average, and required to send MACEE a copy of my transcripts every semester. I intend to intern with engineering companies during my summers here, while also taking summer courses. I also plan on pursuing undergraduate research opportunities as they come up.

The first stage of the scholarship application, in my mind, was finding out about it. I only became aware of its existence through a friend of mine who was also applying. I also only found it about 2 weeks before the deadline for the application form. THERE WASN’T ENOUGH TIME.

And so it started, the race against my own laziness. It didn’t help that the scholarship form was a Word document. I resorted to converting the entire document after it was filled out to PDF and then writing the 2 essays in separate Word files. The application also required two letters of recommendation; one from a teacher that had previously taught me and another from a mentor in a community organization that I was a member of. These letters of reference had to be both emailed and posted to MACEE, and because I was already so close to the application deadline of May 30th, I had to request that the letters be completed as quickly as possible. Be aware, they also ask for the income tax and annual salary statements for working parents in the application.

Another challenge I faced was submitting the application, which had to be done via email and via post. However, because I had been working on finalizing my essays till the early morning hours of the 30th of May, I had to submit my application in person. And I didn’t have a working printer at home either. I had to submit it before the MACEE office closed at 16:30. My parents were supposed to have come home from work with the documents printed, but they got stuck in a traffic jam and so couldn’t make it in time. I quickly rushed to a taxi stand and asked the driver to take me to Menara Yayasan Tun Razak, where the MACEE office was. I called MACEE ahead of reaching there to ask if they had a printer I could use in their offices, and I was in luck!

About 3 days after submission I got an email and then a call informing me that I was a finalist, and I was asked to schedule a date and time for the interview, 15:30 on Friday the 13th of June. Talk about bad omens. The week of the interview, I was busy with trying to learn the basics about cars with a mechanic, and so didn’t have time to prepare till the day before. So on Thursday afternoon, I arranged my documents, such as certificates and accomplishments and other things of the sort inside a folder to take with me. The next morning, I researched the commonly asked questions by scholarship interviewers and went through about 30 questions, trying to answer them to the best of my knowledge.

At the interview, it looked like I was overdressed, with a tie.

It was a one-on-four interview, with me being the one. It was intimidating; they all had their eyes on me. I was uncomfortable in a tie. I was overthinking. I got terrible stage fright. I could hear the tremor in my voice as I spoke. They could definitely hear it too. I even apologized for this. But the interviewers were nice, compassionate people. They had a tough job ahead of them too. They could only pick one person for the scholarship. They could only say one person was deserving enough for it, which isn’t true! But it was their job to pick.

They asked why I chose electrical engineering. I told them it seemed challenging and that it was so diverse that I couldn’t imagine there wasn’t more to be done in it. I also told them that I wasn’t sure, and that I might change to another form of engineering after I had started classes. Also, engineers serve. I want to be helpful. They asked why the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and I told them that it was the only one of two universities which accepted me, it was the university my dad went to, and that it was a university ranked for many, many subjects compared to the other university, which had a stronger electrical engineering program. I told them this was because I wanted to learn a lot. I love music, and I intend to take music classes. I want to try dance classes as well. Debate classes. I want to try everything this university has to offer, and it has A LOT to offer. They asked why the US, and I told them it was because only the US system gives students the ability to sit in on classes and not technically be a part of them, so it wouldn’t count in their exams, giving me the opportunity to learn instead of cram.

They asked about any leadership qualities I have; I told them about my experience as a Leo of the Leo Club of Metro Methodist College Kuala Lumpur, about being a leader and about being of service to people. (Service is also one of the main themes of the University of Wisconsin – Madison.)

They asked where I saw myself 10 years from now. I answered that I’d like to be working with UNOPS, which is the United Nations Office for Project Services. It is a peace-keeping organization that is renowned for being politically neutral and only helping people, and that it was also allowed into countries to help even when the UN itself was not. I also told them that I think prosthetics is a great, curious field to get into, and since I fully intend on continuing into graduate studies, I might choose to go into biomechanical engineering. I told them of the recent articles I’d read from Duke University and Rice University about wires made of nerves so that the body would build them up and heal them itself, instead of needing to be replaced. I feel like there is a lot more to be found there.

The most challenging one was one was asked last. It asked why I, specifically me, would be more deserving of the scholarship. I had no answer, and I told the interviewers this. I told them that I’d struggled with this question too. There are 7 billion people on Earth, and I could not be the most deserving one. I told them that I’d try to change the fact that their job is so difficult. I want to make education easier to attain, and I told them this too.

They also gave me the opportunity to ask them questions, and I took it to ask how many finalists there were. 5 finalists.

I don’t think that this scholarship changed my views, but I think it made them clearer. It gave me something to shoot for, and the understanding that there were others relying on me to succeed. I am deeply grateful for simply being considered.

During the interview, I added simple jokes. Like the fact that my dad went to the same university seemed like a disadvantage for the university than an advantage. I was honest. I think that that’s the best advice you can get. To be honest, and prepare for everything. They want to know that you can succeed, so don’t give them a reason to think otherwise.

Good luck!


Roumen Guha is currently studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to graduate as an Electrical Engineer. He likes music and stories, and is like a moth to a flame with drumsets

The Astro Scholarship


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Hello readers. This short piece is to give some insight into the whole selection process for the Astro scholarship. Just to start off, I would like to say that having been in your shoes I can understand any nervousness, anxiety, worry, butterflies in your stomach, etc. As a Christian, my first advice would be to take a deep breath and say a prayer. Remember that if you do your best and leave the rest to God, you have already done the best that you can do. So it becomes pointless to stress over things beyond our control.

How many stages were there in your scholarship assessment?

There are about 4 stages after the submission process.

1st stage – The online assessment

Say you have submitted your resume and are now asked to take the online assessment. This part is done online at your own convenient time. However, you are required to submit your answers before a certain date.

The online assessment is divided into two parts.

  • The first part is an English/Maths questionnaire where you will be tested on mostly your logic and IQ. It resembles the A-levels Thinking Skills questions (if you are familiar with them). Most people find this part fairly easy so don’t stress too hard over this.
  • The second part of the online assessment includes writing an essay. You are given two questions and are required to choose one to write an essay on. My question was something along the lines of “Astro is primarily a media broadcasting company. Propose a few ideas to expand the company.” Hopefully you can tell that I am paraphrasing the question.

2nd stage – The Interview

So 1st stage is done and dusted, thank God. Now comes the second stage where you will be invited to an interview at the Astro centre. Here you will be given a time slot to come and attend the interview. Come early as it gives you time to prepare mentally and just to calm down a little. The environment was really pleasant and exciting.

The interviewer was the Vice-President of Human Resources. She was very friendly and hopefully this will put you at ease. The questions were fairly standard like “Tell me about yourself?” “What would you say are some of your weaknesses?” “Tell me about something you did that shows your creativity?” and “How can you contribute to Astro if we select you for our scholarship programme?”

Try to put a little more thought in your answers. Remember, the interviewer will be having interviews that can stretch across a few days. Having the same responses to the questions as most other people will not be very favourable. Also, remember to be honest and polite. Give a proper greeting when you enter the room. Try to remember the interviewer’s name to address him/her properly. Be pleasant. Also, show serious interest in working for the company if you plan to be their scholar.

3rd stage – Group Assessment

Phew. Congratulations if you have made it this far. *Wipe imaginary sweat*

For this stage, Astro will use outside examiners to assess the candidates with a few of their own personnel overseeing the activities. During my time, the people from Leaderonomics were invited to assess the candidates. It was really exciting and the facilitators from Leaderonomics were very outgoing and vibrant people.

You will initially begin with a few ice-breaking activities to ease the tension and loosen up our tongues. Then, the facilitators will start dividing the batch into a few groups. There were about 4 groups, if I am not mistaken, with each group having around 7-8 people. A leader was chosen from each group randomly. My advice would be not to sweat over this. You will not be in anyway handicapped if you do not happen to be a leader of a group. Instead, try showing that you can also be an efficient follower.

After being split into groups, we were given a few tasks to do as a group. Almost all the activities given were fun and resembled high school camping activities.

For example, we were given a bunch of materials and told to create the most innovative Astro centre we could come up with. Also, we were given chocolate bars and mineral water to sell to raise funds for our “Astro centre.” The funds allowed us to buy more material for our project. Selling the chocolate bars and mineral water wasn’t easy though as we had to sell them at a fixed price to either the facilitators from Leaderonomics or Astro. Also, you were competing with other teams to sell the exact same item. I managed to sell the bottle of water by including my own home-packed bottle of water for a buy-1, free-1 deal. Let’s just say some sweet talking was also required.

After a certain amount of time, we were required to give a presentation of our Astro centre and this was when all sorts of ideas were presented. There was even one where the team built missiles as a defence for the centre. Again, this is about creativity and the ability to present rather than what is plausible. Ability in public speaking came in handy here. Other teams were allowed to question your design to test your ability to defend your ideas. Remember that your attitude is being watched throughout the process. Many people here tried asking questions just for the sake of it, which did not impress the judges. Ask only genuine and intelligent questions. Try answering a few as well as the facilitators notice this.

There were many other modules that tested our ability to think on our feet, things that you normally find in a leadership camp activity.

My time spent in Red Crescent camps really paid off here, thank God. My advice would be to get involved in all of the team’s decision making. Voice out your ideas and concerns. Once your voice is heard early (especially if it is beneficial), it makes it easier to state your points throughout the day. Also, remember to take an interest in your teammates’ ideas as most of the people there are intelligent and capable individuals. Be a team player, take up the challenge to lead if appropriate, and try thinking of ideas that are out of the box. Use the opportunity to make some friends as well. Most of the friends that I made ended up getting the scholarship as well.

This stage was the most fun I had in all the scholarship stages I had been in.

4th stage – The Final Interview

Finally, this is the stage before the scholars are selected. You are given a slot to come in for the interview. The interviewer panel on my day consisted of 3 senior Astro employees. There was Mr Alex, the Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Andrew, the head of human capital and a lady interviewer (whose name I can’t quite recall), who was the Chief Information Officer. The questions in the interview ranged from “What are some of your interests?” to “Why is the piano an interest of yours?” even up to “What are your favourite periods in music and why?” I guess my point here is they get really thorough in their examination and see how we react to unconventional questions under scrutiny.

It’s not all about music though as they also asked me to defend my choice to study in London as opposed to studying somewhere in the States. Their argument was that the United Kingdom was seeing a decline in terms of competitiveness compared to areas such as China and the United States. Chinese universities are on the rise and the U.S. had traditionally “stronger” universities and was the number one destination worldwide in terms of higher education. Also, universities thrive on government grants which depended on the GDP. With the economic power shifting toward China and the U.S being the powerhouse it has been, British universities are expected to slowly decline.

My advice in this stage would be to pray beforehand, and remain firm with your choice with proper reasons to back your decision. Do not be rude or ignorant however as they are not the same as being firm. Remember that a scholarship is a blessing and the company does not owe you anything.

There are no set number of scholars chosen each year at this stage. 15 were selected for the final interview with 7 finally chosen as Astro scholars. The number was 5 the previous year. It comes down to how many applicants are deemed suitable for the scholarship by the interviewers.

Old man’s ramblings

I sincerely hope this article was some sort of help to you guys. Most of this happened nearly 18 months ago, so most of the details are rather unclear. The Astro scholarship is slightly different from say Khazanah or Shell scholarship. Each scholarship has certain expectations from its candidates and so different people fare differently in each scholarship. Since most of the people that are shortlisted after the first 2 rounds are generally bright, Astro chooses to focus more on individuals who are great at fitting into a business team environment. Sort of like a prefects selection process in some ways.

Also, don’t be afraid to apply if you are studying something that does not seem like a direct fit for the company. I chose to study Geophysics and still managed by God’s grace to get the scholarship. I knew of another applicant who studied gaming design who got shortlisted to the 3rd stage (although he eventually did not manage to get the scholarship).

Finally, it’s not the end of the world if you are not chosen for the Astro scholarship. There are plenty of other scholarship providers. Also, getting a scholarship is not the end all and be all of your life. If you do not manage to get any scholarships, fret not. Life goes on so long as you do the best that you can do. It’s not necessarily the place you study or the scholarship you win. Life should not be a rat race.

There, I got it off my chest. So I wish the very best to all would-be applicants and remember…


New Jo-Shua is a devoted Christian who reads Geophysics in Imperial College London under an Astro Scholarship.

FELDA Global Scholarship

adv 2014

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There were 2 stages in the Biasiswa FELDA Global application process.

1st Stage – Written Test

The first stage was held a few weeks after submitting the application. There were many of us – around 50 candidates. Thus, it was very challenging as there were too many competitors.

There were a few sections in the test. The English test tested the candidates’ listening skills. There was also a knowledge test where we were asked to write essays of 1500 words and above about FELDA programs for young generations and our suggestions on what to do to help the future generations.

2nd Stage – Interview

After shortlisting the candidates, only 15 of us made it through to the 2nd stage. For this stage, we had to demonstrate our speaking skills as well as our personality to be accepted for the scholarship.

The interviewers asked us about our family backgrounds and how we could contribute to the country, especially to FELDA once we return from tertiary studies. I was also required to give my opinions about Malaysia during the period of time and about the Malaysian education system. Plus, they asked me about FELDA’s program for younger generations.

It was very challenging because we had to face the Chairman of FELDA with his other assistants and the result was up to the 7 interviewers in the room. The feeling was beyond explanation – sometimes nervous, sometimes excited.

There were some criteria that I had fulfilled to be awarded the scholarship. Firstly, my exam results helped. Secondly, my extra-curricular activities. Although I did not join many activities, I had high achievements in one particular activity. They also looked forward to my participation in FELDA Programs for the younger generations.

To prospective Biasiswa FELDA Global applicants, I would advise them to:

  1. Get the best results possible in SPM (of course),
  2. Be active in school activities (you do not need to join many clubs, instead be active in the club that interest you the most),
  3. Get some basic knowledge about what FELDA is all about, including their programs and achievements. You may gather a lot of information from FELDA’s official  website, or receive monthly FELDA news in Utusan Malaysia where you will learn about the activities held by FELDA,
  4. Be mentally and physically prepared for the interview and test,
  5. Portray a great personality to impress the interviewers.


Mohamad Hafiz is a FELDA scholar who had just completed his American Credit Transfer Program at INTEC last June. He pursues his study in Mechanical Engineering at State University of New York, University at Buffalo. Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time – Thomas A. Edison.

Bank Negara Kijang Scholarship


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What is the Kijang Scholarship?

The Kijang Scholarship is one of the two overseas scholarships offered by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) (also known as the Central Bank of Malaysia) aimed towards SPM graduates, making it one of the many generous institutions that offer scholarships at this level. Applicants are able to request to be sponsored to study at the UK, USA or Australia at university level to read one of a certain few disciplines – Economics, Actuarial Science, Law, Accounting & Finance and Mathematics. These specific subjects are chosen because BNM is a Central Bank, thereby requiring its human capital to be proficient in these fields in order to regulate the economy effectively.

What is the difference between Kijang and Kijang Emas?

While this article will be on the Kijang Scholarship predominantly, some obvious differences between Kijang Emas and Kijang will be made clear here. In terms of grade requirements, Kijang Emas is exclusively for straight A+ students while 8A/A+ is the requirement for Kijang. The difference in criterion stems from the terms of the scholarships themselves. While the Kijang Scholarship limits itself to the 3 countries and 5 disciplines mentioned earlier, Kijang Emas permits its holders to pursue any discipline in any country. However, applying to Kijang Emas doesn’t guarantee you assessment for the Kijang Emas; if BNM thinks that your application is more suitable for Kijang, you may be shifted. In contrast, I have never heard of the opposite happening thus far.

Is there a bond that comes with the scholarship?

There is a service bond for holders of the Kijang Scholarship – 2 years of work with BNM for every year of sponsorship. This means that getting sponsored for 2 years of A-level plus 3 years in the UK means 10 years of bond. The plus point is that you get job security in a Central Bank. This is, I believe, explicitly stated in the BNM scholarship webpage. In comparison to other scholarship bodies in the financial or governance sector e.g. Maybank, Sime Darby and JPA which all have bonds of between 4-5 years, Kijang Holders have to serve a far longer bond period. Kijang Emas scholarship recipients, however, are not bonded to BNM, though they are called to contribute to Malaysia, also for double the period of the sponsorship.

How is the assessment process?

There are two major stages in which your suitability for the scholarship is assessed.

The first, of course, is the online application. Right when SPM results are released i.e. early March, the BNM website will commence its scholarship applications, of which links can be found on their website. It is imperative that you do not apply to the wrong scholarship given that there are scholarships for undergraduate level and beyond as well, in which you may have proven your lack of competence if you do so. The online application is relatively simple: just key in whichever details they ask for e.g. personal details, SPM grades, co-curricular achievements etc. I have heard that applicants have to write short timed essay at this stage (I did not have to in 2013, but heard that 2014 applicants had to). Whether it is true or not, if you truly know what you want to apply for and why, plus if you are a competent student, you will fare well.

Your co-curricular achievements will definitely help in making you stand out from the myriad of applicants, all of whom have stellar grades. Perhaps by coincidence, but a significant portion of people that make the cut all the way until the end and eventually attain the scholarship itself, are debaters. A more intuitive observation was that people who get shortlisted have at least national-level achievements. I, for one, had an international-level achievement, about two national-level achievements, amidst several state and district-level achievements plus 8A+, 1A in SPM. It is imperative that you excel in co-curricular activities while in secondary school rather than going full bookworm. If you haven’t, you are probably not going to make it, unless your application seems strong even without it.

If you are one of the lucky ones amidst a huge pool of competent applicants all across Malaysia, your second stage would be the 3 day 2 night Kijang Academy which will be held at Lanai Kijang and Sasana Kijang. I have no way of assuring that this will be the length of the Academy at the time this article is read. It is usually at this stage where people realise how sophisticated the Central Bank can be. You will be staying at Lanai Kijang, their residential building while a majority of your assessment will be in Sasana Kijang, the futurist glass building equipped with cutting edge technological gadgets and a huge library. There will be good food for the famished.

So what is this Kijang Academy?

If you have hundreds of equally competent applicants on paper, how do you choose a handful of scholars? The solution would be the usual – interviews, group tasks etc. This is where Kijang Academy occurs. However, the Kijang Academy is designed in such a way that it is impossible to fake it through. Who and what qualities they are looking for are never known explicitly. So my advice at this stage for you prospective applicants would be to be yourself at your best and be a humble person.

Stage 1

The first stage during my year was an essay on the first night of our stay. Questions were generally personal i.e. your qualities, studying attitudes etc. My inference was that this task aims at showcasing your thought process, reasoning, structure and effective communication. It is imperative that one writes concisely; verbosity hinders communication. They want to know more about you rather than to see you show off your flowery, bombastic and glorious language mastery.

For my case, it was done in a relatively short period of time (not exactly short if you reflect on it after a year of A level) in a ballroom sort of hall.

Stage 2

The second stage begins on the following day in Sasana Kijang. Do note that this may be drastically different by the time you are reading this article as scholarship assessment methods change over time at their discretion. This stage consists of several group-based assessments – interviews and tasks. You will be put into groups of approximately 10.

The first portion of the group stage was intuitively an ice-breaking session. I was required to introduce another member of the group while she did the same for me. The setting was designed to make everyone less stressful or tense and know each other more for the remaining of the group stages. So for strategic purposes, get to know everyone in your group well; perhaps knowing their strengths will do.

The second portion of the group stage, if my memory doesn’t fail me or if nothing changes, was an interview done under the disguise of a series of role-play tasks. We were supposed to give talk shows presuming that we are experts of our desired fields of studies. By desired, I mean the disciplines you applied through the system. Essentially, it means that they want to know even more about why you applied for your desired subject of choice under a less pressured situation.

The third portion of the group stage was a obligatory group task as per what other scholarship bodies also do – a group presentation based on a business problem i.e. to come up with a solution for a situation portrayed within 30 minutes of discussion/preparation within your group. The presentation would last approximately 10-15 minutes in extension to Q&A by the assessors. Fret not about your knowledge in business jargons as the questions are designed to be fair to everyone regardless of pre-existing knowledge on business. It aims at exposing how you function as part of a team. Keep in mind that this is not a game for dominance by anyone; your purpose is to contribute towards a working solution as a team. If you, in any way, decide that being “shiok sendiri”, shutting out others or being a dictatorial leader is a good way of working as a team, all the best!

The fourth and final portion of the group stage was a creative group work, in which most will find this part the most memorable, enjoyable and stress-free. You will be using limited resources e.g. limited amount of papers, tapes and sticks to build something within an hour. We were tasked with building a tower. Creativity counts here as well; hence, artistic members of the group will be of great use here. With the creativity cap removed, my group produced a futurist twin tower ultrapolis. My advice for this part is the same as the previous paragraph: you are part of a team striving for a creative solution, so do your part and contribute effectively.

The Break Announcement

At the beginning of the Kijang Academy up until now, there will be about a hundred of applicants per batch. Intuitively, they are not going to interview everyone personally if they can cut down some by this stage, which is exactly what happens. The assessors will be able to identify who may secure the scholarship and who definitely won’t by the end of the group assessments. Only those who may secure the scholarship by the judgment of the second stage stay onto the next stage – the individual interview and presentation. The announcement is done differently in my year than in the following year. However, the main characteristics stay – a list of students will be announced and be told elsewhere that they have been dropped out of the selection process. Either that or those who make the break will be told elsewhere.

Stage 3

The final stage of assessment consists of two parts – the individual presentation and the interview. By this stage, approximately half of the applicants would have been dropped out, leaving every group with on average 4-6 members. There doesn’t seem to be any quotas of participants making it to this stage as some teams have significantly more or less members at this stage.

The first portion of the final stage begins such that you are given 15 minutes to prepare a presentation based on one of the questions from a list. There are general questions similar to SPM-level questions and more external knowledge-based questions. Most interviewees went for the general questions. Do note that while all of the applicants prepare together, not everyone gets interviewed immediately after. This does not mean that you are allowed to make edits after 15 minutes of preparation to your flipchart. When it is your turn, you will be asked to present whatever you have for about 10 minutes plus 5 minutes of Q&A session by the assessors. Effective communication, reasoning and making sense is still the key here.

The second and ultimate portion is of course the interview itself, which may be rather lengthy. Mine, for one, lasted almost about an hour. In practice, your interviewers want to know more about what they have learned about you in the previous stages e.g. why your chosen course, why Bank Negara and of course, showcasing through your ECAs/school life why you are suitable for the scholarship or even working in Bank Negara as a whole. Essentially, they want to be sure that you are suitable for the scholarship. There is no point awarding a scholarship to a student who won’t fit into working at Bank Negara. The criteria of assessment remain difficult to decipher, my advice remains the same – be yourself at your best.

What happens after Kijang Academy?

This is arguably even more stressful than the assessment itself if you make it thus far. You have to wait for almost 3-4 weeks before you get the decision from BNM. There is only so much you can do at this stage, go on with interviews from other scholarship bodies, continue college education or get on with life as usual. If you are awarded the scholarship, you will receive a phone call from BNM telling you the discipline you are sponsored to pursue; you will also be told of the country in which your undergraduate studies will take place, hopefully. There are people who do not attain their first choice, presumably that the assessors think that their second choice suits them more. By words, you can decide to either accept or reject the scholarship through phone.

There will be a day dedicated to briefing you and your parents about the scholarship terms and preparatory colleges (KTJ, KYUEM or Taylor’s), probably about a week after you get the call from BNM. On this day, you will be briefed on the scholarship contract just like how legal firms and banks normally would.   Make sure that you get as much clarifications as you can on the terms; your following 1 or 2 years in the prep colleges will be directly affected by them. After which KTJ, KYUEM and Taylor’s will brief you on their schools/colleges.

What to do after being awarded the scholarship?

If you are awarded the scholarship, it means you have attained a privilege to have free overseas education, arguably a dream everyone would have. Don’t let it go to waste. Keep in mind that attaining the scholarship is just a stage but retaining the scholarship is another. The universities which you are allowed to apply to are extremely competitive ones, which is rather intuitive because who would want to sponsor stellar students to average overseas universities on par with local universities. This means that you will have to study even harder to get your places in the overseas universities. In your preparatory colleges/schools, life will be even more hectic than in secondary school with more academic content and co-curricular activities. My ultimate advice would be to prioritise smartly; the Bank sent you to whichever place you end up in to study, not to flunk your grades because of anything.

imageedit_4_4122498761Suah Jing Lian is currently a Bank Negara Malaysia Kijang Scholar who’s pursuing his A-level at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar and hopefully Economics in the UK. He has a penchant for Baroque music, particularly Bach’s partitas, and debating, which he claims provides sparks to his life. People claim that he looks and speaks in an intimidating way but not really, he’s one of the most eccentric people you will ever meet.

JPA Program Khas Korea, Jepun, Perancis, Jerman


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After submitting my application online, I was called for a one-day assessment in 2012 where we had a group interview and two group discussions.

The group interview focused on questions related to policies implemented by the government, such as the Government Transformation Program (GTP) and Economic Transformation Program (ETP). Even if you are not sure about the answer, give it a try instead of being silent as they would want to access your ability to communicate effectively.

Both of the group discussions were conducted in the same way but in different languages – Malay and English.  In my Malay group discussion, we were shown a picture which was about “Isu pembuangan kanak-kanak”.  We had to discuss among ourselves, note down the points on a piece of Mahjong paper and present it to the interviewers.

In the English session, we were shown a picture of P.Ramlee and the questions were regarding how P. Ramlee could improve the sense of belonging among youth in the country.  It was very tough and we ran out of points.  Most of us were talking about something else out of the topic but I guess they also judged us based on our ability to talk  instead of the content itself. Don’t hesitate to share your ideas during the group discussions as we were evaluated while we were working in the groups.

I think your performance during the interview is more important than your past achievements.  Of course having good results and a good curriculum vitae will be an added advantage if they are distinguishing between two students with equal performance during the interview.

I would advise SPM students to put in more effort in their studies (you need six A+ and above for the Korea and Japan program and 8A+ and above for the France and Germany program).  They would also request for photocopies of certificates of all the activities that you have participated in. You should also have the mental preparation to learn a whole new language that will be your medium of instruction in your university. Last but not least, learn more about the current policies implemented by the government.

imageedit_4_5455558426Robert Tieng Shiaw Wee will be pursuing Chemical Engineering in the University of Manchester under the JPA Scholarship although he was also offered the JPA Program Khas Korea Scholarship in 2012. He is a crazy badminton fan and has treated badminton as part of his life, trying to imitate the superb skills from the videos watched but still his skill is just so so. Being born to be a shy person, he may require some time to befriend with strangers and eventually becoming buddies!

JPA Ivy League Dan Setara Scholarship 2013 – A Memoir.

One of the requirements of this JPA scholarship

One of the requirements of this JPA scholarship

My name is Victor Tan. I’m a rising sophomore at the University of Chicago and a current holder of the JPA Ivy League dan Setara Scholarship. When I got into UChicago, I was absolutely ecstatic, yet I was shipwrecked in denial – I wasn’t sure if I could afford more than three years in the States without my family having to sell a house; but at the same time, I wasn’t keen on working at Bank Negara or Sime Darby for the better part of my youth…

Hence, I applied for the JPA Ivy League dan Setara scholarship. 6-year bond. Only applicants who have gained admission (read: unconditional offer) to one of the universities in the Times Top Universities Rankings need apply. The only stipulation was that I had to return to Malaysia to find a job in a private corporation for 6 years: Since most people who study in the States do return to Malaysia, I was totally okay with that! One online application and three stages of interviews later, I received word in November of 2013 that the JPA overlords had decided to award the scholarship to lil’ old me.

With that in mind, this is a memoir of my process of applying for the scholarship and being assessed, inclusive of the interview process, as well as some advice for prospective applicants. If you’re interested in applying for the scholarship and you eventually do, I hope that it helps some of you go through the rollercoaster of happiness and awesome emotions that I went through on the day I received the scholarship!

Anyway, down to the application process!

The application process.

So the whole thing took about five months from start to finish. As I mentioned, there is an online application. During my time, the online application was only open for a week, so keep your eyes peeled to make sure that you don’t miss the deadline! In the online application, you fill in the university that you’ve received an unconditional offer from and submit your pre-university results. During my year, you didn’t have to attach scanned copies of your results and conditional offers, but you had to bring these documents to the JPA office on the actual day of your interview, and I think that this has changed ever since. What remains the same, however, is the fact that if you do not have an offer from one of those universities, you are not eligible to apply. JPA happened to look favourably upon me, so they called me for an interview at the JPA Putrajaya office.

When I reached the JPA office, I saw about 80 different people dressed in varying degrees of business casual/formal, and I was pretty worried that there would be lots of competition: It was then and there that I silently cursed myself for applying for only one scholarship, but I also silently thought to myself that I had done well to reach this stage, and decided to make the best of it. Later though, I found out that everyone was scared too, so I guess it kind of evened out (because I’m inclined to schadenfreude like that :P).

During the first part of the morning, we handed in all the documents that JPA had asked us to furnish on the day itself, including the unconditional offer letters that we had obtained, and our academic results for both pre-U and our SPM/IGCSE equivalents alike. Subsequently, we were separated into groups of three people – My group was composed of an old acquaintance whom I had met at a competition a year ago, in addition to this Malaysian girl who claimed that she was going to Stanford. I say ‘claim’, and I will elaborate on this at some later point during this piece. The three of us were made to go through three stages of interviews, conducted in Malay and English alike, and I’m guessing that you guys are dying to learn about how they worked out.

Without further ado…

The first stage!

The first stage of my interview was conducted entirely in Malay by two JPA officers in one of the JPA conference rooms. Pretty depressing atmosphere – It looked like a university lecture hall, and there were actually chalkboards where we could write down our ideas. We were given a case study that was written entirely in Malay, which was basically a newspaper article about haze in Malaysia. The three of us were tasked with outlining the nature of the issue, several possible solutions, as well as some considerations to take into mind with the stakeholders.

We were given about twenty minutes to discuss our response to the prompt … in Malay, while being observed by people who had spoken Malay for their entire lives, so that was mildly intimidating! The issue for most of the people who were applying for the scholarship at this point in time was that they were first and second year university students years removed from the Malaysian education system. As a result, most of them couldn’t speak Malay very well and thus struggled during this interview. I was very prepared, though, so I went into the discussion with a pretty open mind, wrote a couple of points down, and discussed a few others with my peers during the discussion.

During the discussion, however, whatever trepidation that I had about delivering this presentation faded away – I performed a small division of labour, and we talked a bit about what we were each going to say. (Although keep in mind that plans like these don’t always work out!)

The presentation itself was pretty simple – I introduced the group, then gave a little bit of background on the issue, while Eng Keat and “Stanford girl” spoke a little about the stakeholders involved as well as some possible resolutions before we moved into Q&A and were forced to defend our answers. Considering that the prompt was about haze, it wasn’t very difficult to talk about the issue considering that I read the news and I knew about some of the complexities regarding the issue. So I spoke everything that was on my mind, always trying to ensure that my colleagues got airtime to the interviewers too – Overall, I think they were pretty impressed with our presentation, because one of them praised us with a “good job” after the presentation!

Next, we have…

The second stage!

The second stage of my interview was conducted entirely in English by two JPA officers. In this stage, we were tasked, once again, with conducting a presentation – except in English.

This stage of the interview was slightly abstract, because the case study we were given was essentially a picture of the national flag, followed by the following question: How does this inspire feelings of patriotism within you?

Again, there was a discussion period of twenty minutes, which in this case I didn’t actually need, but I went along with the charade anyway. At this point in time, I was pretty sure that they wanted to test our rhetorical skill, which I had absolutely no problem with because I had been involved in Model UN and debate alike – In other words, I had no problem with bullshitting and structuring a presentation on the fly, with absolutely no planning, absolutely no consideration of the things that I was going to say.  My friend had a rough idea of the things that he wanted to say, so we spent the majority of the time helping “Stanford girl” come up with ideas for topics to talk about.

I don’t have very much to say about the second part of the interview apart from the fact that this interview went really well, because I was completely composed, and I had lots of preparation from previous debate tournaments, Model UN speeches drilled into my brain, etcetera. When you’ve mastered the art of giving seven-minute speeches in English, there really shouldn’t be a problem, or any degree of fear when you’re making things up on the fly, so that was cool.

Now, for the next (and last!) stage of the interview…

The third stage.

This interview was conducted partially in Malay and partially in English. By this point, I was assuming that the third stage was going to be some sort of Q&A session where I could talk about my interests and what I did in college, and I was right! This interview lasted about an hour total, and it was basically two JPA officers grilling us about national issues and our college backgrounds – Though to some extent it was about our background knowledge of the courses that we were going to study, I felt that on some level, the interviewers were simply trying to see how well we could cope under pressure.

The interview began with introductions. Name, the university that we were going to, and the course that we were going to study. Victor Tan, Economics, University of Chicago – (Insert name of friend), Maths, University of Oxford…. (Insert name of “Stanford Girl”. Applying to Stanford, seeking a degree in business and administration.)

The interviewers were curious about “Stanford Girl”, and they pressed further – Did she know how the scholarship worked? Did she have an unconditional offer from the university? In response to the first question, she said that she wanted JPA to apply for the university on her behalf. In response to the second question, she said no she did not have an offer from Stanford. Considering that she didn’t even understand the basic requirements of the scholarship, it was pretty much a given that she didn’t receive it in the end. However, seeing that she and her mum had spent over RM1000 booking flights and hotels in Kuala Lumpur, I felt pretty sorry for them both.

At some point, the interviewers stopped pressuring “Stanford Girl”, and they moved on to asking legitimate questions, which I can summarize in the following set of bullet points:

  •         Why are you interested in pursuing your field of study?
  •         Why the university that you chose?
  •         Will you come back after graduation?
  •         What is 1Malaysia?

The interesting thing about this interview, however, was that the interviewers were making up questions on the fly – And I was happy that I had the opportunity to actually engage someone in a conversation rather than talk at their face for 20 minutes straight.

When my friend noted that he was studying math at Oxford, the interviewers asked him the following – “Why does 1+1 = 2?”, to which my friend responded by noting that numbers and the rules of addition are part of an axiomatic and logical system in which meaning is absent when we do not abide by those rules – He also noted that numbers are arbitrary and carry a representational function, meaning that “3” could equal “2” if we had chosen to define our number system as such.

He explained this in Malay. The interviewers did not understand him, and it was kind of amusing to watch.

When it came to my turn, they asked a little bit about my university (in Malay) and why Economics, to which I gave them a bunch of generic answers which you can probably look up if you Google the name of my university. Additionally, they asked me how my knowledge of Economics would help Malaysia (in English), specifically about the allocation of BR1M payments to the poor as well as the removal of petroleum subsidies by the Malaysian government. My response included a short analysis of the historical trend of poverty in our country, (some!) discussion of national issues as well as the need for the NEP, BR1M, and other schemes in light of the economic inequality between the races, though whether I personally believed in those arguments was a separate issue entirely. (I had mentioned racial tensions, and my interviewer specifically zeroed in and asked me why those racial tensions occurred, so if you’re not very prepared to talk about something, make sure you don’t say it!)

They pretty much ignored “Stanford Girl”.

Subsequently, they had some fun pressuring us about whether or not we were going to come back after graduation. Trick question: if you receive that question, always say yes because you pretty much have to return after graduation, that’s what’s stipulated in the scholarship package. 😛

Lastly, they asked us about 1Malaysia. This was problematic, because much like the majority of you reading this article, I had no idea what 1Malaysia is, and I don’t care even now. It was okay though, because I just made up something, as did my friend, and the interviewer ran with that. Again, “Stanford Girl” was ignored.

And that was it!


In November, I was midway through Fall Quarter in UChicago, and I was studying for midterms one night (as usual!). A friend of mine messaged me to tell me that the scholarship results had been released, and naturally, there was a pretty big element of fear and anticipation on my end.

I remember the moment when I realized that all of that fear was unfounded… Because both my friend and I, we each received one of the five to eight JPA Ivy League dan Setara scholarships that were given out that year.

Needless to say, I was absolutely overjoyed. I remember calling my mum, my brother, anyone and everyone who would listen about the fact that I had gotten the scholarship, and I remember the 80 USD phone bill that resulted because I hadn’t considered the possibility that I might end up paying an exorbitant amount of money. Please don’t be like me, and try using Skype instead 😛

In reflection, I had a pretty good support system when it came to applying for this scholarship, because I had created a small Facebook group for all the scholarship applicants, and we had run a couple of mock interviews for ourselves throughout the course of applying for the scholarship. With that in mind, I’d like to specifically thank Dylan Ler for helping to conduct mock interviews for the scholarship, for in general being chill and helping us by speaking in Malay – By the day of the scholarship interview, we were all extremely well-prepared, and we could tackle pretty much any question that was thrown at us.

I was very, very happy as a result, because I knew that I had given my very best and gotten the result I was looking for.

With that in mind, here’s some advice.

Advice for prospective applicants.

  •         Don’t abandon your Malay just because you’re in college. You’ll need it for scholarship interviews, and if you can’t perform, ask yourself the following: If I were a scholarship officer seeking people to represent my scholarship body, would I pay RM1 million to send someone overseas when they can’t even speak the national language?
  •         Get informed. Know things that you would be expected to know as an informed citizen of this country. Do not compromise on reading the news, do not compromise on being updated about current affairs. If you don’t even take the effort to find out about how your country is being run or what’s happening in the world, nobody is going to be impressed by you no matter how well you’ve done academically.
  •         Dress well, cut your hair, and always be aware of how you are perceived. Granted, this may come off as hypocrisy considering the fact that I now have blonde hair and look like an ‘Ah Beng’, but I wore a suit on the day of the interview and I looked like a perfect ‘guaikia’. However, let me share the following anecdote with you: One of the scholarship applicants, an Imperial kid, if I’m not wrong, was in an elevator with me and an elderly gentleman as we moved from one floor of the JPA building to the venue where the interviews were being held – He was dressed in business casual, yes, but he hadn’t cut his hair. The elderly gentleman noted the following :”You’re going for an interview, and you look like a mess. How can we give you the scholarship like this?”

It’s true that this little incident may not have affected the overall outcome, considering that only five people did get the scholarship. However, it’s always important to be aware of how you are perceived and the way you carry yourself, because again, as a JPA scholar, you will be a REPRESENTATIVE of this country. Act like it.

  •         Hang out with other scholarship applicants! Use Google, add people on Facebook, organize organize organize! A great resource to use is, a scholarship forum on which I met a lot of different people who were applying for the scholarship – In fact, I’m willing to bet that the majority of you who are applying for this scholarship at this point in time have read Recom. Malaysia is a small country, with a small pool of people who are vying for the same thing. Don’t view people simply as competitors but rather as collaborators – Meet up, talk to each other, learn from one another, because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
  •         PRACTICE. Your interview is important, and it is the only factor that you can control. You can’t influence which university you’ve already gotten into, and this is the only real way that you can have an influence on the outcome as an applicant, your only shot to engage with your stakeholders as a human being. Remember that in your interview, every word has significance; everything you say forms an opinion on someone’s part about you, every gesture that you make informs someone about your character. If you lack confidence, it will show. If you lack the ability to speak in public, it will show. If you’re not someone that the scholarship body would want to interact with over a meaningful period of time… It will show. With that in mind, always make sure to practice. Get used to speaking in public, get used to talking to people and having a conversation, because these conversations with your JPA officers will not be one-dimensional. Maybe get a little group together, and conduct mock interviews among yourselves to see the extent to which you are prepared for the interview, and you’ll have at least some measure of preparation (and hopefully a better performance!) by the actual day.
  •         Ask for help and reach out! If you’re not sure about certain things, or if you’d like to get help with the scholarship application, don’t be afraid to ask previous scholars, because chances are we were in your position not all that long ago, and we will be willing to help. Drop emails, be nice – We won’t bite!

Concluding thoughts.

All in all, if you decide to apply for the scholarship, good luck! It was an extremely rewarding experience, and I made a bunch of new friends after my involvement in the process, so that was great. I still conduct mock interviews upon request (over Google Hangouts and Google Docs), so I still get involved from time to time. If you’re interested in getting in touch, do drop me an email at victortanws (AT) gmail (DOT) com. All the best

Victor Tan
The University of Chicago ’17.

imageedit_2_5394042979Victor Tan constantly questions why JPA thought that giving him a scholarship was a good idea. He is currently blonde and therefore a DVD-selling ahbeng, he occasionally blogs at Please make sure that your children never end up like him. He will (eventually!) finish reading Economics at The University of Chicago in 2017.

Securities Commission Scholarship

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The Securities Commission (SC) is the sole regulating body of the Malaysian derivatives and equities markets, which most of us commonly refer to as the stock market. Largely as part of the SC’s efforts in recruiting and retaining the brightest and sharpest Malaysian minds as members of its workforce, the SC has been offering and granting scholarships to deserving young Malaysians, mostly SPM-leavers and aspiring undergraduates. As mentioned, there are a few types of scholarships offered by the SC including those for Pre-University studies and undergraduate studies at local universities and overseas institutes of higher learning. Due to the very nature of the work conducted at the SC, the scholarships are offered to those interested in Economics, Actuarial Science, Accounting, Finance as well as Law.

For the purposes of this article, I can only offer insights into the Pre-University scholarship selection process as that is the one which I was fortunate enough to receive. Normally, the application process is open to SPM-leavers shortly after the announcement of the SPM results. The window for application is rather short, roughly one week, so applicants should have all the required documents ready to be scanned and sent to the SC including certified true copies of their SPM results, mandatory essay, extra-curricular activity certificates and parents’ salary slips. Applicants should have a minimum of 8A’s, though it is always best to refer to the SC’s website. Perhaps the million-dollar-question at the very beginning of the application process is that pertaining to extra-curricular activities. The best thing to do here is to specify a handful of your most treasured achievements throughout school life. This will not only allow you to focus your discussion on your deepest passions during the interview, but will also make it easier for the officer at the SC to read through your application. Frankly, five or less astounding achievements at state or national level which fit into half a page will leave a much better impression than five pages of trivial class or school level quizzes and games, especially when the officers at the SC have around 4000 applications to go through. To further back up this claim, at the scholarship awards ceremony, the SC highlighted every new scholar’s very best achievement rather than reading out a list five pages long. I myself was the Managing Director of my school’s mini-company under the Young Entrepreneurs programme, one of my contemporaries was a national level synchronised-swimmer, and every one of our fellow scholars was not to be outdone. In short, list five or less of your best achievements. As long as you believe in it, it will show when you are asked during the interview sessions without conscious effort and that will definitely leave a good impression.

For those who make it past this preliminary screening, the first stage of the selection process is a three-to-one interview at the SC’s main office in Bukit Kiara. Like any formal interview, the interviewee should dress smartly in office attire, carry one’s self in a professional and confident manner and never rush. Besides equipping one’s self with the information to answer generic interview questions like “tell us about yourself” and “why did you choose your chosen field?”, interviewees should take extra care in the minor details of self conduct such as walking into the interview room with a level head, taking a seat only after being invited to, maintaining only the best of manners and putting on a genuine smile (when appropriate!). Generally, exuding a positive aura will set one apart from the rest of those in the interviewee pool, in addition to being able to answer all the basic questions truthfully and confidently. Being interviewed by a panel of three interviewers can be daunting but thankfully the SC staff are very friendly people but interviewees should always treat them with utmost respect.

After waiting for a week or more, those who made it to the second stage will be required to attend a group evaluation session. Once again, in a bright and comfortable room in the SC’s main building, six interviewees will constitute a group where they will be given a few tasks to be solved. One example from my personal experience was when we were given the task of planning a basic framework for worldwide health and education plans. Each person had his or her own idea; some thought equal education opportunities was the ideal, others thought it as unfeasible, and there were those who thought specialised education by region or expertise was more efficient. Of course, this was all just a simulation. Regardless of the task, the distinguishing factor here is being able to contribute one’s ideas in a professional manner while respecting the opinions of others, being the informal leader without overshadowing anyone else and being outspoken without hogging the limelight. Whatever you do, never engage in a fight. Be willing to make reasonable compromises while still pushing for your own ideas as that will make you the better individual.

At the third stage of the selection process, applicants can finally take a breather as they are only required to complete an online psychology test from the comfort of their home. There is no secret here – just answer the questions truthfully as it is quite obvious when someone is trying to fabricate their results in a psychology test. Primarily, the questionnaire looks to analyse what seem to be the work ethics and habits of would-be scholars. After all, scholars will become employees of the SC after completing their tertiary education. Have faith in your good values and they will show in the test.

The fourth and final stage is a bit of a surprise. Those very few applicants left at this stage will be called for an interview with the SC once again, but this time with their parents. Rumours that circulated around that time were that the remaining applicants were almost guaranteed an offer for the scholarship. During the interview, the nature of the questions seemed to reinforce those rumours as the questions were being asked along the lines of “if you were granted the scholarship, will you fulfil your bond of 8 years with the SC?” and other similar questions. However, rumours are just that and there are still those who were filtered out of the selection process. A good tip at this final step would be to continue portraying the humility and manners which have gotten you this far while still being confident and outspoken.

To sum everything up, manners, a reasonable level of confidence, passion and professionalism are traits that will serve one well throughout the adventure of applying for any scholarship. On the night before an interview, the most vital thing to do is to get enough sleep so that you can perform at your peak when it matters. Rehearsals are good but do not overdo it and no amount of rehearsal can beat a fresh mind that is ready for anything the interviewers may ask. Oh, and never lie about anything whether in a face-to-face interview or in a written test as interviewers can sense when a person is trying to blow his or her achievements out of proportion or making false claims. The selection process may vary slightly from year to year, but I do hope this article helps you anticipate and prepare for the common pathway in scholarship applications. On a more personal note, good luck to all of you who rise to the challenge of applying for a scholarship!


Alif Azlan Leong will be furthering his studies at University College London under the Securities Commission Scholarship. Although his profession will be in Economics, he has a wide range of interests from music to fitness and even cooking.