BNM Kijang Scholarship (January Intake)

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Ever thought of acquiring a scholarship from the Central Bank of Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia (henceforth referred to as BNM), that not only covers pre-university education but extends to degree level as well?

Traditionally, BNM’s application only opens after the announcement of SPM results in the beginning of March. So it was as unexpected to me as to everyone else when we were informed that Bank Negara was offering the scholarship before SPM had even commenced. The selection process involved going through an interview process in December after our SPM ended in November with only our trial results.

As far as I know, this application could only be done through the school, and students who applied were mostly nominated by their teachers. Together with my other three peers, I applied for the scholarship using trial results and a compilation of certificates.

If you are aiming for the scholarships after SPM or other relevant qualifications, a piece of advice is to be actively involved in co-curricular activities that you enjoy and would potentially benefit you, alongside a good academic performance throughout your secondary education. Taking part in competitions, events, and sport tournaments, especially in your final years of secondary school, can set you apart from other applicants with your own unique talents and ‘flavour’.                                      

The notice that I was shortlisted for the interview came in early December, not long after SPM ended. Before the interview, we were required to do an online IQ assessment which consisted of these few sections:

1) Dimensions (Personality)

This assessment measures your behavioural preferences at work. It explores how you prefer to manage your relationships with others, your approach to tasks, and your sources of energy and motivation.

2) Elements (Verbal)

This assessment measures your analytical reasoning skills in relation to interpreting written information and reports.

3) Elements (Numerical)

This assessment measures your analytical reasoning skills in relation to using figures, data and statistics.

4) Elements (Logical)

This assessment measures your reasoning skills in relation to understanding and manipulating abstract or logical symbols.

In mid-December, I attended the interview along with two peers who were shortlisted. The interview process was largely similar to the usual interview process that commences every year in April-June after SPM results are released. We were provided accommodation in Lanai Kijang, BNM’s effectively private 5-star hotel, for three days and two nights (the duration of the interviews).

1st Day:

My first task was a half-hour essay which asked me about my thoughts and passion towards the course I chose, Law, and essentially, how I would contribute to the bank through my expertise in it. From my inference, this stage evaluates your thought process in structuring your essay and giving reasons that support your claim about your passion towards the course. Your aims in contributing to the bank should illustrate how you plan to apply and practise what you have gained from your degree in fulfilling the bank’s policies and aims when you serve your bond in the bank. My suggestion is to be realistic but optimistic when stating your views/ideas; don’t worry about using bombastic language that might sound overly flowery which you might use incorrectly in the end.

2nd Day:

The second stage was carried out in Sasana Kijang, BNM’s learning/research centre. We were divided into groups of 7 in which we worked throughout the day. The first few rounds were judged by three ‘facilitators’ who were also the assessors. The first round was an ice-breaking session that allowed me to know my teammates better, including their origin, course of choice etc. Speaking from experience, do grab the chance of this session to establish good rapport among yourselves and leave the assessors with a good first impression of yourself, especially when you work your way through dismantling the barriers among peers.

The following few rounds involved working as a team. One of them was a role play session when each of us was assigned a role in a company, whereby we were supposed to perform our respective expertise by drafting policies that were aimed to gain high profits for the company, and at the same time, increase welfare of the citizens. After completing the task within the stipulated time, I was bombarded with questions from the assessors who role-played as the board of directors about the drawbacks of the policies we had just drafted as a team. In the midst of convincing the BOD of your policies and defending your ideas, it is imperative that you are able to think critically while remaining calm and composed. Do bear in mind to show humility and respect to your teammates and assessors when expressing your views as the attitude you adopt in problem-solving and teamwork could be a deciding factor. Also make sure that you give adequate speaking opportunities to your teammates and always understand that your efforts should be collective and invariably for the greater good of the team as a whole. Remember that dominance does not equate to leadership.

The subsequent rounds comprised of competitions with other groups, judged by a larger number of assessors. Our first project was to design a theme park that could generate the highest revenue possible. If memory serves, one of the other winning criteria was best design. Like all the other rounds, it is important to choose a leader among yourselves who can lead the team to ensure efficiency and unity. As a leader, it is important that you embrace the opinions of your teammates before coming to a decision quickly. Go ahead and assume this responsibility if you are elected by your teammates who think that you possess these qualities. And if you are not the leader, fret not because it would not affect your chances of showcasing your abilities by contributing to the group as part of the team.

The next challenge was to build a boat that could support the most number of marbles without sinking into the water. The challenge in this project was not just deciding on the design of the body of the boat but also carefully planning our expenditure on the materials that could be optimally utilised to keep the boat afloat as we had to build the boat with minimal cost. We then made a presentation of our model by explaining the features of our boat and analysing on how well it worked.

3rd Day:

We had to do an individual presentation of a topic assigned to us. My topic was regarding how we can encourage children in Malaysia to think about personal finance and managing their money wisely. Firstly, we were given some time to illustrate and write the content of our presentation on a few pieces of mahjong paper. We then had to present it to a new set of assessors individually. Likewise, the assessors questioned us thoroughly about the content we were presenting about and expected to see a positive and spontaneous response. STAY CALM because candidates usually panic when they face the assessors alone. Ideally, by the third day you should be rather “experienced” in performing under pressure without being hindered by anxiety. Give it your best shot!

Through this stage, the interviewers generally want to know about what you have gained from previous stages, the reason of you choosing the course, and how suited are you for the scholarship and working in the bank. They expect honest and well-explained answers from you, so just be yourself when doing that.

The entire interview experience was enriching and definitely something worth a try. This exposure to an intensive interview process enabled me to pick up essential interview skills and know what qualities are expected of me in interviews. Making preparations before the interview is advisable, in the sense that you read up on the philosophy of their function as the Central Bank and also think of the reasons why you have chosen the course. This does not mean that you memorise scripts before the interview because this tactic would not work most of the time. It may cause you to be too rigid in making spontaneous response when you are being interviewed.   

After being awarded the scholarship, I joined the January intake at Kolej Tuanku Jaafar, doing an 18-month A-levels course. It is a great college to be in and I am extremely grateful to the bank for granting me this opportunity. Although being a January intake student for A-levels is a challenging task, it is a fun experience and I am enjoying the time I am having now. As there are expectations to be met as a Bank scholar, my advice is to appreciate your time when doing your A-levels and this effort will definitely pay off and bear fruits of success. As a matter of fact, Bank scholars are required to gain entry into the top-notch universities Bank Negara lists out. Hence, be wise when selecting your priorities and do not waver in your determination of achieving what you have set out for. Make the journey worth it at the end of the day as you have attained what could be a dream every student would have – a free education in a prestigious university abroad.

I hope this article is useful in giving you inspirations and insights into attending a scholarship interview be it in Bank Negara or other scholarship avenues. “STUDY SMART and PLAY HARD”- a meaningful catch phrase from high school.

ALL THE BEST!!!


 

si-qi

Si Qi Chung is currently doing A-Levels in Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar as a January intake and will hopefully read Law in the United Kingdom. She is a curious and eager learner and will pursue what she finds interesting. This aspiring lawyer is also a great watercolour painter who has won numerous awards.

 

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Maxis Scholarship

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1. How many stages were there in your scholarship assessment?

2 stages.  Before that, I submitted an online application. In the online application, I had to write about my ambitions and also there was a separate part called the Statement of Purpose which required me to describe my career aspirations and personal attributes that would help me in achieving my ambitions.

2. What happened during your scholarship assessment?

The first stage was an informal interview. I was interviewed by two HR staff. They asked about my family background, my education experience, my personality, my aspirations etc. The two interviewers were very friendly. I felt very comfortable in that interview as it was more like chat than an interview. The interview lasted no more than 30 minutes.

The second stage was held in a boardroom where there was a panel of interviewers, including the chairman of Maxis, two professors from reputable universities, the Head of HR of Maxis and a secretary. They all held a binded copy of my portfolio/application form while interviewing me. The approximately 45-minutes interview was conducted in a more serious tone with some questions about my dreams and aspirations, why I chose to study at the university of my choice (University of Warwick), what I hope to do in the future, how would the Maxis scholarship help me (in terms of a merit-based scholarship) etc.

There was also a question asked in Bahasa Malaysia where I had to explain what TEDxKL was about, in Bahasa Malaysia.

Before I got called into the boardroom, I was waiting in another boardroom room with other interviewees. I noticed the room had a lot of cameras around, including a big conference TV. Although I was the last one to enter and exit the boardroom, I met 4 other interviewees in the room. If I remember correctly, I was waiting for over an hour in that boardroom. Naturally, I just started talking and got to know the other interviewees. Only towards the end when there were only two of us in the room (another guy and myself), I noticed the cameras. I was not sure if they were watching us but among the interviewees I met in the room, only the other guy and myself got the scholarships. I would say we were quite chatty in the room…

3. What do you think you did right to get the scholarship?

I would say my personality and my aspirations to get into education sector. It was pointed out by the panel of interviewers that it isn’t a common dream/profession – perhaps it was what that stood out in my application.

4. What are some of the past experiences that the reviewers were most interested about?

My interest in Teach For Malaysia, as a link to my future aspirations and how it was partly my interest to get involved in the education sector; and my role in TEDxKL, which was a reason why I wanted to attend the University of Warwick as I was hoping to get involved with TEDxWarwick too.

5. What advice would you give to future Maxis Scholarship applicants?

Be calm and answer everything truthfully. Try your best to apply early so that you don’t rush through your application.

It was honestly the most enjoyable interview experience I have ever gone through.

6.How did you prepare for the scholarship application?

I didn’t prepare myself with questions but only spoke to my friends and family about things that piqued my interest and attention constantly – without realising it was indirectly becoming an aspiration of mine.

Definitely invest in a good suit to look professional (I always say this and I do believe it does make a difference in your interviews), get a good night’s rest, and don’t be late for your interview!


imageedit_4_3257515162 Yin Li Toh is a second-year Economics student at the University of Warwick under the Maxis Scholarship for Excellence Award. She loves travelling whenever she can and enjoys trying out new recipes in the kitchen.

Yayasan UEM Overseas Scholarship

I am a Yayasan UEM scholar, currently studying A levels in Kolej Yayasan UEM and will be sponsored for my Undergraduate studies as well. This scholarship covers tuition fees, a laptop, accommodation and adequate living allowances. There are three stages in in Yayasan UEM Scholarship assessment.

Online application – 2000 applicants

This is just the usual application form that you need to fill in for any other scholarship application. Of course, your academic results and past experiences do make an impression at this stage. You will also need to submit two essays ( a short paragraph) here. The first one is about your interests and career plan in the subject you will be pursuing. Try to show your passion and enthusiasm in your subject and be certain about what are you going to do in your future. Since I was applying for civil engineering, I talked about my concern in sustainable development and aspire to study overseas to bring advanced technology back to Malaysia. The second one is the reason you think you deserve this scholarship. You might have to present yourself as a mature and confident all-rounder yet humble and willing to serve.

First stage – 200 candidates

UEM is a very caring company because they normally contact you through phone calls in addition to emails. After being informed about the first stage interview, I quickly did some background research about the company and some popular questions ask in interviews, this is where Mr Google and all these student aids websites come in handy.

We were first asked to write an essay within 20 minutes. The titles vary for each candidate; mine was “How to maintain the discipline in school”. Some others’ were about sports, education etc.

The following session is a personal interview. It is basically a get-to-know session where you talk about yourself. It is important to carry yourself well in this session as the first impression matters the most. Do not forget the basic courtesy such as knocking the door, greetings and smiles. My early preparation helped me with most of the session as the questions asked were the general and typical ones. The panel were very friendly and the conversation was very comfortable to me.

Here is a list of questions I was asked:

  •         Tell me about your family background and accomplishments.
  •         What inspire you in pursuing your course? (similar to the one in online application)
  •         What you did in the few months after SPM?

-I attended the three month national service and talked about the experience from it. I also took a part time job as a waitress in a local restaurant.

  •         What are your biggest strength and weakness?
  •         What are your hobbies and other interests?
  •         What are the current issues that you concern about?

You are also encouraged to ask questions at the end of the session if you have any doubts on the scholarship.

Second Stage – 50 candidates

All the candidates were divided into groups in the second stage for activities the whole day. The first game was “Name the Sports”, which we were required to act out the sports given so that others may guess. It was just an ice-breaking activity but you will still need to try stand out among other candidates. Note: the whole assessment is video-recorded for evaluation.

The second part of the assessment is group discussion. We were required to present a commercial plan for a product including marketing strategy, packaging and TV advertisement in a few hours time. You will need to show your leadership skill among the group members at the same time be cooperative with one another. Partake in the discussion and give constructive ideas at the same time value others’ opinion. Make sure everyone is involved in the presentation and utilise your own slot to present your strengths. Everyone else in the room was very bright as they were all shortlisted after several rounds of evaluation too, but do not lose your confident and just try your best. You will not even have a chance if you do not try.

Third stage – 50 candidates

During my time, all who advanced to the second stage will be progressed straight to the third stage. It was another personal interview at this time, but with the Yayasan UEM CEO and one of the directors of UEM. This session was video-recorded as well.  It was similar to the first stage as this would be the first time for the CEO meeting us. However, I faced a little difficulty when I was asked about the collapse of factory in Bangladesh a couple years back. I was not aware of that news at that time and could not answer their questions. I told them honestly, apologized and promised that I would try to keep up with the news and be more aware of what’s happening around. I actually thought that I performed badly in that interview and was very surprised when I was informed that I was offered the scholarship. Later on I found out that all the other successful scholars all thought their interviews were bad too. We made a conclusion that the panel are actually looking at how we react when we face problems that we are uncertain of. Perhaps they understand that everyone has flaws and weaknesses and the most important part is to be able to identify it and improve.

I could not be more grateful being one of the seven Yayasan UEM scholars in my batch. This is the only scholarship I applied to other than JPA Engineering Programme and it was a very competitive one as well so it was really a blessing to me. All my scholarmates have different qualities; some are very mature and outspoken, some have very deep insight to the surrounding. For me,  I believe my excellent SPM result was a big bonus in the selection. However, I believe Yayasan UEM is looking for varies qualities so do not worry if you are different from others. That will be all from me. Good luck and all the best!


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Fiona Tan is a blessed girl who will is currently studying A levels under Yayasan UEM Oversea Scholarship Programme. Not knowing where she might be ended up in, she believes God has the best plan for her.

Petronas Scholarship

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Overview of PESP

PETRONAS offers two types of education sponsorships to Malaysia’s most outstanding students in the oil-and-gas-related field. The first type covers from pre-university programme up to undergraduate studies, and the second covers undergraduate studies only. These sponsorships are known as the PETRONAS Education Sponsorship Programme  (PESP). They are open for undergraduate programmes at Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) and also overseas universities. Students are allowed to choose from the list of technical and non-technical sponsored programmes to pursue in the future.

Stages involved in the scholarship application

  1. Complete an application form and submit it along with your SPM and A-Levels results and your parents’ income statements.
  2. Eligible candidates will be shortlisted and interviewed.
  3. There will be two interview stages in a day. The first one will be conducted individually and the second one will be a group interview.
    • Candidates will be grouped into teams of four or five and each team will be given a case study on different topics about the current issues happening in the world. Each candidate will be required to discuss the issue given and to solve it using different approaches stated in the papers given.
    • During the individual interview, candidates will not be asked typical questions about themselves or the company. Instead, they will be questioned about the case study.
    • After the individual interviews, all the candidates from each team will be asked to enter the room again to undergo the group interview. During the group interview, the groups are supposed to discuss among themselves and come to a conclusion as to which approach is the best to resolve the issue. The interviewers will stay quiet and observe each candidate during that period.

Atmosphere at the interview

The interviewers were really nice and friendly but also serious at the same time, especially during the first individual interview when they questioned me about the case study. There was a bit of tension as well, as you will not be able to predict what kind of questions they will ask and you will not know if the interviewers agree with what you said. However, the overall atmosphere was fine as long as you feel (or look) confident!

Advice

There is not much you could prepare for prior to the interviews besides knowing the current happenings in the world by reading more news. This is to prepare yourself for tackling the interview questions (case study). It is advisable to include any current news or latest happenings when presenting your ideas to the interviewers, e.g. I have included Soup Kitchen as a volunteering activity, which was a hot topic during that period of time and the interviewers were interested in that topic too. Besides, you should speak up and be an outstanding candidate during the group interview instead of just sitting there and listening to your other team members. However, you should also show that you are capable of being a leader by starting the conversation in the group interview when nobody else does so. Also, try to ask for the opinions of your other team members by saying, “What do you think of this idea?” etc. Last but not least, just be yourself, be confident, stay calm and may the odds be ever in your favour!


imageedit_6_7636355232Joey Chin is currently pursuing Economics at University College London (UCL) under the PETRONAS Scholarship. She manages her time well between studies and leisure because having a balanced lifestyle is crucial to her, as the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” But of course, she knows her priorities well!

Bank Negara Kijang Emas Scholarship

Alicia Kijang Emas

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Hello everyone! I’m Alicia, currently reading Law in the University of Cambridge. I was the first undergraduate student to receive the Kijang Emas scholarship from Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), and I’ll be sharing my experiences with you today.

First, a little bit about BNM and the scholarship itself! It’s the Malaysian central bank, and is dedicated to promoting sustainable growth in Malaysia. They strongly believe in developing human capital, and BNM’s Scholarship Programme aims at nurturing young talent. I was blessed enough to receive the Kijang Emas scholarship, which is a full scholarship. Students who are awarded this particular scholarship are not bonded to BNM, and are called to contribute back to Malaysia instead. Post-SPM students who receive this also have the option to select any course in any top university. BNM also offers their scholars the opportunity to participate in internships, usually during the summer. The details of the internships depend on the particular department, but all offer great opportunities to learn.

Securing the scholarship

My application experience was a little different, as I originally applied for the normal undergraduate scholarship, but was subsequently awarded the Kijang Emas scholarship. So, I will focus instead on the general content rather than the format of my assessment. If you would like to read about the usual procedures, you can read some of the other articles on CollegeLAH by BNM scholars.

During my interview, I was generally asked about my interest in my course (Law), and how I plan to cope with studying in the United Kingdom. At this stage, it is crucial to demonstrate a keep interest in your subject, as they want students who are passionate and who really love their subject.

Among the interesting questions I was asked was whether I think it is true that some people are simply born smarter than others. My response was that we can’t control the circumstances that we are born into. Some may come into families that are better suited to expose them to the world at an early age, thus making them “smarter,” but it is up to us to make the best of what we are given.

I was also asked questions like how I handle criticism. To this, I responded that I view it objectively, and absolutely welcome it if it comes with good reason. I related this to my homework (my A Level subjects were very essay-based) to say how I use criticism to improve the quality of my work.

Intellectually, if you are still studying when you apply, you should definitely pay extra attention to your revision, and think not just about how to score in the exam, but the additional skills they provide you with as a whole (Literature, for example, hones in on analytical skills). They may very well ask what your favorite subject in college (or secondary school) is, and you should be prepared to answer this question. Read through any essays you may have submitted with your application, and reflect on some of your major extra-curricular activities, determining what qualities you have gained from them. For example, how has participating in debate helped you grow? Is it relevant to your chosen course? Has it made your more eloquent and confident? Try to put a value to everything (relevant!) that you have done, and don’t just state the obvious.

In terms of your state of mind, try not to think too much. Whilst you definitely should prepare as much as you can, don’t stress yourself out. There is only so much that you can do, and they won’t expect you to know everything anyway. Remember that there is such a thing as over-preparing! Whilst you should have the general gist of your points, don’t memorise and reproduce your answers – be as natural as you can, and show your sincerity. Once your application process is over, put it aside, and focus on what you have at hand. Don’t agonise over any mistakes you may have made (unless you know how you can improve and still have upcoming assessments). Last but certainly not least, pray very hard, and leave the rest to God!

Applying for this scholarship and receiving it has definitely affected me greatly. The application process itself taught me a lot, and I value what I learned from my interview panel during the time I spent with them too. I also got to make friends with my fellow applicants, who are all brilliant in their own right, and I hope we get to meet again in the future.

Receiving the Kijang Emas scholarship has opened my eyes to see that it is possible, and that working hard really does pay off. It has been an invaluable experience, and I am truly grateful for this opportunity.


Alicia Loh

Alicia Loh is a Bank Negara Kijang Emas scholar who will be reading Law in the University of Cambridge. She gives all glory to God. She can usually be found with a book and lots of pink, and blogs at http://www.alicialoh.com, where she writes important things about life (such as her furry baby’s first time walking on grass). She also has an online shop called Openquote Designs selling printables.

Shell Scholarship

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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

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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.

DISCLAIMER:

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

BIASISWA AMCHAM-MACEE

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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

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

Logo-Astro

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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…

THE TIPS AND RECRUITERS’ P.O.V. ARE MY PERSONAL OPINION AND DO NOT REPRESENT THE COMPANY’S STAND.


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