JPA National Scholarship

Applying for the JPA scholarship was not troublesome, that I can say. Compared to other agencies or organisations I applied to, which sometimes asked for essays and my CV, JPA’s was based solely on a two-stage selection process. The first was an online application in which all applicants were required to fill in their basic details, SPM results, preferred course and country plus a little bit of family members’ information.

If your application was taken into consideration, you would then receive an invitation letter for interview session via email from JPA. They usually hold their interview sessions over several days in each region scattered all over Malaysia, so fret not if you’re from Sabah or Sarawak, you don’t have to come all the way to KL just for it. Your interview location depends on which region you filled in earlier. Either way, in all places, the process would be the same. Included in the invitation letter was the dress code, which personally I thought was very simple during my time: just dark sports attire.

Next came the exciting part of the selection process; the second stage which was the interview itself. We were first divided into several groups of six or seven. From here on, the interview would revolve around 2 checkpoints. The first checkpoint was a group presentation, where they randomly provided a topic for each group to discuss within a time frame and present it visually on a piece of mahjong paper. Everything in this round was carried out in English. For my group, we were asked to discuss the pros and cons of working in the private and public sector. During the prep time, the JPA officers in charge would stay in the room and observe everyone, so it’s really important to be an active team player or team leader throughout the discussion. If you’re unsure about the assigned topic, make sure you grasp the whole concept before the prep time ended, as the JPA officers and other applicants from another group can ask anything related.

Let’s say you are suddenly aware of how passive everyone in your group is. The discussion still has to be done on time, so I’d advise you to take the role to lead the group by asking for their opinions and such. Contrastingly, if everyone seems to ooze with knowledge, then spice up the discussion by contributing more points and carefully manage the differences in input. Only then the team will come to a consensus. In case you have completed everything early, you probably will find it helpful if you occupy the remaining prep time with further discussion on possible questions that will be asked. As far as I can remember, the JPA officers didn’t go easy on us; they asked a lot of questions and even condemned our opinions when we were presenting just to see how far we could bend before breaking. Some of my teammates could not answer several questions posed, but luckily we had each others’ backs. Regardless, stand your ground and express your ideas clearly with supporting evidence. To the debaters out there, I’m pretty sure you would enjoy this round as much as I did because here’s when our defensive mode is automatically switched on.

Where at the first checkpoint we were assessed in groups, at the second the evaluation was more individual-based. Basically, all members in the group were assessed together in a room where everyone would have a go at the questions asked. However, the interviewers did not specifically mention which person they would like to hear from first, so it was all up to our prompt response to determine the turns. The first few questions they asked were our names, preferred courses together with our strengths and weaknesses. While it’s an easy task to brag about your positive traits, don’t forget to highlight on how these qualities can help you to propel yourself forward in your life, especially in the area you’re applying for. Instead of simply stating your weaknesses, remember to press on effort you’re currently putting in to fix them (just to tone down the said negative traits), and try to add the extent that your improvements have been successful. That’s one way to prove that you’re always open to beneficial changes and are willing to improve yourself in every aspect of life. At this stage, we were allowed to choose either to answer in English or Malay, whichever we were more comfortable with.

The interview questions revolved around government past and current policies plus our opinions on them, current global issues like refugees, brain drain, technology transfer, transnational corporations: basically anything debatable. From here, they would get a glimpse on the way we think, our personality and most importantly, if our traits and skills will be useful for them in the long run. So my advice for this section is to be extra careful on your choice of words: make sure they are not misleading but instead form sustained, coherent judgements. Keep in mind you’re applying for a government scholarship, so avoid any provocative remarks on their policies or decisions. However, do not spend too much time thinking to the extent that you look clueless about everything; even if you really have no idea on whatever they ask, try to extract some points from other applicants who have answered before you and elaborate them. Here hydration is not the key anymore, confidence is!

Overall, it was a fun experience. For my batch (SPM 2017), JPA also accepts applications for JKPJ Scholarship Programme (Program Khas Kejuruteraan Jepun, Korea, Perancis, Jerman) from those who have achieved all A+. I actually applied for both JKPJ and this PPN (Program Penajaan Nasional). Of course they were generous enough to send invitation for both programmes, but at the end they only offered me the PPN one even though I did not submit the PPN form on the day. It was odd actually, considering I always answered JKPJ as the programme I was applying for and never mentioned about applying for PPN throughout the interview, not even once. I suspect it had something to do with preferred language I chose in the individual assessment, as they already hinted their preference during briefing. It makes sense in a way, since all PPN scholars would eventually have to sit for IELTS before studying abroad meanwhile JKPJ scholars will take other languages proficiency assessments. Thus, if you’re aiming for either one of the programmes offered, it’s better if you just apply for the targeted programme.

On a different note, after receiving the offer you might want to consider several things before signing the agreement. One of them is the fact that JPA’s allowance is not that much compared to the amount provided by other agencies, which might be a huge problem unless your family/relatives can provide additional financial support. However, rest assured that they wouldn’t put too much pressure on you throughout your preparatory period in A-Levels as they’re pretty lenient about semester exam results and are always open for any proposed discussion. Those are crumbs of factors to be weighed up again.

I hope you will have an enjoyable time during the interview. Even if you are rejected, please think of all the new friends made, what the many new acquaintances including the evaluators impressed onto you, what new skills you’ve gained and what new observations you got out. I could go on and on, but I’m sure you will all try to find something positive from your participation. Whatever it is, all the best and good luck!


Tasha Aziera is currently a National Scholar under JPA. She is completing her A Levels at Kolej Yayasan UEM and is hoping to further her studies in the UK, majoring in psychology. You can often catch her nibbling on a chocolate cookie browsing through Instagram or looking at pictures of corgis. If you intend to contact the author, feel free to contact the CollegeLAH Team at contactus@collegelah.com.

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Computer Science Personal Statement

Divya Rupini is currently a first year undergraduate reading MEng Computing (Artificial Intelligence) at Imperial College London. This personal statement was part of her successful application to Imperial College London and University of Southampton for Computing (Artificial Intelligence) and UCL, Durham University and University of St Andrews for Computer Science.


As a daughter of doctors, I have first-hand knowledge of the limitations of modern medicine. The role artificial intelligence plays in helping the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions is a driving factor in my aim to pursue computer science. In the fight against cancer, conventional treatment requires pathologists to search a multitude of photographs to find a single anomaly. Artificial intelligence could not only carry this out in seconds, it could also formulate combinations of medication tailored to the patient’s circumstance. 

In high school, a peer’s initiative to start the Hour of Code Project kickstarted my interest in this field. Under his tutelage, I learnt the basics of  Python and within a few meetings, I could code simple games using loops and variables. For me, the appeal of computer science lies within the fact that everything made to this day started out as an idea. I remember working for hours on end during my high school Robotics Club sessions, changing the programme bit by bit to achieve the exact outcome that I pictured in my mind, a process I found infinitely rewarding. 

Further reading led me to a university study that modelled the mobility of cockroaches to build a robotic arm. The arm built was a simplified version of the more common and complex designs that allowed for more compliance and could passively adapt to structures with ease. The problem faced by roboticists of computing the uncertainty in unstructured environments was overcome by applying Dr. Robert Full’s theory that the legs of cockroaches carry out computations on their own which produce a self-stabilising mechanism. This information combined with shape deposition manufacturing of robotic limbs and the movement of robots according to the gait of insects catered for robots that moved faster and smoother than ever. My appreciation for nature grew as I realised that countless solutions could be built by taking inspiration from what was already around us. Studying Computer Science, the brain of the robotics field, would allow me to further develop programs that would translate codes into physical manifestation, aiding and reaching more people. 

During an attachment at a local engineering and distribution firm, I had the opportunity to build a clock. Throughout this process, I developed an understanding for analogue to digital transmissions and the functions of logic gates in producing a circuit that transformed a 1 Hz frequency into a display on the 7-segment counter. Further reading taught me that implementing fixed logic circuits were the base of building a general-purpose CPU. It was interesting to watch a physical manifestation of input combinations provided by an integrated circuit. Observing my mentor build and test simple circuits using MatLab grew my interest for the role of computing as I realised the role computing plays in other fields.

To prepare for my course, I am self-studying C Language programming and Python using resources available on Coursera and CodeAcademy. Due to my love and affinity for maths, I directed a maths competition in college for my peers to showcase their mathematical skills and solve challenging problems. As a peer tutor, I help weaker students with their mathematical ability every week. As Event Manager of the college’s inaugural conference, I coordinated a team of 40 students to organise 4 councils and multiple keynote addresses to provide my peers with a platform to debate world issues. My position as President of the MUN Club instilled in me an appreciation for passionate discussion and speech to achieve viable solutions to global issues.

I hope to use my passion for analysis and making connections to eventually pursue a career in AI and robotics in the future. I believe that my pursuit of computing at a university level would provide me with a platform to help people live as best they can. Computing can shape a world of limitless potential -a world that I would not only want live in but help create.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

 

Actuarial Science Personal Statement

Beh Le Hao is currently a first year undergraduate reading BSc Actuarial Science at London School of Economics and Political Science. This personal statement was part of his successful application to LSE and City University of London for Actuarial Science, UCL for Mathematics and Statistics and University of Warwick for MORSE.


How do professional sports gambling syndicates use multiple regression analyses to predict outcomes reliably to earn income? Why are they so confident that the risks taken will be rewarded? I am intrigued by these questions and my interest prompted me to do some independent research into statistics. I was fascinated by how Bayes’ Theorem applies conditional probability to sports betting in order to make predictions. I am curious about how models are used to combine qualitative and quantitative data with such precision, even with the large number of random variables that affects results. M. Lewis’ ‘The Moneyball’ illustrates how the Oakland Baseball team won by assembling a group of undervalued players that matched the skills needed to succeed. What really fascinates me was how they established a new method of statistical analysis using varied key performance data points to evaluate players. I am frequently amazed by the power of statistics and how it can completely change people’s perspectives and views of traditional games. It is clear to me that such modelling can have similar impacts on organisational change in business too.  My desire to broaden my knowledge is what drives me to apply for a course in Maths and Statistics.

Statistics is particularly useful when discussing the 2008 financial crisis. The housing bubble, created from the sheer volume of unrepayable loans, could have been avoided if banks had reacted to the increased rate of default and statistical uncertainty. I feel they did not recognise the importance of statistics: banks had the knowledge they needed about their loanees, and knew they were taking huge risks, but approved loans anyway in pursuit of profit. However, I am also aware that the exponential increases in the amount of data available can also develop overconfidence, leading to predictive inaccuracies. I am really interested in how actuaries apply their knowledge to risk minimisation, which is such an essential feature of today’s world.

Reading ‘The Great Mathematical Problems’ by I. Stewart, I encountered problems that have puzzled mathematicians for centuries, while also learning about the fundamental equations that shape our understanding of the world. My particular fascination with the randomness of prime numbers led me to explore more challenging and stimulating concepts, such as Goldbach’s Conjecture and Riemann Hypothesis. It is intriguing how the unproven Riemann zeta function, by proving all non-trivial zeros lie along the critical line, provides a way to encode the prime number theorem. In Statistics, I enjoy applying hypothesis testing to determine data’s reliability. In Decision Maths, I am drawn towards the intuitive nature of dynamic programming. I was left intrigued by how an algorithm can work backwards to reach an optimal solution; I had never thought in that way before.

My internship at a corporate finance company reinforced my interest in statistical analysis in the field of investment banking. I learned how analysing historical data helps evaluate the profitability of transactions. Their use of spreadsheets and presentations in order to value companies and track changing trends in a volatile industry was impressive. I had to independently conduct my own research, looking for patterns and links within data, which taught me a great deal.

I have learnt programming languages, such as C++, independently from a young age. I enjoy participating in Maths competitions including the Olympiad, ICAS and Kangaroo Maths. I play the piano to Grade 6; this requires focus and persistence, and has greatly improved my memorisation skills. As School Basketball Captain and a School Prefect, I have developed my leadership, communication and teamwork skills.

As a curious, open-minded and committed student, I am excited about furthering my passion for Maths and Statistics at a first class UK university, driven by the prospect of furthering my knowledge of the world around me as an undergraduate.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Law Personal Statement

Swaathi Balajawahar  is currently a first year undergraduate reading Law LLB at King’s College London. This personal statement was part of her successful application to King’s College London and University of Manchester for Law.


The law is not an entity that is meant to be ossified, but is rather the substratum of how a society functions, constantly evolving to meet humanity’s ever-changing demands. The fluidity of law fascinates me as I see lawyers as agents of change, often contributing to the emergence and growth of a civil society. In Malaysia, however, partisan laws have induced a climate of fear. The Sedition Act 1948, a colonial era law that restricts free speech acts as a dragnet for dissenters. The heavily criticised Internal Security Act 1960, although recently repealed and replaced by the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, continues to quell political dissidence. With the unjustified prosecution of activists and opposition in my country, I realise that lawyers as well as the people have been silenced by the active criminalisation of discourse.

Reflecting upon history helps me grasp the origins of such draconian laws. The sanguinary events of the May 1969 racial riots led to the government introducing the Constitution (Amendment) Act of 1971 that warrants the Parliament to pass legislation which would limit dissent, especially with regards to the Social Contract. As the people began to fear a recurrence of the past, they found solace in these unjust laws, sacrificing free speech for the idea of safety and an illusion of interracial unity.

Throughout school, I was warned against promoting dialogue. Now as a national scholar, I am contractually forbidden to partake in any political discussion; free speech was the price I paid for my education. Debating was my escape as it led me to question the dogma I had been inculcated with. I learnt to form my own opinions based on informed arguments, substantiated with reasoning and evidence. I embraced diverse perspectives, realising that discourse was not to be despised, but appreciated – an understanding crucial in the study of law.

My past experiences have equipped me with the vital skills required to pursue this field. Growing up in a conservative Indian family, I was forced to assume traditional gender roles. However, joining the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, I organised speeches and campaigns that empowered myself and others to seek gender equality. During my term as the President of the Interact Club, I realised the importance of rules in maintaining the integrity of an association. I obeyed strict protocols in carrying out community projects to preserve the reputation of the club, while portraying high levels of ethics. As a prefect, however, I challenged the need for superficial rules by promoting dialogue between the stakeholders of such regulation. The skills that I have learned shaped my conviction to not only advocate for change, but also question the efficacy of conventional rules, while complying to ethical principles. Eventually, my zeal for interpreting how the law operates drove me to initiate a Law Society in my college.

My curiosity to explore various legal avenues led me to a job attachment with CIMB Bank. Assigned under Group Compliance, I analysed irregularities in transaction patterns based on the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Funding laws. Here I understood the need for stringent rules to maintain integrity, even for major profit-seeking universal banks. However, ruminating on the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad scandal that tainted my country as a kleptocracy, I realised strict regulations alone cannot stop perpetrators if the regulators are silenced by the very constitution they are called to uphold.

Too often, the rule of law is constitutionally manipulated into being a tool for personal gain, restricting freedom of expression to retain political authority. As I recognise a sense of oppression in my country, I realise the anachronistic nature of our laws. At university, I aim to understand what makes or breaks the rule of law, acquiring necessary knowledge and intellectual dexterity to empower and reform Malaysia’s constitution.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.