MyBrainSc Scholarship

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Editor’s Note: Please be advised the the renditions of the MyBrainSc Scholarship from 2016 and the foreseeable future no longer sponsor students to overseas institution. However, the basic principles behind the application process for the scholarship highlighted in this article still apply. 

Are you still scratching your head to look out more scholarships desperately on the Internet? Please take a serious glimpse of this article if you wish to know more regarding the details of this scholarship. MyBrainSc scholarship is offered by the Ministry of Education (MoE), and open to all Malaysians. This scholarship sponsors successful candidates financially to pursue both undergraduate and postgraduate studies (Bachelor Degree/Master/PhD level) in local and overseas universities. For your information, only four pure-science disciplines are sponsored by this scholarship- Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. If you wish to practise Chemical Engineering, Statistics, Forensic Science, Biomedical Science or Biotechnology, then you are barking up the wrong tree. Thus, I am writing this to share my experience and equip you with ample information so that you are not far from materialising your big dreams.

Stage One – Online Application

The online application is open from December to March. Make sure you always check out the website of Portal Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia (KPM) during the period. You must meet the minimum requirements before applying for the scholarship. The documents required in the online application are softcopies of your original ICs, passport-sized photos, SPM transcripts, Matrikulasi/STPM/Asasi/IB/A-level/Diploma/SAT transcripts and university offer letters (if available).

Stage Two – Psychometric Test

In the mid of April, you will start receiving an e-mail which demands you to sit for a psychometric test. This test is implemented to evaluate your main interests in particular fields, ambitions, mentality, emotionality, hobbies, potential abilities and other psychological abilities. It is almost like the test we usually did in our secondary school to determine which field or job you were excellently cut out for. Compared to the previous years, the psychometric test has taken the place of an IQ test without doubt.

The test embodies two sections- Section A and B. Each candidate will be allocated roughly 120-180 minutes which are quite adequate for him or her to complete both sections separately. The questions are in Bahasa Melayu. Examples of the test are: “Adakah anda suka membaiki mesin dan motor?”, “Adakah anda suka mencatat, mengira, menulis dan membaca?” & “Anda dapat menerima nasihat orang lain dalam satu organisasi.” It consists of 300 questions and repetition of multiple questions occurs in the two sections. The answers are only “Yes” or “No”. The questions are not esoteric and you will be having plenty of time to complete them. I am sure you can answer the questions well as long as you possess a moderate command of Bahasa Melayu. Even so, please do not make light of this test because many candidates are eliminated from this stage either.

Stage Three – Interview

Eligible candidates will be notified of the interview through e-mails in due course. Interviewees need to attend the interviews in different states as to your respective residences. The wisest thing to do at this stage is searching for plenteous interview tips on the Internet, for example, blog spots of the scholars and interviewees, CollegeLah, ScholarStories, Lowyatnet and etc. The tips obtained are requisite in giving you an idea on how the interview is conducted and what kinds of questions will be asked during the interview.

Two candidates will be paired randomly in a group after the registration together with a panel of two interviewers. The interviewers are normally the professors or experts in the pure-science related fields. In my case, I was paired up with another guy who was doing his first-year Physics degree locally. Our interview took about 45 minutes and was fully conducted in English. We took turns at answering the same set of questions. You can round your points out to enable your ideas to be graspable even further. Moreover, keep up with current issues nationwide. I would suggest chatting with other candidates first before the interview helps to relieve your pent-up pressure and disquiet.

Speak confidently to voice your own opinions even though you are stammering sometimes throughout the interview. It is a no-brainer everyone is not like-minded in essence, thus, you must be level-headed by the time you encounter rebuttals from the interviewers. Take it as a piece of advice from them as it is just an exchange of opinions between both parties. Just be frank if you are ignorant of ideal answers to a question, it will not impinge on your overall performance. Also, try to engage them in a conversation with you as it can make you be yourself more and mitigate your apprehension.

I am listing out the following questions asked during my interview session:

 

  • Introduce yourself briefly.
  • What would you like to be besides becoming a lecturer?
  • Which department would like to join after your graduation? (Private, government or university)
  • Besides being a lecturer in university, what else do you think the lecturer should teach his students other than emphasising on the academics?
  • To study in England, what do you think you can do so that the foreigners will appreciate Malaysian students?   
  • If you get an awesome offer from the overseas company, would you like to work there or come back to Malaysia?
  • From all the activities you joined, what is the most valuable experience you have gained so far?
  • How would you promote patriotism?
  • What is your biggest strength and weakness?
  • How do you overcome the weakness?
  • Do you think you deserve this scholarship?
  • Current issues asked in my interview- GST&1MDB

 

Scholar’s Advice

I would like to highlight that the MoE is not going to help you in the university application. All procedures are kindly handled on your own. If you wish to study in the UK, all you need to do is apply for the universities through UCAS. Getting the admission of universities done before securing the scholarship is sparing with time and efforts. MyBrainSc Scholarship does sponsor students, too, to study in the US, Australia and Canada aside from the UK. The lists of universities recognized by MyBrainSc are available on Portal KPM.

Plus, you will need to come back and serve Malaysia for 5 years upon completion of your studies. The job prospects offered are becoming lecturers or researchers who will be affiliated with educational institutions and research centres in Malaysia. You should leap at this golden opportunity without scruples provided that you have an eye to Pure Sciences. The interview results shall be set forth approximately around the UPU results week.

Truth to tell, I have been harbouring a hope to study in England come what may. Finally, I have come across this scholarship which can bring my dream to pass and let me head for my dreamland, England. Perseverance is the key to achieving success and goals. To err is human. I do sail through trials and tribulations which have dampened my spirits. However, it takes courage and faith to begin the first step of everything you embark on. After going through a bad patch, you will see light at the end of the tunnel. Be a go-getter, and keep in mind that success does not come easy for any warrior. I truly hope that the information shared here will come in handy for you all in time to come.


Ka Chong

Ngui Ka Chong is a scholarship holder who will be pursuing his Biology degree in The University of Manchester under MyBrainSc Scholarship 2015. He loves making new friends everywhere, listening to music, reading novels and being a zealous writer. The motto of his life is “go confidently in the direction of dreams, live the life you have imagined.”

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CollegeLAH’s Guide to Using Common App

Creating your CommonApp account

  • Go to apply.commonapp.org and click on “Create An Account”
  • Fill in your email address and create a password. Note that the password must be between 8-16 characters, containing at least an upper case alphabetic letter, one numeric character, and a symbol (!@#$%^&*).

1 login page

2 keying in password

  • Fill in your details and click on I am a(n): “Applicant planning to enroll within the next 12 months”.
  • Tick both boxes and click on “Create” to create your brand new CommonApp account.

3 creating account

  • Once you are logged in, you are able to view your Dashboard and your full CommonApp Account.

 

Your CommonApp Account

4 dashboard

  • Your CommonApp Account is separated into four main functions: Dashboard, My Colleges, Common App, and College Search.
  • Dashboard: The Dashboard is the central monitor to your applications. Once you have added colleges to your applications, you will be able to view them on the dashboard, showing you the deadlines, requirements and your progress.
  • My Colleges: The My Colleges tab shows the colleges that you have added into your account. You will complete your work for each college here. Some colleges will require extra essays or questionnaires answered. As these might vary depending on the different faculties/schools within the college that you are applying to, they will appear only appear after you have completed the “Questions” section.
  • Common App: Your Common application. Here, you will fill up relevant details for your application, from your profile, educational background, SAT/TOEFL/ACT test results to your dreaded Common App Essay.
  • College Search: College Search allows you to search for colleges/universities by different criteria, i.e. by name, country, state, term, applicant type or deadline. You may also perform multiple searches by separating terms with a comma, i.e. Boston, New York, etc.

5 college search

6 adding college

 

The Common Application

7 personal info

 

Profile

This is the part where you fill in everything about yourself – name, address, contact details, demographics, geography, languages, citizenship, scholarship information, and common app fee waiver. It provides the most basic understanding of who you are to the admission officers. Most of this section is very straightforward but we will clarify the bits that might not be.

Scholarship information – This is a new feature that allows you to apply to scholarships that use the Scholar Snapp platform. Basically, it’s a “Common App” for scholarships. These can be scholarships offered by external organisations.

Read more about Scholar Snapp here: https://www.commonapp.org/whats-appening/college-counseling/5-things-counselors-should-know-about-scholar-snapp

Common App Fee Waiver – Nothing is this world is free. Likewise, applying via Common App costs money as well. However, if you think that you face sufficient financial difficulties such that you might be unable to afford the application fees, then you can apply for the fee waiver. Your counsellor will be contacted to provide evidence of financial difficulties so don’t try to cheat.

 

Family

This is a relatively straightforward section, where you are required to fill in information about your family background. It is divided into 4 subsections: Household, Parent 1, Parent 2, and Sibling. You will need their basic information such as name, age, occupation, country of birth, education level etc.

 

Education

This is where things get gradually less straightforward. You will provide your educational information here, from secondary school to your Pre-U studies. Here’s a clarification that will be useful for most readers here, especially if you’re from Malaysia. Even if you are enrolled in, for instance, Taylor’s College, KDU, Taylor’s University (ADTP), INTI University, you are indeed still in school. Likewise, the terms “college” and “university” are interchangeable in the USA i.e. Taylor’s College is not a college but a school while Bates College is a university and/or a college.

Current or Most Recent School: Unless you’re studying at a school in the USA or US Territories, your school might not be listed here. Search for your school’s name and if it does not appear, select “I don’t see my high school on this list”. Likewise, if you are homeschooled, select the “I am/was homeschooled” option. If you’re studying in an American-styled school, you should have a designated school counsellor. Otherwise, this can be any teacher or academic staff member who has good knowledge and understanding of the non-academic aspects of you. Therefore, it is entirely up to you whether you want a teacher from your secondary school or one from your pre-U school to be your counsellor. Common App references are significantly different from what usual Malaysian references would be, so be sure that your counsellor knows about the writing style.

Other School: If you are doing your Pre-University education in a different institution as compared to your secondary school, you will need to fill up this subsection. Just do exactly the same as the previous step for each High School you have attended. That said, please do not key in your primary school and kindergarten. Likewise, given that High School means the schools where you did SPM/IGCSE till IBDP/A-level/STPM/Matrikulasi/AP, please do not include your PMR school if it was different than the one you did your SPM/IGCSE at. Otherwise, please do.

Community-Based Organization: If any of these organisations helped you with your Common App application, then do declare them. These are generally non-profit organisations that are representative of particular civil societies e.g. Black communities, underprivileged suburban children.

Education Interruption: If you are finishing your Pre-University studies later than scheduled, please declare it in this subsection. Otherwise, tick “I have no interruption to report.”

College & Universities: If you have completed a university level course, be it online or through a physical college, fill up this subsection. For the occasional Singaporeans who might be reading this, declare your H3 Subjects here. Likewise, if you have completed an actual uni/college level course, declare here. Please keep in mind that your Pre-University education (A-level, IBDP, STPM, Matrikulasi, AP) does not count here.

Grades: There are 4 options under the class rank reporting, mainly

1) Exact: For instance, 53 out of 187 (187 will be filled in under “class size”)
2) Decile: Top 10%, 20%, 30% …  
3) Quintile: Top 20%, 40% .., 80%
4) Quartile: Top 25%, 50% … and so on.

If you are on a Pre-U programme that does not use GPA/CGPAs (A-level, IBDP), leave the relevant sections blank. Likewise, if you’re doing Matrikulasi or STPM, declare your CGPA as well as the GPA scale (‘4’ for STPM, Matrikulasi etc.) Whether or not your GPA is weighted depends on this question – do all contributing subjects/modules/aspects have the same individual contribution to your GPA? If your answer is no, then your GPA is probably weighted.

Current or Most Recent Year Courses: This is where you declare your Pre-University subjects as well as your Year 11 subjects (SPM, IGCSE etc). In other words, A-level History counts as one course, STPM Ekonomi counts as one course.

Honors: If you have won awards, competitions or scholarships, declare them here. Important point to note here is the grading system, Grade 9 refers to Form 4 and equivalent, Grade 10 being SPM/IGCSE while Grade 11 refers to your AS-level. Intuitively, Grade 12 is your A-level/IBDP/STPM. The exception here then is that if your pre-U course lasts only a year e.g. Australian year 12, SAM, Matrikulasi. In that case, Grade 12 refers to that and Grade 11 refers to IGCSE etc. Basically, it all depends on the number of academic years your Pre-U studies contribute to. PG generally applies to those who undertook gap years.

Future Plans: Write about your future career plans and highest degree you intend to earn here.

 

Testing

Test Taken: Check ‘yes’ to self-report your SAT, SAT II, IELTS, TOEFL, IB, A-levels scores. You should list all tests that you expect to take and have already taken.

If you have taken courses such as SPM, STPM, IGCSE, IB Middle or IBDP, elect ‘yes’ for the last column with the prompt: “Is promotion within your education system based upon standard leaving examinations by a state or national leaving examinations board?” Do note that if you took AP, you do not have to check this box.

Senior Secondary Leaving Examinations: If you check ‘yes’, a new section indicating “Senior Secondary Leaving Examinations” comes up. For each test chosen, another column will appear; this is where you should fill in the specifics of each test. This means that if you have already sat for your A-level, IBDP, STPM, then tick “yes” and fill up accordingly. For most, who are still studying for the actual examinations, tick “no”.

 

Activities

After indicating ‘yes’, you have a maximum of 10 columns for you to fill in all activities. You’re given a maximum of 50 characters to state the name of the activity, and another 150 characters to describe the activity. Once again, an important note on the grade level system, intuitively, Grade 12 refers to A-level/IBDP/STPM. If you are taking a gap year after your Pre-University studies, any activities done after graduation comes under “Post-Graduate”. For sports specifically, if you are in your school/state/national team, then you are involved in Varsity/JV sports. If you are not in the main team i.e. reserve, secondary or development team, then you are in JV.

For example:

Music Club – Founding President

Spearheaded 2 national music concerts; raised $10,000+ for the Malaysian Elderly Association. Honed leadership skills working with 60 members.  (142 characters)

Keep your description concise to minimize character count and convey your message clearly.

Do note that the activities included here are assumed to be the most important and relevant since Year 9. It is important to arrange the activities in order of relative importance to you and your application. Feel free to include any previous or current jobs.

You might want to consider carefully which activities to include as this section is vital in portraying who you are both as a student and as a person. It is highly recommended that you state activities that you are interested in continuing in university. You may include hobbies only if these are relevant and if you feel that you have gained a lot from these activities.

 

Writing

Personal Essay

You have a choice of 5 questions to choose from. Choose one from the list below:

8 essay prompts

Our advice would be to briefly write down the main outline of your response to each question. With this in mind, you can roughly compare the quality of your responses across all questions. Try not to overthink the process; choose the essay that gives you the right platform to best express yourself.

That being said, essays about everyday activities and/or volunteering work might be deemed mundane by the admission officers, unless you’re able to write creatively about the topic, or if you feel that your application will be incomplete without that particular story to reflect who you are. Ultimately, this is where you have the opportunity to showcase your unique identity and personality.

Here’s a link to another article on CollegeLAH about writing US essays.

https://collegelah.com/2014/08/07/how-to-write-successful-us-college-application-essays/

 

Disciplinary History

Honesty is the best policy! Do not be afraid if you have a tainted disciplinary record. This does not mean that you will be rejected solely based on this.

 

Additional Information

It is not necessarily the case that your application would be in any way disadvantaged if this section is left unfilled. If there is nothing else to add, there is no need to include unnecessary details.

However, if you do wish to include additional information, here are examples of what could be added:

1) Description of the 11th extremely important activity (because you can only write about 10 activities in the previous section)

2) Clarification of extenuating circumstances –
“Took a gap year after Year 11 because …”
“SAT scores were unusually poor because…”
“Discontinued a music syllabus after Year 10 because…”

3) Information regarding yourself that you think the application will not be complete without

However, please do not continue your unfinished essay here.

Congratulations on completing this CommonApp section!

 

College Essays

Hurray! Don’t be too happy yet, this is not the end of your application to the States. Colleges/Universities have more questionnaires for you to answer. Most will also have extra essays, known as supplementary essays. That means more essays to write! Fret not, CollegeLAH essays editing services are here to help you!

 

Recommenders

9 recommender

In every tab for the colleges that you are applying to, there is a subsection called “Recommendations and FERPA”. This is where you invite your preferred teachers to be your counsellor and recommenders. A counsellor cannot be a recommender and vice versa. You can invite as many recommenders as you want. Ultimately, you will be the one deciding whose references to put in. Likewise, you can have non-academic referees e.g. sports coach, music tutor (more relevant for those applying for sports/music scholarships). Waiving your FERPA rights means that you agree legally not to have access to your references or transcripts and have your counsellor send them on your behalf. Please note that once your recommender is invited into your application for a particular university, his/her reference can also be used for other universities.


Written by: The CollegeLAH Team

A Coffee Enthusiast’s Application to Oxford for Physics

Oxford JX

Applying to Oxford for Physics (Not my Dad’s)

If you’re reading this, you just might possibly be considering the thought of maybe perhaps APPLYING FOR PHYSICS at Oxford.

Do it.

My dad (whose physics application advice is also on this website) and I are the only Malaysian physicists here and we’d love for you all to join the *cough* fun.

Brian’s Journey to Oxford (Part 1)

Brian’s Journey to Oxford (Part 2)

No. He’s not my real dad.

I’ll have more information concerning my interview than anything else, because that’s the most memorable part, and dad’s article sums up all the good tips for everything else already.

Here we go!

 

FIRSTLY, THE PAT

I honestly cannot remember much from my sitting of the PAT.  Nevertheless, my checklist for preparing for it was along the lines of:

[] Read through the PAT Syllabus ( https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/study-here/undergraduates/applications/physics-aptitude-test-pat/pat-syllabus ) and note down any topics which your Sixth Form course has not covered

[] Read through AS-level and IGCSE physics

[] Brief research of eclipses and astronomy (which my A-level studies did not cover)

[] ALL the past year PAT papers from http://www.physicsandmathstutor.com/pat/ . This here website is your new best friend. Don’t forget to check with its model answers

[] A few servings BPho (British Physics Olympiad, not the Vietnamese noodle soup) from http://www.physics.ox.ac.uk/olympiad/PastPapers.html#BPhOP1 . Again, these have marking schemes and, as dad said, they do in fact resemble the PAT questions

When it gets to the PAT, keep calm and just show them what you know! Very few people can complete every single question with confidence. I remember blanking out for a few math concepts I had not used for months but give everything a good shot and cross your fingers for…

 

THE INTERVIEW

Hehe. I remember getting my interview email in the middle of Lumut’s jungles covered in soil and sweat on my teacher’s iPad. I was in the middle of KTJ’s Outward Bound School trip for Sixth-Form students and frustrated that books were forbidden during the course. Good times…

I had two interviews over Skype: the first with Oriel and the second with Pembroke (obviously, the Pembrokian tutors who interviewed me and are now tutoring me are nicer 🙂 )

The link to the interview questions and solutions are at the end of this paragraph. I urge you to not look at the answers and instead give the questions a worthy go before checking your attempt with my answers.

JX Physics Interview and Solutions

Preparing for the interview

  1. Do lots of Fermi Problems
  2. Do lots of Puzzles
  3. Chill
  4. Drink coffee
  5. Read and practice from the following list

Book recommendations: These are just some books that I read or read excerpts from that were very interesting or helpful to the interview.

Jearl Walker – The Flying Circus of Physics

This book, although incredibly elusive, is a treasure trove of physics brainteasers with awesome explanations.

Conservation of Momentum blog

https://conversationofmomentum.wordpress.com/

Lots of physics interview questions and puzzles.

Richard Feynman – QED ; 6 easy pieces ; Tips on Physics ; Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman

Great look at an unconventional perspective of physics. The last book isn’t really about physics but it’s the only biography I have ever enjoyed reading.

George Gamow – Mr Tompkins in Paperback

A pretty fun exploration of physics you should be interested in. You can find these (legally) free online.

Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality – Manjit Kumar

A nice historical overview of modern physics.

 

All in all, I hope you have a great time applying for and studying Physics (if you’re here not for the physics, good luck with whatever you’re doing anyway!). I hope the advice here helps. I know it’s short, but it’s so that you have more time to practice which is what will really matter.

All the best! Hi Mum and dad (Oxford and in real life)!


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Jiaxen Lau, full time physicist, coffee connoisseur, photographer, videographer, fashionista, poet, cryptoanalyst, is currently reading Physics in Pembroke College, Oxford University. Indeed, he may have forgotten lunch but he will never forget about coffee. Make no mistake, this man is not a Victorian dandy but, with certainty, a Victorian gentleman who, as rumour has it, seems to have a girlfriend. Shame on him if that’s true, he’s supposed to love physics and coffee and only physics and coffee.

My journey applying for Economics & Management at Oxford

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Hey everyone! I’m Esther Ng and I will be reading Economics and Management (E&M) in Oxford University this October.

I applied to read pure economics at Warwick, LSE, Bristol and UCL. However, as Oxford did not offer a pure economics course, I chose E&M instead. (UCAS only allows you to apply to a maximum of 5 universities). Moreover, E&M appealed to me as it combines my interest in the management of business with my passion for economics, and is also less mathematical than a pure economics course in say, LSE or Cambridge.

Personal statement (PS)

Next, the dreaded PS which you would spend centuries redrafting. A personal statement is your opportunity to write about your achievements, passion in the subject and differentiate your application from the others.

I only had 3 weeks to draft and submit my personal statement so, I would really recommend you to start your PS as early as possible to allow yourself ample time to redraft and perfect it.

As you are limited to 4,000 characters (about 1 A4 page), it is vital that you focus your PS on your achievements and experiences that reflect your passion and interest in the course you are applying for.  Below is how I structured my personal statement:

  • Introduction. Why economics? What sparked the interest? Instead of merely mentioning my involvement in community service and mission trips, I’ve linked this to how it initiated my desire to study economics – i.e. “to explore economic policies which would reduce chronic destitution and poverty”
  • Books I read which supplemented my interest and articles which I found thought provoking. i.e. The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier, Paul Krugman’s End this Depression Now!
  • My achievements which linked to economics (i.e. UKMT math challenge competition), and the transferrable skills I gained from the subjects I took in A levels (Further Maths and History) and how they further propelled my desire to study economics.
  • Interest in management. i.e. Link to the practicality of economics/ any experience you have in business management (Enterprise CCA)

UCAS only allows you to submit 1 personal statement so if you’re applying for E&M to all 5 universities, then you may want to give equal weighting to both subjects. However, since I applied for  slightly different courses (E&M and pure economics), I only had a small section on management to acknowledge and show interest in it, as I did not want it to affect my pure-economics application to the other 4 universities.

  •    Conclude

TSA Test

The Thinking Skills Assessment is a pre-interview test held in early-November, with the intention to test applicants on their critical thinking and problem solving skills. This is only applicable to certain courses and universities, so do check if you need to take it!

The admission test consists of 2 sections.

  1. Section 1: 50 MCQ in 90 minutes
  2. Section 2: Answer 1 essay from a choice of 4 in 30 minutes which would be reviewed by the admissions tutor of your chosen Oxford college

It’s useful to gain an insight to the structure and time constraints of the paper by looking at specimen/ past papers.

Interview

If you’re shortlisted for the interview, you can decide to fly to the UK or hold a Skype interview.

You are expected to be reasonably well-prepared for your interview.

  • practise answering typical questions like “Why Economics and Management
  • ensure that you are able to discuss anything you mentioned in your personal statement
  • read about your subject, like current affairs/ latest happenings
  • have mock interviews with your teachers/ subject specialists (if you think it will help you, I found this useful!) My economics teacher held a mock interview with me which I recorded to see which areas I could improve on.

For my interview, I decided to fly to UK so that I would be able to visit the campus and my college. I applied to Trinity College and had 1 interview there with 3 interviewees and a 2nd interview at Keble college. Both interviews were starkly different, with my 2nd interview being much more math-based.

Example of parts of my E&M interview:

  • Simple math equation which I had to sketch and questions relating to it. I was not really expecting math questions (I don’t know what I was thinking :/)
  • Interviewer asked me about the Keynesian stance which I mentioned in my personal statement
  • ‘What would I say about a government that keeps using fiscal stimulus however, there is no improvement?’
  • Summarise some articles (mine was on employment) which they allowed me to read before the interview

I was nervous for both interviews and felt like I performed terribly especially for the math questions. However, the interviewers were very friendly and would guide me along the math problems whenever I was stuck.

What are the tutors looking for?

  • Confidence and clarity in expressing and discussing ideas
  • Interest and passion in subject
  • Flexibility and ability to construct and assess arguments
  • Teachability

I almost considered not applying to Oxford due to the limited time I had to prepare my personal statement, and the “certainty” that I would be rejected. What stirred me on was the belief that ‘I know I’ve tried’, so regardless of the outcome, apply to your dream course and university. #noregrets

All the best for your application!


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Esther Ng Kah Wei is delighted to be reading Economics and Management in the University of Oxford. ‘All Glory to God!’, she says. She’s a huge fan of chocolate crepes and loves travelling around the world!

Application to Australian Universities

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I am an Australian Permanent Resident and I took A Levels instead of Australian Year 12. I’m going to pursue Bachelor of Biomedicine in University of Melbourne, Australia.

It wasn’t until April this year that I found out that my university application was a completely different procedure compared to other students and the placement center in my college couldn’t assist me in my application. My reaction was like “Oh My Gosh, how I wish someone told me earlier so I wouldn’t have to go through this hassle!”

And yes, I shall tell you how to overcome this and not create a (sort of) mess like I did.

Step 1: check if your parents/you are Permanent Residents of Australia.

If you are an Australian PR, congratulations! (Please proceed to Step 3)

If you are not an Australian PR, congratulations! (Please proceed to Step 2)

Step 2: International students

International students with overseas qualifications (A Levels, CIMP, CPU, STPM, Malaysian Matriculation)

International students can apply directly to universities or through education centers like IDP or AUG. You may get your application fee waived.

  1.       Prepare your certificates and forecast results. Do bear in mind that you’ll have to certify your photocopied certificates.
  2.       Go onto university websites/education centers to get the application form.
  3.       Fill up the application form CORRECTLY.
  4.       Most of the universities will give you three choices, just fill in accordingly.
  5.       Hand in your application form!

International students with Australian qualifications (SAM, AUSMAT)

Some universities accept direct application but some requires online application. Do check your status ASAP to avoid hesitation.

Important:

Students who want to apply to Medicine, Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Veterinary Medicine will have to apply earlier (January).

Students who wish to apply to Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine MUST sit for the International Students Admissions Test (ISAT) from February to October. You may choose the date and time to sit for the test. You must register 6 weeks before the date of examination, and the fee is 300 USD (as of 2014).

Step 3: Permanent Residents

Australian Year 12 students

You do not need to certify any documents. To lodge your university application, go onto the admission websites listed below

  •        www.satac.edu.au (South Australia ;eg: University of Adelaide, Flinders University)
  •        www.uac.edu.au ( New South Wales and Australia Capital Territory; eg: UNSW, University of Sydney)
  •        www.vtac.edu.au (Victoria; eg: Monash University, University of Melbourne, RMIT)
  •        www.tisc.edu.au (Western Australia; eg: Curtin University, University of Western Australia)
  •        www.qtac.edu.au (Queensland; eg: University of Queensland)
  •        www.utas.edu.au (University of Tasmania)

You may login to/register your account in August for the Fall intake (February of the following year). The closing date for on time application falls on the end of September.

Non Year 12 students

This is going to be scary and intimidating but don’t worry you’ll be fine.

  1.       Register yourself on the admission websites.
  2.       Choose your course preferences.
  3.       Certify your documents.*
  4.       Send your documents to Australia

You’ll have to provide certified true copies of your IELTS, SPM and Pre-U results.

My advice is to go to the Australian High Commission Kuala Lumpur (Jalan Yap Kwan Seng) to get it certified. There is a cost applied (AUD 30 as of 2014)

Students applying for Medicine, Dentistry, and Veterinary Medicine will have to sit for the Undergraduate Medicine Admissions Test (UMAT) around end of July. The nearest test center is in Singapore. The website to this is www.umat.acer.edu.au

**Non Year 12 students are NOT eligible to apply for the Chancellor Scholars Program for University of Melbourne**

UMAT Experience

My advice is to register earlier and do more practice questions within the time frame. For UMAT, time is your biggest challenge. The questions are similar to the practice questions, but critical thinking is very important. Don’t get distracted and read the questions properly!

Additional

Here are some of the example questions:
Why do you want to pursue Medicine?
Tell us about your work experience/voluntary work.
Characteristics you think a doctor should have.

UNSW Medicine requires their applicants to fill up a Medical Application Form. It is similar to a personal statement but it is guided and more structured.

I was a member of the St John’s Ambulance Malaysia in SMK Seafield as well as a member of the Pre-Medicine Society in Taylor’s College Subang Jaya. This allowed me to have exposure to volunteer work. This helped me a lot in completing the application form and also in strengthening my points.


imageedit_14_6684298470Melanie Hew is a joyful girl who enjoys bringing happiness to people. She will be pursuing Bachelor of Biomedicine in the University of Melbourne. She hopes to be a paediatric cardiologist in the future.

Application to Stanford University

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General Questions

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Ying Hong. I go to Stanford University, and I’m a sophomore. A large part of my life has revolved around science and math. The culmination of this is my representing Malaysia in the annual International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) several times in secondary school. I make bad puns and am not ashamed of them. I have the uncanny ability to draw very round circles and have recently translated that skill into drawing and sketching. I can write words in very uniform straight lines on blank, unlined paper.

2. What was included in the application process to your university?

There was the CommonApp, and Stanford had plenty of shorter essay questions meant to probe my personality, among those that I have record of are “a letter to your future roommate” and “reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development”.

3. How did you approach your essays?

I talked about my experience at the last IMO I participated in. I did not focus on the competition itself, but more on my experience as a leader, being the most experienced (read ‘oldest’) in the team. The gist of it was that overall, the team did not do as well as hoped, including myself. I am not a natural leader, and telling others to accept failure and move on (the competition wasn’t over yet) would just sound contrived. But having been through many such disappointments I knew how they felt and was able to talk them through it.

How did I write it? My writing style is very economical. I do not add flowery language and fluff to distract the reader. The point I want to convey here is my personal growth through this sequence of events I am chronicling. 500 words is very little. Spend them wisely.

Did you perform any internships before applying?

Not really, but I did work as a camp facilitator several times at Olympiad math camps with Ardent Educational Consultants (run by our IMO trainer Mr. Suhaimi). These camps run for several days. I also taught and trained my secondary school (SMJK Katholik) math team.

What are some of the activities that you participated that you think helped your application?

I played chess, and represent my secondary school and district (Petaling Utama) to MSSD and MSSS.

I was concertmaster in the school symphony (playing violin).

I also volunteered at a local Tzu Chi recycling centre (probably not very helpful in application but what the heck

6. Did you have to take any tests?

SAT – The essay has to be written in a specific format. For the vocab section you just have to memorize lots of words (SAT vocab books are a great resource) and the passages portion is rather tricky. I attend the Princeton Review course, but honestly once you know the tricks, they are pretty easy to nail down. I think the books are good enough. And lots of practice. As for the math portion… well…

SAT II (subject tests) – I took physics, chemistry and math. The A-Levels should be more than sufficient to master these, but even if you’re planning to take them before you complete your A-Levels, they are not very hard, because they do not go too deep into the concepts. Again the books are good resources, and do lots of practice.

7. How was the interview session?

There was no interview for Stanford. But I did have an interview for MIT (where I got waitlisted the first time I applied). It really depends on the interviewer. They are Malaysian alumni, so in general they want to help you. Mine was very ‘chill’, and I just talked very naturally. He got me to talk about what I was passionate about, and the interesting things I do outside of school. I talked about the crazy random projects I built and some cool origami and how they were in fact very mathematical creatures (you can construct the cube root of 2 and trisect an angle with origami. Not doable with straight edge and compasses).

8. What do you think contributed to the success of your application?

I think my IMO credentials (silver medal) weighed in heavily. But I also think that wrapping it up in a cocoon of fuzzy personality stuff and showing that I am not a robot who just does math and programming all day (although sometimes I do that) helped me distinguish myself from just another nerd. Then again, Stanford IS nerd nation. Anyhow, they certainly want students of a certain calibre, but once you get past that point, there are a lot of randomness and variables that can affect your application, from the lack of coffee to the excellent Californian weather.

9. What advice would you give to future applicants?

START EARLY. Really. Again, START EARLY.

Stress over it, have nightmares about it, fuss and cry about it, but if you really want to get into the school, it is worth it.

Don’t just apply to schools you want to go to, because most probably everyone else is applying there too. Apply to some of the lesser-known schools as well. You may have to explain to your future job interviewer where in the world it is, but the experience of living in the US or any foreign land is priceless.

START EARLY. Can’t repeat this often enough.

Ask friends or teachers or strangers to read your essays. Get honest feedback. Read them out loud (to yourself). If you don’t feel comfortable then you’re not earnest about it and they can sense fear…


US-specific Questions

1. Does your college require you to submit any supplements? If yes, how were they?

I don’t fully recall… There were some short essay questions as mentioned above, and I’m pretty sure there were short questions like what your favourite books are and favourite music and even movies… Don’t sweat it.

2. Did you apply via Regular Decision, Early Decision, or Early Action? What impacted your choice?

Regular. MIT was my top choice, but early action (or decision? I’m honestly still confused about the two) was only available for Americans. So I waited…

3. We know that the US places a focus on ECAs too. If a student wasn’t too involved in secondary school, is it too late to start during Pre-U, and where would be the best place to start?

I’d say it’s not too late, but you’ll certainly be at a slight disadvantage, given others have probably already accumulated years of experience and held many leadership positions. But as long as you show the initiative to learn and grow as a human being, and not just a certificate collector, then you should be good. Also, ECAs most certainly do not have to be ‘president of the marching band’ or ‘head prefect’. I’m sure if you weren’t too involved in those things, you must have done other things that may have profoundly impacted your life. Dig deep and find what truly drives you.

4. Any advice on how to ask for recommendations from your teachers/lecturers?

Ask. No way around it. Make eye contact. Don’t shake and convulse at the sight of your math teacher.

Get someone who knows you best as a person and not just about your academic achievements. The recommendations are there to fill in that outsider’s perspective of you as a human being, and your grades should be reflected on your side of the application.


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Ying Hong Tham is pursuing a Computer Science degree at Stanford University under Astro scholarship. You can find him sneaking into lecture halls at night to use the chalkboards for math scratch work and random doodling.