NTU ASEAN Undergraduate Scholarship


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What’s NTU ASEAN Undergraduate Scholarship?

It is a scholarship for NTU students that covers the tuition fees and allowance per academic year while your results will be assessed every semester to make sure scholars get at least 3.50 out of 5.00 of CAP (Cumulative Average Point). The scholarship works in this way: half of the tuition fees is subsidized through Tuition Grant and the scholarship will cover the rest. There is no bond to the scholarship whereas the tuition grant provided by Singapore government has 3 years bond with any Singapore registered companies. Do note that this scholarship does not cover your hostel fees, so you have to use the living allowance to pay for that.

Cool! How do I apply?

To apply for this scholarship, you would need to fill in a scholarship application form after submitting your application form to NTU. The form is used for application for other scholarships as well, such as CN Yang Scholarship, College Scholarship, Nanyang Scholarship and NTU Science and Engineering Undergraduate Scholarship during my academic year, so it’s convenient for students to apply for multiple scholarships with just one application form. It requires students to fill in their past results, academic awards, extra-curricular activities and then write an essay not more than 300 words based on one topic chosen from 3 options.

So, what did you write about?

I chose the topic about the values and beliefs I hold strongly to. In my opinion, every essay that you need to write and submit before the interview is extremely crucial. This is the chance for you to express yourself truthfully while convincing the interviewers that you deserve to be awarded the scholarship. For my case, I wrote about the turning points in life that led me to my new beliefs. Students should look for something unique in themselves and write about it, instead of those same old stories about how determined or hardworking he or she is. Therefore, I would recommend people to try out new things and explore more, not only for the sake of applying scholarships but also for your personal development!

Ok! What’s after that?

If you are shortlisted for scholarship interview, NTU will notify you via email so keep an eye on that! NTU Scholarship Section of Financial Aid Office will come to Kuala Lumpur to interview all the applicants from Malaysia. If I am not mistaken, there is only one venue for the interview. My tips for the interview:

  1. Be prepared! Do your homework on the scholarships, the university, especially the courses you applied, and also some common interview questions. (Google! Google! Google!)
  2. Relax yourself by believing in yourself. Try not to compare with others, you must know that somebody will be better than you. That’s why you should focus on your unique personality.
  3. Be confident but not too arrogant. Avoid telling the interviewers that they will be living in remorse for the rest of their lives if they don’t offer you the scholarship.
  4. Be polite to the interviewers. Never forget to smile and thank them for their time in the end! First impression is extremely important.

During my interview, I talked about myself and shared my experience of backpacking in Bangkok. I related it to myself as that is my interest. After that, since I applied for Civil Engineering, they asked me a basic physics question of calculating force acting on a block on a slope. I saw a simple chemical equation on the back of the paper though. My friend who applied for Chemical Engineering was asked to differentiate methane and methene, and guess what – methene does not even exist! Then, they asked me about my favourite building in Singapore and what’s so special about it. Of course, you don’t have to answer the question like a professional; they are just testing your critical thinking skill.

Any last advice for future applicants?

Have faith in yourself and don’t stop believing!

The author, who wishes to be anonymised, is currently an undergraduate ASEAN scholarship holder at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Life@UMP – Software Engineering


“What university is that?” “Where is it located?” “Never heard of it lahh.” These are just some examples of statements/enquiries I, a future Software Engineer, received when proudly proclaiming I’m from Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP). Yes, you now might have a mysterious voice in your head saying the exact same thing. Well mates, the non-glamorous UMP is situated on the side of Tun Razak Highway, Gambang, Pahang in Malaysia. Basically, it’s in a random Malaysian rainforest. Animal sightings are a norm, usually just wild boars and dogs, and occasionally more exotic ones such as snakes, lizards, monkeys and once a Kongkang  (Slow loris).

Like all public universities, application is done through the UPU system. Here is a simple guideline for those that chose the A-level-ish path:

  •   Input personal details
  •   Input pre-u details and results
  •   Input course/university choices
  •   Hope and pray

Like many other poor souls out there, my prayers weren’t answered. The dreams of threading into the hallowed grounds of Universiti Malaya etc now in shambles. Nevertheless, dreams can be rebuilt, restructured, reconstructed and reprogramed. Fantasies aside, I come from the widely praised Malaysian Matriculation Program, at least that is what they claimed. For me, that one year at another random Malaysian jungle was absolute torture, classes non-stop from 8am to 5pm, lab reports every day (Science stream), quizzes every hour, study every minute. Well it does give the advantage of 1 year compared to Form Six.

A year and a half (3 semesters) has passed since I opened the door to my hostel room. Compared to my tenure at Matriculation, life at UMP was easy, I only have 16 credit hours average per semester in my 3.5 year bachelor’s degree course. I do not face the daunting stress of medicine courses, nor do the memory crunching Law degrees, and neither do my fellow university mates. Yes, my university is filled with future engineers ready to innovate the future or a varsity filled with lazy people looking for ways to get things done easy, depends on which way you see it. Judgements aside, we all live mostly in harmony no matter our ethnicity or background brought together by our mutual hatred of our Student Council members and Students Welfare Department.


Moving on, as students, we normally would be busy rushing deadlines and completing assignments. Typical, but then again as a Malaysian, we like to compare things. Don’t tell me you never compared our durians against foreign species of durians. Yes, but here is a norm to compare our busy schedule. Who is free? Who is busy? What course is that fella from? Ubiquitous questions thrown around to investigate each other’s cramp schedule, with many agreeing that Engineering Management students could practically sleep through the weekend without worrying about Monday, a luxury to the others.

Talking about schedules, what would fill up a Software Engineer’s schedule? Most people would probably guessed we are a group of geeks with thick lenses staring at a desktop typing the enigma code out. Nope, half of my syllabus is actually project planning and management. I was surprised to find out that I’ll be learning ways to plan a software project and requirement elicitation in my first semester. Of course we still learn those weird codes and computer languages. But as I learn, I realize Software projects are not like typical engineering projects, and require different set of procedures to run due to the more unpredictable and competitive world of cyber business. So don’t go around imagining us as some fat, ill managed slob slurping down Pepsi while burping out lines of incomprehensible codes. We are more capable than you are, jokingly of course mate.



Unfortunately for us, even with our busy schedule, we’re expected to make time for co-curricular activities. Sounds normal? Here’s the catch, points will be gathered based on our involvement in the activities. Points gathered will be used during application for next year’s hostel arrangements, and there is a minimum threshold you need to pass o be eligible. My first year’s point threshold was a record high, 3900 points, as compared to the previous year, 2100 points. To make this look daunting, an international level involvement only yields 200 points. Oh and Malaysians’ love for comparing does not spare this either, competing to see who has the most points.


Well, this is what I got myself into – an average kid suddenly thrown into a whirlpool of expectations and social competition. Then again, it was no less what I expected, these norms were already taking root during Matriculation. Competitiveness between students are high within public institutions knowing only the best are acknowledged here. I myself expected a tough journey ahead before putting on the tie for the orientation. You might say, “mate, your university’s rank is over 2000!?” I tell you, education anywhere is equal, it’s the experience and things you learn that are not from your lecturer’s that’s worth it all. I came here with expectations for myself that I wish to be met, UMP is just a training arena.


So far, life has been kind enough, bumps along the way but nothing too rough yet. Socially I’m doing well, my trilingual (as a Malay) ability distinguished me well among the students here. Education wise, I’m just average, nothing too fancy. I’m here to mature and experience, a Degree certification is just a paper if you can’t even talk to the stall cashier, let alone some company’s CEO. My advice to future university students, look to improve more as a person, it’s more important than getting that Upper case printed “A”. Also, try not to forget to have some fun, this might be your last time where you can do so at full capacity. Those who are prospecting their future with UMP, well don’t put your hopes too high, it might disappoint you a little, it’s a public university after all. Then again UMP might be better off than a few other public universities since it’s fairly new, hence better facilities. Its close proximity with Kuantan (30 minutes’ drive) does not really isolate it from civilization too.

For enquiries you can contact me through my Facebook (Mhd Qym) or through Twitter (@MuhdQaiyyim). Just drop me a message or anything, I’ll try to reply as soon as time allows me too. So I’ll sign off by saying, good luck and may the force be with you.


Muhammad Qaiyyim is currently striving for his Bachelor (Hons) in Computer Science Majoring in Software Engineering at Universiti Malaysia Pahang. A true geek powerful with force. Frequently spotted at the basketball court or anywhere that resembles a dojo, with a laptop closeby.




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South Australian Matriculation (SAM) or presently known as SACE International is an Australian-based pre university program that heavily involves the combination of coursework and final examination, which ultimately leads you to earning an Australian Year 12 qualification. As for myself, I did SAM back in 2013, in which I joined during the July intake at Taylor’s College Subang Jaya (TCSJ) and graduated at the end of 2014. Being somewhat clueless on the things to be done and the course to pursue after getting my SPM results, I definitely had to take my own initiatives to get more insights on all the choices available, which led to countless ‘new tabs’ on my web browser and various perspectives obtained from those who were undertaking different pre-university programs. In the end, the Australian matriculation or specifically, the SAM program won me over, primarily due to the weightage of its internal assessments; SAM students are assessed based on 70% college-based assessment (coursework) and only 30% final examination, which I believe is a huge advantage for myself. For most colleges that do offer the SAM program, the entry requirements generally demand students to get a minimum of 5 credits (subject pre-requisites do apply).

After deciding the program that I was most interested in while still keeping my options open for the rest, the next step was to look out for any forms of financial aid that could help me reach my desired higher education. I was very lucky to be in the position where my results gave me the eligibility to apply to various scholarships that were provided both by the government and NGOs. Most of these sponsors require applicants to achieve straight As for their SPM examination but there are definitely other options to consider such as government loans, university scholarships and bursaries depending on your results. The application process for me involves a great deal of anxiety with tons of patience and persistence; receiving declines after declines can definitely took a toll on you but with great perseverance, I received a full scholarship offer from MARA to pursue my studies to my preferred university in Australia, where I would first have to undertake SAM program in TCSJ and pass the ATAR requirement fixed by the sponsor, which was a minimum score of 85 at that time. Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is the primary criterion for entry into most undergraduate-entry university programs in Australia. During my MARA application, students were given a choice to pick two from the numerous options available, varying to the courses and countries that it is offered in. The Australian program offered was without a doubt my very first option and I was very fortunate to be one of the few selected for the program. For MARA scholars, students were selected based on their performances during the psychometric test and the interview conducted.

In SAM, it is expected for one to be relentlessly on the go and working consistently on the assignments at hand. There is going to be a time where you might be having multiple tests for different units on the same day of your assignment’s submission, which can be pretty challenging to get used to. It took me a while to get adjusted to the fast-paced study routine and I was very lucky to have a steadfast support system around me with thoughtful peers and selfless lecturers that always kept me on my toes. Personally, I believe that good time management, continuous effort and perseverance are the three prominent traits that needs to be grasped in order for one to excel in SAM. It is important to realize that everything requires effort and perseverance, that executing actions is equally as important as believing and dreaming big. Always get a head start on the work assigned by doing prior research and discuss it with your lecturers to get constructive feedback; it will help you to improve your work further and thus enhancing the final piece. Don’t be embarrassed or anxious to consult the lecturers for any difficulties faced throughout the course, they are more than willing to guide you and improving your overall experience in SAM. Discussion among peers can be very helpful in completing your assignment, as you’ll realize that more in depth knowledge on the subject matter can be attained with all the different ideas shared. Being consistent with your internal assessments grades throughout the program can definitely help you to improve your final results, as it holds a considerably higher weightage than the external component and it also allows you to have more control on your intended outcome.

SAM arranges various motivational talks from university representatives and experienced alumni around the world, where they share valuable insights that can help you further in deciding the right course to pursue. Being rather new on the procedures in applying to different universities in Australia, Taylor’s University Placement Services were my literal backbone throughout my university application process. They were always very supportive and willing to dedicate their time to help the students in getting the intended university. Their years of experiences definitely gives an advantage to the students; they have recognized what these universities are looking for in potential students and they always made sure all the forms were filled with relevant details before any submission, leading to an excellent service in entirety.

SAM also offers various opportunities for students to discover their hidden passions and interests apart from education with a variety of clubs and societies to choose from, ranging from sports, arts and affiliations. Through SAM, I have found one of the most moving forms of excitement I could ever accomplish, which is the opportunity to inspire another person and thus making a difference in their life, no matter how small it could be. One of my most valuable SAM experiences was the chance to get involved with the MADU (Made a Difference United) society, which is a special community-based program held only under SAM in TCSJ. In MADU, we had different groups of students doing weekly visits to shelter homes around Subang and Petaling Jaya areas, where we provide mentoring sessions for the students there through our ‘Buddy System’. Basic tutoring as well as engaging and developing long-term relationship with the students to discuss their future endeavors 
were our primary roles as mentors. Our objectives are to inspire and reinvigorate the significance of school education for these students and emphasizing the importance of skill integration in real life. From MADU, I realised that when you have the chance to inspire someone, that person may then inspire others and as this chain reaction grows, an entire generation could be inspired and lives would definitely be changed.

Throughout my one and a half years in Taylor’s, Both SAM and MADU have played a huge role in shaping the person that I am today. It has taught me the need of inculcating wisdom in education to develop a more confident, successful generation. It has equipped me with the much-needed soft skills and life skills that are stressed upon throughout the course particularly with all the assignments and tasks given. I’ve also learned how to manage a team efficiently, adapt quickly to any sudden and unexpected changes and socialize well with people from different background. Another life lesson that I’ve gotten and persistently remind my mentees and myself with is that we are our own limits; nothing could stop us from achieving our goals other than ourselves. It is essential for us to believe in ourselves when nobody else would and our beliefs will then determine our actions and that actions will evidently determine our results. If we have the passion and desire to reach for our own ambition, with hard work, constant dedication and much needed self-confidence, that could be achieved effortlessly.

Razana Aqila

Razana is going into her second year of university, where she is undertaking an engineering degree in Monash University, Australia under Majilis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) Scholarship. She is a music enthusiast with a profound passion for photography and suffers severe ornithophobia.


Pre-U Subject Choices for UK-Bound Students

Earlier this year, the Russell Group published their 2015/16 “Informed Choice” pamphlet, accompanied by a video, explaining the value and importance of taking facilitating subjects as a dominant part of a student’s Pre-U subject choices. These facilitating subjects, e.g. the sciences, history, maths, further maths, languages, English Literature and geography, as the lobbying group for the 24 research-intensive universities characterised, open up a wide range of options for university entries and career choices. Indeed, across the Russell Group universities and more specifically the top echelon of this group e.g. Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, facilitating subjects go far more than mere “opening up wide options”. Their “preferred subjects” reflect their umbrella group’s facilitating subjects, albeit with more restrictions and are seen as subjects to rigorously formulate the skills necessary for different courses at their universities. LSE and certain colleges of Oxford and Cambridge openly publish a list of preferred and non-preferred subjects. Generally, non-traditional ones such as accounting, business studies, sociology fall into the latter group. Indeed, reading the Russell Group’s “Informed Choice” pamphlet and watching their videos will immediately kick this question into your mind – “Why does this seem so aloof of the Malaysian context?” Very clearly, “Informed Choice” is meant for the British audience. Malaysian schools/colleges are shaped very differently, likewise the subjects they offer and the normative biases that parents, peers and teachers tend to have.


Where should I start?

Generally, you will have to consider three things – the prerequisite subjects that your preferred courses have, the preferences your universities/courses have and whether or not you will be able immerse yourself into the joyous journey of learning the subject. While the first two are technically important criteria that you should never forsake, the last one tend to be underrated. I cannot stress how important that is, given that you will be spending more than a year studying that subject, dedicating your soul to the devil just to go to university. You might as well just murder yourself over a subject that you will enjoy.

Let’s deal with the bits where you’re faced with a Hobson’s choice i.e. the first two criteria are relatively simple to fulfil. Go on to the websites of the courses that you are applying to and take note of the required and suggested subjects. For instance, Physics at Oxford requires applicants to have studied Maths and Physics at Pre-University level and likewise, Medicine at Edinburgh will require Chemistry and Biology. In the “Informed Choice” pamphlet, though insufficient and inadequate, there is a generalised list of prerequisites for commonly applied courses. These are essential subjects that you must take to be considered by your prospective universities.

Figuring out which subjects are not preferred by your course also follows a similar approach. Though most universities will not make it explicitly clear that they don’t prefer certain subjects, Cambridge and LSE definitely publishes their own non-exhaustive list. Nonetheless, their list generally applies to the other Russell Group universities, having all collectively expressed that they prefer at least 2 facilitative subjects before releasing their first series of “Informed Choice” guidelines. There are, however, caveats regarding this. The most competitive courses and universities tend to prefer applicants not to have any “soft” subjects e.g. media studies, accounting (even for accounting applicants), law (yes, for law applicants as well) at all. Keep in mind that while not all non-facilitative subjects are soft subjects, all soft subjects are non-facilitative. Indeed, there is hardly any strict definitions of what soft and hard subjects are but the generic implication is that hard subjects formulate the core skills that are useful in undergraduate study rather than specific skills that soft subjects tend to train. Another generalisation that you can take note of is that traditional subjects such as economics, the hard sciences, maths and the ones in the list of facilitative subjects are also considered to be hard subjects. Moreover, there are some statistical backing to this preference. In 2008, Durham University ran a study on the relative difficulty of different A-level subjects and there was an obvious trend that across all 5 statistical models used, “traditional” and facilitative subjects tend to be harder than otherwise. Though more than half a decade ago, deviations hardly were significant across years.

The last bit is fairly straightforward at face value, choose the subjects that you will actually enjoy. Of course, if you’re eyeing on the more competitive universities e.g. Oxbridge, LSE, Imperial, look only at the traditional/hard subjects. However, considering the different circumstances UK-bound Malaysians can be in – being enrolled in a college/school with limited, bundled subject choices, restricted by IBDP requirements or simply limited by the choices available via STPM/Matrikulasi, this is a tricky question to answer.


In the foreseeable future, accessible Malaysian schools/colleges are probably not going to teach subjects like Latin, politics, geography, history and classical studies. And you have just told me that I shouldn’t take accounting, business studies, law and a whole lot of subjects that are bundled together. Just what subjects should I take?

Indeed, unless you have the luck and privilege of being admitted to the more resourceful schools such as KTJ, KYUEM or ISKL, your choices of subjects will be restricted. For one, elite schools like these offer almost every traditional subjects there is, including A-level Geography, Music, History and IB French, German etc. If you are in schools of this sort, you don’t have any problems. Just choose the traditional subjects that you will enjoy and are related to the course that you want to further your studies in. Elsewhere across the board, the hard sciences and maths are often bundled together in for A-level, Matrikulasi colleges and STPM schools. The problem begins for students who wish to take on the social sciences/humanities in competitive universities. Often, traditional humanities/social sciences are bundled together with non-traditional ones e.g. “English Literature, Sociology, Law”, “Economics, Maths, Accounting, Business Studies” for A level, “General Studies, Accounting, Economics and Maths” for STPM.

Under these restrictions, it is important to recall that the social sciences and humanities often don’t require a stringent traditional social sciences/humanities subject combination at pre-university. History degrees don’t even need history as a prerequisite and would see English Literature as an indication of having the sufficient skills to cope with such a reading and writing-heavy subject. Likewise, economics only required maths. Given that, it is perfectly fine filling up the rest of your subject spots with the sciences or any other available traditional subject. Keep in mind that if you are not eyeing at the most difficult universities, it is alright to take the bare minimum of 2 traditional and/or facilitative subjects that the Russell Group universities collectively prefer. Given that, a subject combination such as “Economics, Maths, Further Math, Physics” will work for economics, accounting and similar subjects while “Maths, Chemistry, Biology, English Literature” seems adequate for law, history and accounting.  It is unlikely for IB students to face this problem, making it almost uniquely one for A-level, Matrikulasi and STPM students.

For the latter, where schools tend to be inflexible and under-resourced in terms of subject choices, it is perfectly fine writing to the universities themselves when applying, explaining the restrictive circumstances you are in. Of course, it is unreasonable to make someone who wants to apply for a history course to take a full “Sejarah, English Literature, Ekonomi” combination where that combination is unlikely to exist except in the more resourced urban schools. Likewise, expecting a Matrikulasi student to take that subject combination is also unreasonable given that it doesn’t exist. On top of explaining about the circumstances you are in to the universities, your UCAS personal statement should then be able to immensely display your academic potential in the course that you are applying. In that case, just take whatever that’s available to you e.g. “Science Stream” or “Accounting Stream”; it’s another Hobson’s choice.


Wait, just to be clear, you’re saying that even if I want to be a lawyer, accountant or business manager, I shouldn’t be taking law, accounting and/or business studies if possible? What about taking economics and business studies together?

The short and perhaps, grim, answers are yes and no respectively.

As explained earlier, the three subjects listed in the first question i.e. law, accounting and business studies are soft subjects. They should only be taken, at best, an additional subject. For applicants to the most competitive universities, just avoid them. Lawyers don’t need to do law at A-level (I doubt this subject is an option for other examinations). In fact, building the core analytical and writing skills via a mixture of essay subjects e.g. Literature, History, the social sciences and/or the hard sciences tend to be more preferable at university. Likewise, building up the quantitative, analytical and thinking skills via a mixture of traditional social sciences, mathematics and hard sciences would be more preferable and helpful.

For the second question, economics and business studies are considered to be overlapping subjects. However, economics is a traditional subject while business studies isn’t. Given that, you should either take economics and ditch business studies or take business studies as an additional subject and ditch economics. Generally, however, where economics is available as an option at your school/college, taking business studies isn’t a wise option. For instance, LSE explicitly has this preference.


Just what if I have no idea what do I want to study at university?

That then depends on the extent of uncertainty that you have. We will use a scale with 3 spectrums here – “I can’t decide between studying course A and B”, “I know that I want to study something in, per se, the humanities but I have yet to settle on a particular course” and “I have absolutely no idea”. Notice that this is a more in depth dilemma for A-level students given the immense options that they have. For IBDP, STPM and Matrikulasi students, choosing your subjects along these principles will do.

For the first one on the scale – “I can’t decide between studying course A and B”, it shouldn’t be highly difficult to take up subjects that fulfil the needs of both courses. Of course, this is under the assumption that there are some significant differences between them e.g. PPE and Medicine. Notice that these two are rather extreme but it is not impossible to take up, for instance, Biology, Chemistry, Maths and also History; of course, taking physics as well would be good and it is unlikely that your uncertainty will persist for more than 3 months, whereby thereafter you can drop the more unrelated subject. For more similar choices such as PPE and Economics or Chemical Engineering and Physics, incorporating the needs of both subjects won’t be difficult e.g. English Lit/History, Economics, Maths and Further Maths fulfil the former while a standard Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Further Maths combination works for the latter.

Moving up the scale and we find ourselves in a situation where a student only managed to narrow down to one particular field. The key idea then is to take up traditional and facilitating subjects within that particular field. It is perfectly fine going cross-disciplinary e.g. a mixture of social science, humanities and sciences as long as the field that you wish to be in is reflected in your subject choices. Applicants who might be set on the social sciences but unsure of which particular course to further their studies in might be interested in taking a quantitatively analytical subject e.g. maths and economics, coupled with another more qualitative one e.g. geography to cater for the less quantitative-centric social science courses. On the contrary, while it is generally normal alright to apply for the more maths intensive science subjects e.g. Physics, Engineering with a full natural science with maths combination, that is hardly optimal. The best solution is to decide as soon as possible, preferably within a 3-month period.

Lastly, for the “I have absolute no idea what I want to further my studies in” students who will have a seriously difficult time figuring out which subject combination will be best. The issue with most standardised qualifications is that your options are generally restricted. As per mentioned earlier, you should be deciding as soon as possible before finalising your subject choices, optimally within a 3-month period of starting your course, so that you will be able to catch up with the work done by your possibly new classmates. Generally, in terms of subjects, the idea is to have a mixture of subjects from different fields. Although conventional wisdom is that taking a pure natural science plus maths combination opens up all doors, that isn’t necessarily the case. Most of the humanities and some social science courses will want to see indication of academic writing and reading capability, from which subjects like English Literature, History and the Languages can indicate. Given that, start off with a mixture and then narrow down your course choices and Pre-U subject choices as soon as possible.


So is this the holy book that I must follow?

No, this article is entirely advisory and based on the team’s research, experience and access to various sources of information.

Written by: The CollegeLAH Team

Application to Cambridge Engineering

19-10-09: Cambridge University Department of Engineering

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About Myself

Hi! My name is Gan Jia Min. After graduating from KDU University College A Levels, I headed off to the University of Cambridge in October 2014 to study Engineering.

Engineering In Cambridge

The Engineering course in Cambridge is designed such that all would-be engineers (with the exception of chemical engineers) have a common first TWO years (meaning the same courses, etc). Chemical engineers only have a common first year. The good part about this is that if you are still uncertain about which field of engineering you would like to specialise in (for instance civil, mechanical, electrical), the common first two years allow you to explore the different fields of engineering in greater depth before you ultimately make an informed decision. However, let us say you are certain that you would like to be a computer engineer; it may seem redundant to learn how beams bend when subjected to a load or to learn the properties of steel in your first two years whilst your peers at other universities are learning (for the most part) purely computer engineering modules. For more information about how the Engineering course is structured, you may like to visit http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/courses/engineering/

Application Procedure

There are 5 simple steps to follow if you wish to apply for Engineering in Cambridge.

Firstly, fill up your UCAS online application. You will need to include a personal statement in this form.

Secondly, find out if you have to fill up another online form called COPA (Cambridge Online Preliminary Application), which can be found here (international applicants have to fill this up, so if you’re applying from Malaysia, you have to submit this).

Fill it up if you are required to and submit it before the deadline.

Thirdly, fill up another online form called SAQ (Supplementary Application Questionnaire). If you have already filled up the COPA form previously, you should indicate that you have done so and you will be guided to the relevant section of the SAQ to submit the form. Again, please check the deadline of submission of these forms.

Next, keep your fingers crossed and wait for an email inviting you to an interview and a written test.  The interview and the written test are most likely to be within a few days of each other.

Lastly, wait for their decision, whether or not to accept, reject or pool you. This decision can come via email or (more traditionally) by post, which could take up to a week or longer than by e-mail. Whether or not you will be notified by e-mail or post will depend on which college in Cambridge you applied to.

Personal Statement

It is important to show the university that you are passionate about your chosen course. In doing so, you may want to elaborate on what inspired you to pursue Engineering in the first place. For me, I wrote about how the construction of the Petronas Twin Towers coupled with my love for Mathematics and Physics fuelled my passion for Engineering.

As far as personal statements are concerned, words have little meaning if you cannot back them up with actions. Elaborate on what you have done to learn more about Engineering. For example, reading a relevant book, fixing a bicycle or signing up for an attachment at an engineering firm. Merely stating “I have fixed a bicycle before” is not good enough because it sounds shallow. Elaborate on what needed fixing and how you did it. Explain what you have learnt from this and how it relates to your passion for engineering.

You should include any relevant ECAs as well. For example, an engineering competition you participated in. Once again, add depth to your points. What have you learnt from the competition, etc. Personally, I wrote about the experience and knowledge I gained from participating in several Mathematics competition as well as a Surveyors’ competition.

Of course if possible, your personal statement should be proofread by someone experienced. If you are in Malaysia, MABECS offers this service free of charge (http://www.mabecs.com/).


If you wish to be interviewed in Malaysia, you will only be interviewed once before your college decides to accept, reject or pool you. Note that you may be re-interviewed via Skype by another college if you are pooled.

Before attending your interview, make sure you know what you have written in your personal statement inside out. If you talked about reading a book, make sure you really know the book because the interviewer can ask you about it. Also, revise your school work, especially the chapters you said you would have covered by the date of the interview in your COPA. These are usually rich sources of questions.

During the interview, you will be asked academic questions. Try your best to answer them. Make sure you think aloud. It is important that the interviewer knows your train of thought. Whenever you get stuck, do not worry, the interviewer will give you hints for you to proceed.

Engineering applicants are, not surprisingly, usually asked Mathematics and Physics questions. Usually the questions will start simple, and then become more complex as you go along. Very frequently, you will be asked unfamiliar questions and be expected to apply what you have learnt in that situation. Let us look at two questions I made up below.

A usual Mathematics question will be graph sketching. Say, sketch y=x and y=sinx. So far, so simple. One is a straight line through the origin and the other a sinusoidal graph. Then, maybe, you will be asked to sketch y=(sinx)/x. This may not be immediately obvious. However, do not panic. Remember, think aloud. You may not immediately know the answer, but tell the interviewer how you wish to proceed. For instance, you could say for x>0, as x increases, the denominator increases whereas the numerator oscillates from 1 to -1 and back to 1 again. So, as x increases (for x>0), (sinx)/x must also be oscillating with decreasing amplitude. After that, the interviewer may ask you to sketch y=xsinx. The point here is, tell the interviewer your train of thought. Do not remain silent.

Let us look at another example. An engineer must be good at estimating quantities. Many errors can be avoided if you have a rough idea how large a number should be. So maybe the interviewer can ask you to estimate the mass of oxygen in the room you are in. So, once again, explain to the interviewer how you wish to tackle the question. Maybe you can estimate the dimensions of the room, and from that, its volume. Then maybe you proceed to say oxygen makes up approximately 20% by volume of our atmosphere. From the volume, you can use the ideal gas equation to estimate the number of moles of oxygen molecules and multiply this with the Relative Molecular Mass of O2.

Written Test

All Engineering applicants will have to sit for the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment). You will also have to write an essay about engineering from five choices. All I did to prepare for the TSA was to do a specimen test they have online which can be found here.

I did it just to get a feel of what kinds of questions they will be asking. Remember though, to always keep an eye on the clock. Otherwise, you may not be able to finish it on time, especially if you are not a fast reader.

All I did to prepare for the essay was to once again revise my school work. It is pretty much the same preparation as for the interview.

imageedit_4_8404278516Gan Jia Min is a Math/Physics lover who is pursuing his Engineering degree in the University of Cambridge under a JPA Scholarship. One of his prouder achievements was to become the high jump champion in his primary school in Primary 5!

AMCHAM-MACEE Scholarship


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!


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

Cambridge Engineering Application


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Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’m studying Engineering in the University of Cambridge under the JPA scholarship. In my free time I play the guitar (as an amateur), read, and help out with my school’s Christian Fellowship. I have no pet dragon.

What was included in the application process to your university?

The main things I had to do were
1) decide to apply to Cambridge,
2) fill in a (quite tedious) online form called the COPA,
3) sit for an interview and
4) do some written tests – the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment) and a short essay on Engineering.

What did you include in your personal statement?

My personal statement consisted of a brief introduction explaining why I wanted to study Engineering, followed by a few paragraphs on some loosely Engineering-related things that I did, and lastly a bit about my extracurricular activities in school.

When I wrote my personal statement, I had really done very little that was directly related to Engineering, so I had to find some rather creative ways to link the things that I had done to the subject. Nothing I did was really spectacular, so I mainly tried to show (and kindle!) my inward enthusiasm for the subject.

I wrote 80% of my personal statement in one 1-hour sitting, to get it over and done with, like ripping off a band-aid. The rest consisted of minor tweaks here and there. My lecturer was unsatisfied with it, but in the end I submitted it anyway, thinking that any rewrite would probably not be much better (I have friends who rewrote the entire thing several times). I read my personal statement recently, and I think my lecturer was right – it wasn’t very good, so I think it would be best not to enclose it. It’s a good thing Cambridge also has your interview to go on!

Did you have to take any tests outside your normal course for your application?

The only test I did besides A-Levels was IELTS. Cambridge asked for a relatively high grade, an average band score of 7.5 with all of the individual components having a score of 7.0 or higher. English is my first language. I didn’t go for any classes, but I did go online and find out the format of the test, as well as borrow some example questions from friends who did go for classes. I ended up getting an average of 8.0, with the writing section dangerously close to forcing me to redo the paper at 7.0.

If you have trouble with English, try to find an IELTS class. Some colleges, like KDU (IELTS classes in KDU: http://www.kdu.edu.my/school-of-pre-university/english-language/149-ielts-preparatory-course) and KYUEM provide them. If you can’t find one, try to find past papers and answers online or from a friend.

How was the interview session ?

The interview was by far the most interesting part of my application, and also the most distressing. The questions were fairly simple maths and physics ones, and the interviewer mainly wanted to test my understanding of basic concepts (which was sometimes lacking, but he was nice about it). The room had only me and a lone interviewer in it. The interviewer was quite friendly, though he dived almost immediately into the interview questions. He drew diagrams and equations on sheets of paper, then asked me questions based on them.

If I answered correctly, he would probe deeper into my understanding (“Why do you say that? What makes you think this way?”). If I answered wrongly (which happened more often than not!), he would guide me to the correct answer and see if I could follow. After 30 minutes of being corrected, I left the interview room more or less certain I wouldn’t be getting through (which goes to show sometimes you’re mistaken about your mistakes!). The only preparation I did was go to this website: http://i-want-to-study-engineering.org/. It’s set up by the Cambridge University Engineering Department, so there’s no better place to go.

What do you think contributed to your success of your application?

 I must say I am not sure what it could have been. As I have already indicated, my personal statement was nothing special (and devoid of any work experience or special projects) and my interview certainly could have gone much better, even considering the fact that they are not looking for first-time right answers. My answer to the written test that I did was similarly average. One thing I can say is that Cambridge asked for the UMS scores of my first few exam modules, and I had done very well.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

I suppose if there’s one thing to be learned from my experience, it’s this: you may not think you are a spectacular student, and you may not have done much related to your subject. It’s fine. If you want to go for it, just try; you may be surprised (as I certainly was!). Be warned though, while the application process itself is not really stressful, it becomes stressful once you invest yourself in it and put in the time and effort. When I decided to apply to Cambridge, I was quite nonchalant about it, but as time went by I got more and more invested, and more and more worked up, until the interview became a kind of shadow looming over the year. Try not to let it get to that. Getting into Oxbridge is not everything.

AndrewAndrew Foong is a JPA scholar pursuing Engineering in the University of Cambridge. He has a profound love for cookies, especially chocolate ones.

JPA Program Khas Korea, Jepun, Perancis, Jerman


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chemical Engineering Personal Statement

This Engineering Personal Statement got him into Chemical Engineering in University College London, University of Bath, University of Manchester as well as University of Cambridge – all top-notch engineering schools in the United Kingdom.

Wastewater with high COD and BOD are the main factors in water pollution in industrial areas. My concerns about water pollution were accelerated when I saw how waste was directly drained into rivers, without any treatment, during my internship as a QA Chemist. Besides the use of instruments such as a FTIR and a Dynamic Rheometer to examine the performance of products based on AATCC and ISO standards, I designed a water treatment system using activated carbon as a catalyst, leading the pigments and organic contaminants to chemically bind to its active sites,which successfully reduced the COD of the industrial wastewater by 170mg/L. I have always been fascinated by how pollution affects our environment. When I was offered an unbonded scholarship by the Central Bank I was certain I wanted to study Chemical Engineering so that I could, one day, contribute to R & D in this field.

In my research into how to reduce water pollution in Malaysia, I investigated water treatment systems in the palm oil industry. The article ‘Review of Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) treatment’ by Y.L. Ling was surprising as I found out that 85% of POME, the major pollutant, is treated using an anaerobic lagoon system that takes months to break down into methane which then contributes to global warming. Intrigued, I decided to search for alternative methods; ‘Energy for a Sustainable World’ by Armaroli et al impressed upon me the advantages of a hydrogen economy; if POME could be broken into hydrogen directly, the effect of global warming would be reduced. I applied my knowledge of science to modify the current lagoon system into three reactors; the first reactor for the hydrolysis process; the second reactor, a Continuous Stirred Tank Type Bioreactor for acidogenenesis and acetogenesis; the third reactor, an Up-Flow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket for the methanogenesis process. The hydrogen, together with the methane from the methanogenesis, could generate electricity via combustion. However, carbon dioxide is produced from methane’s combustion. Therefore, I started to investigate carbon capture and sequestration technology. I was excited to find out that carbon dioxide can be absorbed electrochemically by amine or by the coelectrolysis of water and carbon dioxide into Syngas. Discussing this idea with Dr Muriciano, from the Chemical Engineering Department of the University of Bath, she confirmed that these experiments can be done but would be expensive.

I took part in several national competitions, achieving a high distinction in the National Chemistry and ICAS competitions, improving my analytical skills, application of scientific knowledge, and critical thinking. I love reading about science and recently read ‘Why things break’ by M. Eberhart. I was fascinated by the theories of material science and aspire to be a researcher.

I am involved in many clubs. As President of the Consumers’ Club, I strengthened my management skills and successfully organised a Green campaign, making and selling recycled bags. The club won the Best Club Award from the Ministry of Education, Malaysia. Working in a team, I initiated a new Maths Club and I enjoyed guiding juniors to solve maths problems. Being President of the Science Innovation Society, I have had fun presenting my ideas on how to construct products like cooling pads and solar cookers. My leadership skills have further developed through my role as a Prefect which has taught me to cope with challenging situations and to make the right decisions. As a member of Tzu Chi, a charitable group, I have helped raise RM5000 for poor farmers in rural areas of Myanmar. It was very heart-warming to receive appreciation letters from them.

Demand is inevitable but waste is optional. I believe POME or other wastes can be re-
treated to be a source of energy to replace the demand for oil and gas in the future. To help me achieve this goal, I am focused on pursuing a Chemical Engineering degree at a prestigious UK university.

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 KIND. UCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.

Mechanical Engineering Personal Statement

The student will read Mechanical Engineering in Imperial College London

This student will read Mechanical Engineering in Imperial College London

This Engineering Personal Statement got him into Mechanical Engineering in Imperial College London, University of Bath, Bristol University as well as Mechanical Engineering with Business Finance in University College London – all top-notch engineering schools in the United Kingdom.

My parents used to call me ‘Little MacGyver’ as I share his creativity and problem solving skills. I have always been a useful helper at home, fixing jammed door locks, clogged pipes and faulty electrical appliances.  At the age of six, my favorite pastime was to construct cranes and tankers from Lego game sets, often following my own design rather than the standard manual.  I also explored how things work, from how wheel-and-axle, rope-and-pulley could create rotary and linear motions to how battery powered toy car could move on its own.

My childhood fascination of science and technology has further developed into a natural talent in solving complex tasks requiring technical capabilities, such as designing water rockets with the longest airtime in a district-level competition and programming a robot car with the best obstacle-crossing time record in the Malaysian Robot Games. Through these hands-on experiences, I truly appreciate how physics and mathematical principles are at the core of everyday applications, hence fostering my interests in pursuing a degree in Engineering.

I strongly believe that green engineering is the answer to the world’s problems such as global warming, depletion of natural resources and emergence of electronic waste.  The world looks to engineers for eco-friendly innovations and designs.  While these initiatives are already underway, marrying commercial viability with technological advances is the real key in bringing engineering solutions into the future, just like how Ratan Tata brought Tata Nano, the world cheapest car for the masses in India. I hope to be part of the drive to commercialise and promote green engineering for a better future.

I was also heavily involved in extra-curricular activities, serving as the Assistant Head Prefect, Leo Club President and Scout Troup Leader in school.  Being a leader is not about telling others what to do, but it is about knowing how to leverage on the team’s individual strengths to achieve a greater outcome.  Putting that belief into practice, my team raised MYR25,000 (~GBP5,000) for the school building fund by collecting 48 tonnes of old newspaper for a recycling project.  I also tripled Leo Club’s proceeds from charity sales by employing better marketing strategies and inventory management. From these projects, I learnt to see things through an innovative lens and to challenge the status quo for a better outcome.

My college mate and I started an e-commerce website (wangwang.com.my), providing an online platform for sale and purchase transactions. Leveraging the strength of our online vendors’ network,we have successfully pitched to develop a smartphone application for our college to provide real time e-notifications to students, eliminating paper notice-boards and the hassle of logging into the online portal.  The effort represents our contribution to our college in improving its information delivery system and to encourage participation from like-minded students in exploring new ideas.

As for my hobbies, I enjoy outdoor activities and adventures. I scaled the 4,095m peak of Mount Kinabalu, backpacked with siblings around Taiwan and New Zealand, and participated in the 3-month National Service programme which equipped me with basic military training and survival skills.I also serve in my church’s music ministry, as a pianist,a bassist and a choir member.

Encouraged by my teacher, I applied for the prestigious Maybank Scholarship programme that fully funds the university education for young Malaysians. After a series of stringent assessments and interviews, I am glad to be selected as one of the 22 award recipients,earning me the opportunity to further study in the UK, which would have otherwise not been possible given financial considerations.

I believe a degree in mechanical engineering combined with my entrepreneurial mindset will equip me to be the innovator of tomorrow.  I look forward to the exciting four years of campus life and the opportunity to contribute to the university in return.

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 KIND. UCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.