The Securities Commission (SC) is the sole regulating body of the Malaysian derivatives and equities markets, which most of us commonly refer to as the stock market. Largely as part of the SC’s efforts in recruiting and retaining the brightest and sharpest Malaysian minds as members of its workforce, the SC has been offering and granting scholarships to deserving young Malaysians, mostly SPM-leavers and aspiring undergraduates. As mentioned, there are a few types of scholarships offered by the SC including those for Pre-University studies and undergraduate studies at local universities and overseas institutes of higher learning. Due to the very nature of the work conducted at the SC, the scholarships are offered to those interested in Economics, Actuarial Science, Accounting, Finance as well as Law.
For the purposes of this article, I can only offer insights into the Pre-University scholarship selection process as that is the one which I was fortunate enough to receive. Normally, the application process is open to SPM-leavers shortly after the announcement of the SPM results. The window for application is rather short, roughly one week, so applicants should have all the required documents ready to be scanned and sent to the SC including certified true copies of their SPM results, mandatory essay, extra-curricular activity certificates and parents’ salary slips. Applicants should have a minimum of 8A’s, though it is always best to refer to the SC’s website. Perhaps the million-dollar-question at the very beginning of the application process is that pertaining to extra-curricular activities. The best thing to do here is to specify a handful of your most treasured achievements throughout school life. This will not only allow you to focus your discussion on your deepest passions during the interview, but will also make it easier for the officer at the SC to read through your application. Frankly, five or less astounding achievements at state or national level which fit into half a page will leave a much better impression than five pages of trivial class or school level quizzes and games, especially when the officers at the SC have around 4000 applications to go through. To further back up this claim, at the scholarship awards ceremony, the SC highlighted every new scholar’s very best achievement rather than reading out a list five pages long. I myself was the Managing Director of my school’s mini-company under the Young Entrepreneurs programme, one of my contemporaries was a national level synchronised-swimmer, and every one of our fellow scholars was not to be outdone. In short, list five or less of your best achievements. As long as you believe in it, it will show when you are asked during the interview sessions without conscious effort and that will definitely leave a good impression.
For those who make it past this preliminary screening, the first stage of the selection process is a three-to-one interview at the SC’s main office in Bukit Kiara. Like any formal interview, the interviewee should dress smartly in office attire, carry one’s self in a professional and confident manner and never rush. Besides equipping one’s self with the information to answer generic interview questions like “tell us about yourself” and “why did you choose your chosen field?”, interviewees should take extra care in the minor details of self conduct such as walking into the interview room with a level head, taking a seat only after being invited to, maintaining only the best of manners and putting on a genuine smile (when appropriate!). Generally, exuding a positive aura will set one apart from the rest of those in the interviewee pool, in addition to being able to answer all the basic questions truthfully and confidently. Being interviewed by a panel of three interviewers can be daunting but thankfully the SC staff are very friendly people but interviewees should always treat them with utmost respect.
After waiting for a week or more, those who made it to the second stage will be required to attend a group evaluation session. Once again, in a bright and comfortable room in the SC’s main building, six interviewees will constitute a group where they will be given a few tasks to be solved. One example from my personal experience was when we were given the task of planning a basic framework for worldwide health and education plans. Each person had his or her own idea; some thought equal education opportunities was the ideal, others thought it as unfeasible, and there were those who thought specialised education by region or expertise was more efficient. Of course, this was all just a simulation. Regardless of the task, the distinguishing factor here is being able to contribute one’s ideas in a professional manner while respecting the opinions of others, being the informal leader without overshadowing anyone else and being outspoken without hogging the limelight. Whatever you do, never engage in a fight. Be willing to make reasonable compromises while still pushing for your own ideas as that will make you the better individual.
At the third stage of the selection process, applicants can finally take a breather as they are only required to complete an online psychology test from the comfort of their home. There is no secret here – just answer the questions truthfully as it is quite obvious when someone is trying to fabricate their results in a psychology test. Primarily, the questionnaire looks to analyse what seem to be the work ethics and habits of would-be scholars. After all, scholars will become employees of the SC after completing their tertiary education. Have faith in your good values and they will show in the test.
The fourth and final stage is a bit of a surprise. Those very few applicants left at this stage will be called for an interview with the SC once again, but this time with their parents. Rumours that circulated around that time were that the remaining applicants were almost guaranteed an offer for the scholarship. During the interview, the nature of the questions seemed to reinforce those rumours as the questions were being asked along the lines of “if you were granted the scholarship, will you fulfil your bond of 8 years with the SC?” and other similar questions. However, rumours are just that and there are still those who were filtered out of the selection process. A good tip at this final step would be to continue portraying the humility and manners which have gotten you this far while still being confident and outspoken.
To sum everything up, manners, a reasonable level of confidence, passion and professionalism are traits that will serve one well throughout the adventure of applying for any scholarship. On the night before an interview, the most vital thing to do is to get enough sleep so that you can perform at your peak when it matters. Rehearsals are good but do not overdo it and no amount of rehearsal can beat a fresh mind that is ready for anything the interviewers may ask. Oh, and never lie about anything whether in a face-to-face interview or in a written test as interviewers can sense when a person is trying to blow his or her achievements out of proportion or making false claims. The selection process may vary slightly from year to year, but I do hope this article helps you anticipate and prepare for the common pathway in scholarship applications. On a more personal note, good luck to all of you who rise to the challenge of applying for a scholarship!
Alif Azlan Leong will be furthering his studies at University College London under the Securities Commission Scholarship. Although his profession will be in Economics, he has a wide range of interests from music to fitness and even cooking.