THERE has been a big drop in the number of scholarships available for tertiary-level studies, notes Katherine Wee, general manager of Wencom Career Consultancy.
“I've noticed that there are fewer advertisements in the newspapers these days. This is usually a good indicator of the number of awards out there. The quantum of scholarships has gone down too and I know of some corporations that have ceased offering scholarships altogether.”
Her company publishes Wencom's Higher Education Guide and Wee regularly combs through the newspapers for scholarship advertisements. “We also invite organisations offering scholarships to list them in the guidebook. This service is provided free of charge.”
Her advice to students on the lookout for scholarships is not to rely on just one source of information. “Be resourceful. There are a few avenues including the bursary office of educational institutions. Not all scholarships are advertised in the newspaper.”
Higher education guidebooks can be an invaluable resource. Wee says that in Wencom’s ninth edition, it compiled a list of over 500 scholarships and study loans. “We ask them to write in and send us information for every new edition and if they don’t we will delete the scholarship from our list.”
Most organisations give out scholarships to students who have already received offer letters from institutions of higher education. Hence, scholarship ads often only appear between late March and the end of July, adds Wee.
“Many institutions give scholarships to students who have already enrolled as this is a sign of commitment that they are really interested in their course and institution.''
The Public Services Department (JPA) is the biggest provider of scholarships. Under their top university programme, excellent students undergo a preparatory course locally before being placed in top overseas universities. For the local sponsorship programme, scholarships are awarded to excellent local students in fields such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, engineering and science and technology. Scholarships are also awarded to excellent students ingovernment polytechnics.
Other major providers are petroleum companies especially Petronas which attracts high-achieving students.
“An advertisement we put out last weekend has already drawn 13,000 applications,” says Petronas vice-president of education division Dr Rosti Saruwono.
Short-listed candidates must attend a four-day education camp (educamp) which serves as a platform to identify suitable candidates, he adds.
Shell Malaysia’s scholarship schemes are for needy students who demonstrate a high level of academic achievement and are active in co-curricular activities.
Most providers agree that the most important criteria in determining a suitable candidate for a scholarship are the financial background and academic performance, with co-curricular participation acting as a tie-breaker.
Almost all scholarships require applicants to attend an interview. According to a senior manager whose company awards scholarships, the interview gives the panel a chance to evaluate the candidate – his personality, attitude, and how desperately he needs financial aid.
“Sometimes, we ask them how many other scholarships they have applied for, and when their answer is none, this tells us that maybe they don’t really need financial aid.” Inability to communicate in English well is not a factor either as she feels it would be unfair to penalise them and after all, “it is not a job interview.”
Some scholarship providers require successful applicants to serve a bond with the company, others don’t. Most do stipulate that the recipients must perform well in their studies to retain the scholarship. “Students are required to submit their results every year and we monitor their performance,” adds the manager.
One final piece of advice – although it is not a job interview, students should read up about the body that they are seeking a scholarship from.
“Although we would not reject a candidate if he doesn’t know about our company, the fact that he put in a little bit of effort to find out more about our organisation would certainly put him in a good light.”
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