Experts speak on how students can obtain scholarships or grants to pursue further studies.

ANOTHER 400,000 over students are expected to obtain their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) results soon.

Although not all will be pursuing higher education, most will be thinking of the next step and what they would like to study. However, not all can afford the tuition fees in private higher education institutions or are able to secure a spot in public universities.

Pointing out that there are a plethora of scholarships, grants and bursaries up for grabs, education consultation firm Uni Enrol chief operating officer Cheah Ken Hoong says students tend to miss out on funding opportunities as they are only aware of the more common merit or needs-based scholarships.

“Almost every institution offers scholarships and funding to students. There are many more options besides merit or needs-based scholarships, ” he says.

Students can also find out more about the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans and determine how mcuh they are eligible for.

Star Education Fund manager Susanna Kuan points out that while good grades are important, students need not be straight-A scorers to secure a scholarship. Elaborating on the fact that there are a multitude of scholarships and grants on the market, Kuan says participation in extra curricular activities (for certain scholarships) would be taken into consideration as well.

For the Star Education Fund, she says, scoring straight As is not the sole criteria of securing the scholarship.

“How you carry yourself during the interviews, family background as well as co-curricular and sports participation matters too. This advice applies to all scholarship interviews.

“Besides giving a good interview, a sincere and genuine personal statement on why you deserve the scholarship is needed for you to stand out from the crowd, ” she says.

She also stresses that it is important for students to choose a course they are interested in when applying for a scholarship. The Star Education Fund is offering 265 scholarships worth close to RM16mil from 30 institutions this year. The fund has disbursed RM136.5mil to 4,050 scholarship recipients since its inception in 1994.

To be eligible for the Star Education Fund, applicants must be Malaysians no older than 25-years-old as of Jan 1 for undergraduate courses. These scholarships cover a wide range of fields and disciplines, from entry-level courses to undergraduate education and professional studies. All the scholarships are bond-free.

Every scholarship application will be vetted by representatives from The Star and its partner institutions. The closing date for the scholarships is two weeks after the release of the SPM and STPM results. Applicants will be shortlisted at the end of March and informed via e-mail. Interviews will be held from April to June.

Before applying for a scholarship, one should already have a rough idea of what to pursue. To ensure a right decision is made, Sunway Education Group head of admissions office Yee Huey Mei advises a student to take interest, aptitude and personality into consideration.

“Choosing a course purely based on interest is not sufficient. Proficiency in certain subjects are important for a specific profession. It is advisable to check with the academic institutions on the entry requirements needed for different courses.

“Your personality also comes into play when making a decision on a programme. If you are a people person, then you can consider human resource, marketing, events management. If you like to sit behind a computer, then a computing related course may be of interest to you, ” she says.

She shares that the common mistakes school leavers make when choosing a course or university include not having the right information about the entry requirements, the course outline, the assessment mode, the recognition of the course/university as well as the budget needed to complete the course.

“Before committing to anything, speak to the lecturers and counsellors to find out what careers are suitable for you, ” she notes

Yee says taking a gap year allows a student to explore different interests or participate in an exchange programme that can enrich learning experiences.

“However, if a student knows what he wants already, he should start to pursue his course in the university after secondary school, ” she says.

University of Cyberjaya (formerly known as Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences) senior education counsellor Aaron Ong suggests those who have no clue on what to do to conduct research on which jobs are in demand or expected to be in demand in the future.

“There are many sources online with helpful information such as TalentCorp’s quarterly reports and other surveys done by leading job websites.

“Then conduct your own research on what these jobs entail, their academic requirements, skill requirements etc and see what you need to do to be eligible for the chosen job

“Once your have decided on a potential career path, it becomes easier to decide which course you should pursue, ” says Ong.

It is important, he adds, to find out which job matches the students’ personality.

“Avoid choosing a course to follow your friends. If you end up in a course that doesn’t interest you, you may not be able to do well.

“It is also not advisable to choose a course because you think you can earn a larger salary. Instead, you should pick a job that you have a high chance of succeeding in, ” he says.

Ong suggests that students take career tests to determine strengths, skill sets as well as matching the right career options with the suitable personality.

Noting that the IR4.0 plays a part in students’ decision making process, Ong notes that one does not need to pursue IT courses to be IR4.0 ready.

“Jobs that require creative skills and human touch such as health sciences, psychology etc will remain highly relevant, ” he says.

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