SINCE the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, some organisations, including tertiary education providers, have come forward with initiatives to help reduce the financial burden of Malaysian families, especially those from the B40 and M40 categories.
These initiatives included scholarship opportunities for students at different levels of their educational journey.
In order to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all, some of these scholarship providers have welcomed applicants who just about meet the entry requirements.
Such a move is encouraging, seeing that it takes into consideration the needs of the communities who have been most impacted by the pandemic for the past two years.
At the tertiary level, most scholarship providers seek candidates who not only achieve good grades, but also show exemplary academic co-curricular participation and social skills.
Read on for the first-person accounts of three participants of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team as they share their journey towards attaining a scholarship for themselves to pursue their tertiary studies.
To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, go to facebook.com/niebrats.
Chasing the Asean dream
As a schoolgirl, I used to pin a photograph of the Lion City on my vision board.
It was my way of encouraging myself to work towards my dream of one day studying in the island republic.
That dream has become a reality for me, thanks to the Asean scholarship of which I had been fortunate to be a recipient.
The journey to clinching the scholarship to study the A-Levels in Singapore had been intense. Starting with filling out an application form, followed by sitting for a selection test and attending an interview, the process spanned months.
The hardest section in the application form to fill out for me was “Academics and Co-Curricular Activities”.
Throughout my secondary school years, I had chosen passion over prestige, wholeheartedly committing to clubs I genuinely enjoyed.
As a result, co-curricular activities had never burdened me; rather, they had boosted my mental health and helped me cope with my studies.
Nevertheless, I had always been worried that pursuing my areas of interest would sabotage my chances of securing a scholarship. Thankfully, my worries proved to be unfounded.
As I had prior experience of being a scholarship candidate, I knew to expect the rigorous selection test and interview.
The question then was: just how rigorous would the test be?
Being a millennial, I turned to Google for answers, and was directed to blogs from past scholars and candidates who wrote about their experiences.
I also sought the advice of those around me who had sat for the test in previous years.
From my experience, I can attest that learning from examples is one of the best ways to prepare oneself.
What also helped me in my preparations was exploring the Singapore syllabus for English language and Mathematics, which could easily be accessed online.
Going through its breadth and depth, I realised that some topics were different from the ones I had learnt in Malaysia.
Although I tried to navigate most new topics on my own, I sought guidance from my schoolteachers who helped me grasp the concepts that absolutely befuddled me.
Sometimes, I was even tempted to skip those topics and just pray that they wouldn’t appear on the test papers.
Thankfully, I stuck it out because I was eventually tested on a topic I had wanted to brush aside.
I also realised that the preparations presented an opportunity to learn new things – that way, if I did not obtain the scholarship, I would have at least gained something from the experience.
When I began working on the Singapore O-level past year examination papers, I was aghast at my performance. However, the more I practised, the more I adapted to the format and style of questions and when it came time for me to sit for the actual selection test, I was ready.
This was a huge contrast to my experience sitting for another scholarship selection test a few years ago where I was completely dumbfounded by the complexity of the questions and struggled to complete the test.
This time, I was less anxious and managed my pace well. When I walked out of the examination hall, I was able to hold my head high as I had done my best.
In preparing for the interview, a key tip I got from a senior was to do research about Singapore and picture yourself woven into its society, not with the motive of doing well in the interview, but with the aim of deciding if it is the post-secondary school future you want for yourself.
Studying in Singapore demands resilience to meet its rigour. I had to ask myself honestly if I could handle it.
The peace of mind that came with making an informed decision allowed me to enter the interview room and speak with authenticity about my aspirations.
To those of you vying for a scholarship, my advice is to trust that everything is working in your favour. Work hard and believe in yourself. Regardless of the outcome, your experience as a scholarship applicant will help you in the future. – By AMELIA JADE MAE-XIAN LIM
How I got my second wind
IN February last year, I received an email informing me that I had been awarded Taylor’s College Talent Scholarship.
In an instant, I felt a rush of emotions, ranging from joy and excitement to anxiety and fear.
For the rest of the year, the scholarship was a constant reminder that hard work pays off, and that I am incredibly blessed.
I did not always feel this way. My confidence took a dive very quickly at the start of my schooling years.
I struggled with subjects such as Science and Mathematics so much so that until the age of 16, I could not complete basic mathematical functions like multiplication.
Moreover, anxiety always got the better of me as a test taker. Minutes before a test began, I would feel light-headed and my legs would go numb. Hence, no matter how hard I studied, I couldn’t achieve stellar grades.
I could never comprehend why my peers – who insisted they had only put in minimal effort – got As, while I scored Cs, despite doing my revisions every night.
Being called “dumb” and a “bimbo” throughout my schooling days made matters worse.
Kids can be brutal, as I had experienced firsthand with “friends’’ poking fun at me, instead of helping me understand what my issues were.
It was years later that I realised I had learning disabilities such as visual stress and dyscalculia.The diagnosis did nothing to make years of self-confidence issues disappear. But it did motivate me to continue giving my best effort.
Deep down, I still believed that I was more capable than how others perceived me to be.
I also decided to follow my passion, which was devoting my time to charitable causes.
That was what led me to hosting a book drive for orphans from the B40 community, and a food drive for stray dogs.
Seeing my passion for charitable work, my college counsellor encouraged me to apply for a scholarship, saying that I stood a chance with the skills I had gained from my extracurricular activities.
Heeding her advice, I sent in my application even though I was doubtful that I was even worthy of consideration as a candidate.
Imagine my utmost surprise when I received the good news! It was liberating to know that my passion could actually take me to greater heights. Almost in an instant, I had an achievement to be proud of and share with people.
I am also thankful that the scholarship department at Taylor’s constantly assured me that I was valuable as a person.Almost like a ripple in a wave, once the scholarship rolled around, everything else came naturally.
My grades improved as I maintained a 3.8 grade point average throughout the semesters, thus seeing my confidence and happiness levels grow exponentially.
My journey just goes to show that if you believe in your self-worth, you will eventually make it somewhere.
If you are battling self-confidence issues due to your less-than-satisfactory grades, my advice to you would be to not let them define who you are.
Yes, grades can take you far and give you the platform to achieve greatness in the world, but so do hard work and resilience.
If you are particularly good at a key area of interest, go for it. Be so good at it that no one can simply dismiss you.
Moreover, give yourself time to do better; don’t beat yourself up over your performance in one examination because the good news is, you can always try again – what matters is that you give it your all in your every undertaking.
It will also serve you well to remember that not everyone is good at the same things so embrace what makes you different; what should worry you is when you are pressured to be as similar to everyone else as possible.
The minute I embraced the part of me that shines at creative writing but is less skilful at doing mathematical equations was when I was able to be the best version of myself.
More than a year has passed since I was made a scholar and I am happy to report that I am doing well holistically as a student and am still pursuing my passion as a social worker. – By KEERAT KAUR WATHAN
My once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
FOR years, I had often wondered how it would feel to win a scholarship to study abroad. Having secured the Petronas Education Sponsorship Programme (PESP) award to pursue an accounting and finance degree in the United Kingdom, I can tell you that it is the most rewarding and exhilarating sensation a student can ever experience.
Believing that hard work brings success, I committed wholly to my studies and always strove for excellence in school.
I created a study schedule, which I kept to religiously, and laid out carefully crafted plans, which helped me achieve specific goals.
I made the school library my “second home” as its conducive environment motivated me to pore over the subjects I had learnt each day.
I also completed lots of worksheets and never hesitated to raise any questions with my teachers which could help me consolidate my learning.
Having given my blood, sweat and tears, I expected good grades for my Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and the results did not disappoint, further cementing my belief that with determination and diligence, one can go places.
Armed with this belief, I immediately set about hunting down scholarship offers which would help me secure a good tertiary education. The PESP award was one of the scholarships I applied for.
Having been shortlisted, I was invited to attend the virtual Petronas YoungStars Day (PYD), which was aimed at measuring students’ potential via a series of assessments.
Apart from the Cambridge Personal Styles Questionnaire administered to assess our behavioural styles, I sat for the Thinking Skills Assessment, which tested my critical thinking and problem-solving skills under remote proctoring.
Familiarising myself with practice tests available online boosted my confidence in answering the real test.
The next stage was the Student Potential Assessment, which was a group interview session conducted via Microsoft Teams.
Prior to this assessment, I had endeavoured to polish my communication skills as much as I could.
In addition, I spent considerable time researching both the company and the award I was applying for.
Now, every effort was worth it. With the sponsorship, I have helped lighten my family’s financial burden as they needn’t worry about forking out any of their savings for my tertiary education.
This award will also enable me to interact with some of the most brilliant students in Malaysia and abroad. What a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me!
One of the lessons I learnt as a student was to focus on my goals and execute plans to achieve them so that I did not lose my sense of direction or purpose.
To stand out among the sea of candidates, I would advise you to be confident in expressing your opinions while learning to accept the ideas of others.
Always believe in yourself because as cliché as it may sound, anything is possible and we are capable of accomplishing more than we can ever imagine. – By JUNE YEE XIN ROU
I plan to apply for different scholarships and universities after getting my Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) results on June 16, with the aim of studying chemistry.
I will probably sign up for the A-Levels first before pursuing my tertiary studies in cosmetic chemistry. It’s really important to do research on scholarship opportunities and university choices.
Galoh Safiya, 18
Currently, my plans are to study the A-Levels with physics, chemistry, mathematics and economics as my subjects. I will be applying for scholarships and will be open to any opportunities that come my way.
Victor Ngow, 18
The quotes above were obtained by Hema Sarita, who is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist programme.