Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The journey of an almost failed scholar

            Scholarships. You probably heard about someone getting it. Or maybe you know people, personally who have acquired them. What does it take to get one? Is it really meant for individuals with superpowers? Is there a lot of luck involved?

            I was just like you. With all these questions lingering in my head. Here I sat, looking at my results. Nothing that great or extraordinary but good enough to be eligible to apply for every single scholarship out there. Excluding Petronas and the KPM Bursary.
            So then I started applying. For as many scholarships as possible. From Khazanah to Bank Negara and MMC, you name it, I applied for it. It was a rough total of 10 scholarships that I’ve applied to.
            I worked diligently on my personal statements and essays (if the application requires them). Consulted my family members and seniors who are scholarship holders to proofread my essays and ensure that they’re on acceptable standards.
            Then, one by one, people around me were getting calls and emails, regarding their scholarship interviews. First was Khazanah. Then Bank Negara. I was first anxious and then heartbroken as I looked through my email inbox, only to find it filled with Groupon Offers and requests from a Nigerian prince.
            Until almost a month after my results, I got an e-mail from Sime Darby. My eyes lit up, until I opened it to find out it was a rejection letter. It was a very grim situation I was in. Not because I so far failed to get any scholarships but because I wasn’t even given the chance to an interview.
            Out of the above mentioned 10 scholarships which I applied for, only 2 invited me for an interview and only 1 out of that 2 gave me an offer. Some might say luck. Or some might say that I was really just destined to get that scholarship.
            The first positive reply I got was from Taylor’s University for their World Class Scholarship. It was an invite to an interview. This was a local scholarship which only paid for my tuition. I wasn’t particularly over the moon about it but nevertheless I was immensely grateful as finally, I got a chance.
            The interview was very personal and casual. To a certain extend it felt awkward. Questions asked were of non-personal value. I was asked about my hobby and was told to further elaborate and a casual conversation was carried out based on that. There was very little matter in our discussions. It was very empty. I was told that the interviewers wanted to get to know you better on a personal level. The problem here was that I wasn’t as personal as I could be because expected the interview to be something formal or getting to know my potential, abilities, weaknesses and whatnot. So when I went for that interview, I put up a layer of professionalism. My interview ended slightly earlier than the others which worried me at that time and so it turns out, I did not make it for the next stage.
            So to future scholars who will be attending for this particular interview, I suggest you to be not so serious, let loose and reveal your inner-self.
            So now I was lost. Sad. Heartbroken. Disappointed. I was starting to accept the fact that all my doors to any scholarships have closed down and that I have to start preparing for the worst. But nevertheless, I had very good friends whom supported me along the way.
            Then, the next e-mail, which changed my life is from Maybank. They sent me an online assessment that will determine if I make it to the interview stage. I only have one piece of advice for this. This is not a test which you can study for. Just make sure that you’re calm and focused. Do it on a quiet morning, with no one else around. It’s okay if you don’t finish all the questions. You’re not expected to.
            Only 2 days later, I got a call saying I’m shortlisted for the Second Stage which is the interview. There are already many articles online telling you specifically on how the process will work so I won’t be touching on that. But what I will tell you about this interview is that it is a more focused of an interview, compared to what I went through for Taylor’s. It a tad bit casual but with a sense of formality added to it. Important questions such as passion, life-long aspirations, my thoughts on the corporation and why I chose to pursue my choice of study were asked. After the interview, they asked me to wait in a hall as they decided whether or not to let me through to the final stage. After over a minute of waiting at the lounge, chatting with another candidate, I was called back into the room and told to prepare for another email from Maybank later that day regarding my final stage.
            I was grateful. I told myself that this was probably my last chance at any scholarship. I prepared myself mentally. Again, this isn’t something you can study for. Presentations and group discussions were carried out. So your oratory, reasoning and argumentative skills will be put to the test. It went pretty well for me with very few hiccups (which caused me many sleepless nights).
            Even while waiting for the results, I tried my best to prepare for the worst. I was already deciding on alternatives on local Universities which were affordable to me and my family.
            Finally after almost a month after my stage 3, I got a message from a friend on a fine evening. He told me that he just got an email from Maybank saying that he got the Scholarship. My heart raced. This was it. Judgement day. Although nothing would’ve been obliterated. Maybe only my hopes and dreams.There, lying in my inbox, at the very top, an offer letter granting me the Scholarship. I went bonkers! It was so overwhelming and the feelings were just unexplainable. After going through what seemed like a lifetime of rejections, I finally succeeded.
            So, in pure curiosity, I decided to analyse my mistakes. But I couldn’t really find them as to most of my rejections, I never really got the chance to go beyond my application.
            Thus, I started analysing how scholarships in general work. Some of you may already know it. Some of you may not. But here are my findings.

There are several important things that most scholarships look into an individual

1.      The minimum grade requirement, is never the real minimum grade requirement.
From what I have learnt from my friends who got shortlisted for a few other scholarships, the candidate with the lowest grade who was present during the initial stages is normally 7A+. If you scored lower than 7A+ and your application got rejected, it would most probably be your grades and cost you the interview. There can be various reasons for them to do this and one of them might be simply because there were just too many people who scored higher than the minimum grade requirement. But there is an exception to this which is

2.      Co-curriculum achievement and leadership roles play the most important role and may overshadow criteria No.1 in getting a chance in that interview.
Now this depends on the scholarship that you’re applying for. Some of them are pretty lenient on your grades given that you have extraordinary co-curricular achievements and most are not. But I know of cases where people with only 3-4 A+ but have an outstanding record in co-curricular achievements get an interview. This is a very small exception to normally one or two candidates. So then again, to secure your spot for the interview, it’s always best to do better than that.

3.      Where you’re from also plays a significant role.

Now this is something that not many people would think of and is pretty counter-intuitive but this actually can be detrimental to your chance at obtaining a scholarship. For example, if I, an assessor receives two identical applications with only one difference. One candidate is from a normal daily school which is unheard of and another candidate is from a well-know and established cluster school or SBP/MRSM, who would I pick? It would definitely be the latter. Students from these schools, despite being logically and realistically equal would more often than not give an impression that there is an unexplainable greater value and quality in them. I’m not saying that all scholarship agencies adhere to this rule, but what I’m saying is that such a rule does exist in a lot of them.

Now. To just let you know, I did not fulfil even one of the criteria above. My grades weren’t stellar and my co-curricular achievement were not in any sense amazing! But how did I attain my scholarship? This is where Maybank differs from other scholarships. Maybank has a very fair policy where they want to give a fair chance to people and they ensure that the most amount of people can be accommodated to at least the first stage of selections (the online test). So the selection process is very rigid and mostly merit-based.
            To all of you soon-to-be scholars out there, if you’re not getting any calls, don’t fret. Just keep calm and move on. Keep on working hard and just ensure you try your best as that’s what that matters most. Don’t be complacent and make sure you get the best grades possible for your SPM regardless of the requirements of the Scholarship which you’re aiming for. I believe everything happens for a reason and the only reason you failed is probably because there is something even better waiting for you. 

Sukhdev Singh Malhi
Kolej Yayasan UEM
Maybank Scholar - 2014 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

American Degree Program in INTI Internationl University

Hello  friends, I’m Thyviyan and well,I'm going to enlighten you about the American Degree Transfer Program where you get to continue your undergraduate in the United States or Canada.This program is called American University Program (AUP) in INTI IU.

I wanted to do actuarial science but then I found out that this major  was rare in the sense that if I want to do a foundation in it and then get your degree done.But,not to forget about programs like SAM,A-Levels or Canadian Pre-U program which offers you to do your pre university before  pursuing the degree in actuarial science.No one mentioned to me about this transfer program until I checked out in INTI and they suggested to me AUP and SAM. For AUP,you can do 2+2 or 1+3 year program to transfer your credits to the USA or Canada.

2 main reasons I chose INTI IU Nilai is because I knew a few friends who did the same major as me and went through the same pathway before graduating in the USA.They said that it is actually normal if you do ADTP anywhere and so YES a green light for INTI IU Nilai.The second reason is because INTI Nilai is near.

This Program consists of 3 semesters per year(2 long semesters and 1 short semester where you can choose to defer it if you want to take a long break).A total of 4 subjects will be given for the 1st semester  and it is advisable to take the Malaysian Studies during your 1st semester.Take 4 subjects in maximum so that you wont have a hectic day of classroom hours.Not to forget about the lecturers,they all have this American  style of teaching and most of them are American University Graduates.Course structures are followed accordingly without any clashes and delays. The Center Of American Education in INTI is a department  where you can seek advice and information throughout your program.

Lets say you don’t have that certain subject,for example in INTI NILAI, you can always check with INTI Subang in order for you to take the subjects there. Students are required to take TOEFL,IELTS  or SAT to prove your English proficiency when you are going to travel overseas.

The life In INTI
7th January 2013(first day of my first year),I went for my classes,felt lonely,felt like coming back home,no mood to study and thank God Nilai is near to Seremban because I did not spend my whole week in INTI.
This program(AUP) carries out many exciting activities such as Halloween Night,Summer Beach Camp,Sports Fiesta,AUP Annual Dinner and many more..
This is my second year in INTI and I started travelling daily to Nilai because I don’t have hectic classroom hours and if  there are assignments and group works,I will either come a few hours early or stay a few hours late in college to complete that work.Other simple task will done through Facebook and mobile

Freshman (Year 1) at INTI
You will be able to choose from a wide range of subjects in Business, Foreign Languages, English, Mathematics, Social Sciences, Humanities, Physical and Life Sciences as General Education Requirement (GER) subjects.
Sophomore (Year 2) at INTI
You will be able to choose subjects that are related to your desired major.
Junior (Year 3)
You would need to complete the compulsory subjects for your degree major.
Senior (Year 4)
You will get to pick subjects to specialize in your degree.
And so when you are in the 3rd Semester,be prepared to hunt for universities,do some research on your major and the subjects you have taken so that you can be easily transfer your credits to your preferred university.Visiting the universities websites and contacting them via email will help you a lot in terms of your university application.
All the best to those in search of the best tertiary education.
Please do spare some time and visit the webisite below for better information or head directly to INTI IU Nilai.


Thyviyan Velappan
INTI International University

ASEAN Scholarship

ASEAN scholarship, like its name suggests, is opened to all ASEAN students. There are four subcategories of ASEAN scholarship, namely secondary one, secondary three, pre-university one and undergraduate (which is further divided into National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU)).Note that the ASEAN undergraduate scholarships are awarded by the respective universities, while others are awarded by the Ministry of Education, Singapore. So the terms and conditions are different, which I’m not going to elaborate here since they are widely available online. What I want to highlight though is that secondary one, secondary three and pre-university one scholarships are only tenable up till completion of Singapore A-levels, meaning that you are not guaranteed the ASEAN undergraduate scholarship. If you think for one second that if you are good enough to be awarded other ASEAN scholarships means that you will be good enough for ASEAN undergraduate scholarship, you are hell wrong as I’ve seen way too many counter examples. I’ll be focusing on the ASEAN undergraduate scholarship (NUS and NTU) since these two are the ones I applied for (and accepted). SMU ASEAN should be similar while for the non-undergraduate scholarships, you can refer to this blog post. As such, this post is more applicable to those who have completed their pre-university studies, as opposed to other posts in this page which focus more on post-secondary studies.
      For NUS and NTU ASEAN, you do not have to apply for the scholarship since they will shortlist interviewees from the pool of ASEAN university applicants. The criteria of application can be found hereand here. For NUS, if you are shortlisted, you’ll be asked to fill in another form, which basically asks for a more detailed description of your co-curricular activities and an essay. None for NTU though.
    Now before even being shortlisted for the interview process, you got to make your application looked good. So here are things you need to look out for:

i)                    Good academic results. While this is not the only thing that they are looking for, having straight A’s certainly helps you in putting your name on their radar.
ii)                  Co-curricular involvement. Note that it’s not quantity that matters here, it’s quality. Having tons of school involvements doesn’t help. You should get yourself just one or two national/ international achievements/involvements. Class monitor, school prefect etc, save for your essay.

For the interview process, NUS one was kinda short (at least for me). The interviewer was the director of admissions (one-on-one). Aside from the cliché questions, I was asked to elaborate what I can contribute to the NUS community as well as why I chose science and my future plans after graduation (don’t forget that you got a 3-year bond). Since my first choice is not a popular one, I was also asked to convince him why shouldn’t another medicine/engineering student be awarded the scholarship in place of me.

NTU was a long technical interview. It’s a three-on-one interview and I got a bulk of verytechnical questions to answer (from refrigerator to the moon). I got some of them right and some of them wrong. And ya, these guys are university faculty members and they know stuffs. So if you don’t know, don’t try to act like you do, or you are nailing your own coffin. They also asked me if I’m offered both NUS and NTU, which one I would choose. Well I was honest about it and answered NUS, though with good reasons.

There’s only one round of interview. So if you are accepted, just try not to do stupid things during your uni life.

Since interview is highly subjective, I can’t really tell for sure why I was successful in both my applications. Based on my experience and speculation, you need to have very strong reasons why you ranked your study fields the way it is in your application form. And for the case of NTU, you got to have rich general knowledge in your field of choice. Based on my observation, at least among my connections, none of them even got one question right, let alone some. I guess that put me in strong position. It’s also good to read up on NUS and NTU before your interview, since the question of why choose NUS/NTU is kind of common. You should take note of their international collaborations, research and teaching facilities, and think about how this can help you in your studies and future plans. Take note of the student life too and highlight how you can contribute to the community there.

That’s all from me. All the best.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Life at KYUEM

Life at KYUEM is both memorable and invaluable. Ranging from the supposedly boring class hours to the late nights forging lifelong bonds with friends unlike any other. Kinda sounds like the perfect place to continue your studies especially if you take into account the statistics; around 95% of students getting to fly, 5 of which having offers to cambridge and oxford.

            This place despite the success rate could also be your downfall as many are also too preoccupied with the various curricular activities(big events that involve the entire student body as well as celebrating nearly all festive events like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, Christmas, green week, islamic week etc2). We are REALLY REALLY big on koko, be warned! No doubt its extremely enjoyable but it could take a toll on your studies especially if you're not so good at managing your time which could jeopardise your chances of getting your first uni choice.

            Nevertheless, the lecturers here are really good which will help you fulfill your full potential. But a little disclaimer, you'll have to go the extra mile if you want to impress these educators as they are used to students getting really high marks which is no surprise as most students here are sponsored. The competition despite being hard could propel you further so long as you strategic in spending your time with friends more serious with studies occasionally. Studying style doesn't matter much here as you could easily hold group discussions or even enjoy the solace of the Resource Centre. But I think you'll relatively be more focused and and save time on looking for food or transport as everything here is provided.

            Ultimately, you must never underestimate the challenge of A-levels! Having four subjects is hard enough but some people get in over their heads and choose the hardest combo available(eg. Further maths, history, e-lit, chemistry) and in most cases eventually drop a subject or even quit the college. So please make an informed choice and think hard before making rash decisions.

            About the life as a January intake and July intake. In my opinion it would be better for you o choose the latter if you don't mind spending a bit more time for A-levels as you would have a lot more time to study for your papers half of which are taken in the first year and the other half in the year after Whereas Jan intake students will be taking them all together despite the shorter preparation time. I guess it will also rob you of some of the great time you'll have here!

            But what makes this place special is the perks of living with best friends; eating, sleeping, discussing, planning with arguably the best students in the country. At least I think so, haha. Bottom line is if you want to experience the life and unity of a residential based college with great facilities to boot this is the place for you.

Please don't hesitate to contact me or the college for more inquiries. Make the right choice :)

Izzat Zalis bin Ismail (red shirt)
Petronas scholar - 2013
MCKK batch 2012
KYUEM Batch July 2013

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Short and sweet

Hi everyone! My name is Jasvinder Kaur and I am currently a second year law student in Brickfields Asia College (BAC). Studying in BAC is a lifelong experience to be treasured. There are two campuses; one is located in Brickfields and another in Petaling Jaya (BAC VSQ campus).

As a student in BAC, I find the lecturers very helpful. The lecturers are highly qualified and have many years of teaching experiences. At the beginning of every lectures or tutorials, the students are provided with hand-outs or outline. Other than that, BAC provides free books (textbooks, statutes, workbooks etc.) to all students. Since BAC subscribed Lexis Nexis Malaysia and Westlaw Malaysia, there is an automatic access for the students to obtain law articles, journals, cases and many more via these resources. The VSQ campus is a bigger campus and it is able to accommodate larger number of students, who are in need of these resources. Besides, BAC provides scholarships to students, who excel in their studies.

Apart from academic aspect, BAC also encourages students to be involved in curricular activities as well. For example, there are quite a number of students who are involved in mooting and have represented BAC in several competitions. Proposals for establishments of new clubs are submitted by students and considered carefully by BAC annually.  Moreover, in terms of facilities, BAC offers spacious and well-equipped gym, dance studio, computer lab, swimming pool and many more to ensure students get the best experiences whilst at BAC.

Jasvinder Kaur
Brickfields Asia College 

Life in NUS and my journey here

People ask me, often, the question.
“What makes you choose Singapore?”
True. I wonder that myself too.
I can honestly tell you it was a spur of the moment, and that was after obtaining my trial results in school. It was pretty good, and I was thinking, hmm, should I try for a Singapore college?
I did some research and set my target on Victoria Junior College (VJC, currently ranked 3rd after Hwa Chong Junior College and Raffles Junior College). There was no interviews or screening exams. What I learnt, later, was that my successful application was due to the strong personal statements I wrote, which the (then) current vice principal enjoyed reading it.
    You may now wonder what I’ve written in my personal statements. It’s a shame that I’ve lost those essays. What I could remember is my tenacity though the choice of words I used. I wrote about how I could contribute to the college, and at the same time, maximize my learning potential in an intellectually vigorous environment. It was an essay in which my passion was felt. Honestly, I was impressed myself when I read what I’ve written years later. It sounds a lot like a young foolish risk taker who’s ready for challenges. (I hope you could catch that this is a small tip for your application essays)
    VJC truly lives up to the motto “Nil Sine Labore”, which means “No Reward Without Labour”. I was pushed out of my comfort zone to be extra attentive and disciplined in studies, and at the same time, being a students’ councillor, had to devote a certain amount of time for this vigorous CCA. Just as the saying goes “there are ups and downs in life”, I experienced both in my two years of JC life, and I met some helpful teachers in college, which later became good friends and mentors in life. We still meet up once a while, and they will offer advices on my university life on academics, relationships, and life in general. I can safely conclude that my life in college had shaped the resilience and mental strength in accepting failures. These lessons were brought forward to my life in National University of Singapore.

With decent results from the Singapore A-levels, I got accepted by the National University of Singapore for my first choice of study, which is the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

     As a Year 1 Economics major, I can say life here is very exciting. I chose to stay in an active hall called Sheares Hall (there are 6 halls in total), and life in a hall is definitely a great incubation before stepping into the society as a working adult. Here, I learnt (and still learning) how to find the balance between hall life (which constitutes of friends, CCAs, and the commitments with it), and my academic life.
So to answer the earlier question of “Why makes you choose Singapore?” I think it will be a lie to say that I have a definite answer, because as what Malcolm Gladwell beautifully describe in his book Blink, and Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow have both mentioned the moments of making decisions at the spur of the moment with only the help of our subconscious minds. I must say I am one of the lucky ones who got accepting to the college that I wanted, one of the lucky ones who established meaningful relationships with the few teachers who became my mentors, and one of the lucky ones who ended up in a dynamic intellectually rigorous environment in NUS and a hall with a loving group of people residing in it.
     Singapore’s education system certainly has it’s boons and banes (to give a few examples of the possible downsides, one would feel the learning environment here is too competitive, and there are lousy lecturers but this is true no matter which university you end up in). If there’s one advice I could give you, is to pursue what you are good at. I have a friend taking theatre studies as a major, and he is doing great in famous plays in Singapore as a year 1 student apart from being one of the male leads in the Sheares Production. Theatre Studies, I mean, who takes that? But he is obviously one who pursue what he’s interested and what he’s good at. (To give you a little perspective, while others are struggling to balance the CCAs and studies, he is having an easier time doing so as both his CCA and studies are closely related.) Another example would be a South Asian major I know, whose dream is to work in Pakistan as a social worker. Despite of the general pragmatic mentality most students here may possess, there are cases in which you find people taking the roads less traverse and excelling in their respective fields.
Singapore or not, overseas or local university, the most important criteria in excelling (and surviving) your university education is not to do what the job markets want you to do, but to pursue a degree that will eventually turn out as a worthy investment in your strengths. If you are good at theatre, go for related studies; if you are good in mathematics, go for degrees like mathematics, statistics, or economics; if you are brave enough, go start a business. And most importantly, fall in love in what you do.

All the best!

Chan Li Shing
National University of Singapore

Friday, 11 April 2014

Yayasan Telekom Malaysia Scholarship

First of all, I would like to congratulate all those who have successfully finished their SPM examination and consequently, their high school life. Now, a new chapter is about to unveil and don’t miss the chance to make it a memorable one. Let me introduce myself. I am Laveenyah Preettha Yuvarajah, a YTM scholar (not to be confused with YTN) who is currently studying A-Levels in KYUEM. YTM is an abbreviation for Yayasan Telekom Malaysia and they have offered me an overseas scholarship to the UK to pursue a dual degree (Economics and Management). As for KYUEM, it is a premier, residential college located in Lembah Beringin (near Tanjung Malim); a hub for scholars and no doubt, concentrated with persistent, determined youngsters. I am studying English Literature, Economics, History and Mathematics which is a combination inclined to the arts. The unique trait of KYUEM is that it is very liberal when concerning subject combinations and it doesn’t not have any specifications; an important aspect that you have to look into when deciding on your future college.
The first step in securing this scholarship is of course, to apply for it. The application form is rather simple in comparison to other scholarships as no certificates are required to be attached and neither are there any essays to be written. The students aspiring to pursue law, economics or any courses that are not specified in the form, please note that you will have to apply for ‘Pengurusan’(Management). The application form can be attained from the link I have provided below and a guide on how to apply is also included:
The shortlisted candidates will be notified and called for a full-day assessment. It will be a long day as there wouldn’t be a second stage so please get enough rest the night before. The day will start off with a writing assessment with cliché questions (ie. Why do you think you deserve this scholarship? What are your strengths and weaknesses?) There will also be questions asking about the firm itself so please do your research and briefly read about their recent projects, overall ventures and corporate responsibilities. Then, you will be divided into groups consisting 5 or 6 people. Each group will have a project assigned to them where you have to work together to overcome all the hurdles and come up with a rational solution to how the project is to be commenced. The time allocated for discussion and presentation will be rather short so don’t waste any time and jump straight to work. Practice teamwork without being completely selfless, meaning you have to provide some room for the others to shine yet portray leadership qualities of your own.
Finally, you will be having an individual interview and it is expected to last for about 3o minutes but the duration of your interview is very flexible. It depends purely on your interviewer and yourself. For example, my interview lasted for a WHOLE HOUR! Basically during the interview, you will be asked about your leadership roles in high school, the problems you faced and the solutions you resorted to. My only advice for this part of the assessment is to ensure that you are familiar with all of your participations in the past, regardless of the post you held. Avoid any action of fibbing as the questions asked are heavily based on empiricism and will dig deep into the experience itself. Then, you are done for the day and can finally head back home. I was notified via email and I think it goes without saying that I was ecstatic upon reading it. Now, it’s your turn. Give it a shot and surprise yourself while surprising others. All the best and god bless.

Laveenyah Preettha Yuvarajah
Yayasan Telekom Malaysia Scholar - 2013