3 important steps to getting a scholarship (from someone who has got one)

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DISCLAIMER: This article is written for the sole purpose of advising aspiring students to get a chance at funded education. I am not encouraging students to simply grab at any scholarship they see available for the sake of the money; please do not do that. If that happens, our economy will be filled with money-minded people rather than those with the true interest of advancing the sector for the betterment of society.

 

With the release of ‘A’ Level results, this would be a great time for 18-year olds to think of their future. In fact, this is often the crucial point where we think of what we want to do in future. For students who feel that they have done well for the A’s, and especially for those who have done well for their prelims, a scholarship would probably be the greatest launching pad for their future. The following is a guide of how to get a scholarship. There is no way to ensure a 100% chance at a scholarship, but it’s worth a try.

1. CONSIDER YOUR INTERESTS

This is probably the most important step. You MUST know what you are interested in, and what you want to do in future.

This will decide what type of university course(s) you will be applying for and why you are interested in these courses. At the same time, you will use this as a guide to finding the companies that suit you best, which will greatly improve your chances of getting the scholarship, especially if the company feels likewise about you.

Eg. If you are interested in Engineering, it is often not enough for it to just be ‘Engineering’, try to think of what domain you would specialise in. For an Aerospace Engineer, think about why you want to do this course – designing new planes (which area?), maintenance and repairs, airport logistics, etc. From here, you would realise that the possible companies are: ST Aerospace, CAAS, CAG, SIA Engineering, just to name a few.

Do note that scholarships provided by companies are almost always bonded, and the market rate for bond duration is 1.5x your study period for overseas scholars, and 1x your study period for local scholars.

While local universities do offer bond-free scholarships, you may be required to act as an ambassador for the school or partake in events; basically contribute in one way or another. This is not a bad thing at all as they can offer exposure that most students do not receive; but do consider these requirements in your workload over the four years of your study, and see if you can continue to keep your grades. Do not be one of those overachievers that deflate midway through their studies and end up having their scholarship dropped. It’s quite a pretty sum to pay if you have to pay back the scholarship.

2. LOOK FOR AVAILABLE SCHOLARSHIPS

Brightsparks.com usually is the main platform for most scholarship listings, and it usually is sufficient for most students.

However, if the company you are interested in is not available on BrightSparks, do look for the company’s website for any scholarship offering. If not, do drop an email to their HR department asking if they offer scholarships. Sometimes their scholarships just aren’t widely publicised. Sometimes they don’t have scholarships but if you’re interested (and good) enough they might want to invest in a talent like you! The Singaporean value of kiasu-ism would be helpful here.

For those wishing to apply to government ministries, SAF, SCDF or SPF, their scholarships fall under the umbrella of PSC scholarships. Send one application with your preference of where you would like to go and they’ll consider your application in order of your preference.

Scholarships provided by universities would, obviously, be applied from the universities themselves. However some have several different schemes of scholarships that you may have to individually apply to, while some automatically considers you for scholarship when you apply for their relevant course. Do read up more on their scholarships provided if you’re interested.

3. APPLY, GO FOR INTERVIEW, PRAY

Here’s the final step: apply.

Okay, so it’s not that simple, but it’s not super hard either: you’ve done all your research up till this point, and you should know your interests and purpose for applying to your specific course and scholarship. All that needs to be done is to put all these into answering the usual questions they ask at applications and interviews:

-Why are you interested in this course?
-What would you like to do at our company?
-How would you be able to contribute?
-Where do you see yourself in ten (or some other number) years’ time?

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If your application is compelling enough, the company would call you up for an interview.

Do note that the attractiveness of your application is based on:
-grades
-past achievements (maths/science olympiads, whatever awards)
-CCA
-How you answer their questions

Which also means if you think your application is lacking in an area, write what you can to make it better (do not lie; just give more compelling details of your involvement). Also, try to gear whatever long-answer responses to the sector to show your interest – if you’re extremely interested in Economics, your potential employer will not care that you have a grade 8 in piano.

From there, whether you score the scholarship or not is entirely up to your interpersonal skills and confidence. It would help to brush up on the company’s background information, news regarding the sector you’re applying to, current affairs, and form well-defended opinions of your own regarding these news.

Most scholarships require multiple rounds of interviews just to test your mettle and stamina. Some even have varied forms of interviews, such as camps with potential scholars, impromptu presentations, tests, and interaction with different levels of management.

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This will be a period where you keep going for interviews, but do cherish every interview and take the opportunity to ask questions and find out about the company too. You need to know for sure that the ideals of the company align with yours.

At the end of the day, when you finally get your scholarship, make sure you have a decent university placing to accompany it. Only then can you relax and get into the mood of enjoying your long break before university life starts, or (for the guys) two years of serving the nation starts.


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For those that didn’t manage to secure a scholarship, do not despair. There will always be chances to apply for mid-term scholarships at university, or for sponsorships to do masters when you have started working. If you’re a guy, you have the luxury of time to apply again for the next two years. Keep trying and never give up!