TIP 3: ACTIVE EXTRA-CURRICULAR INVOLVEMENT
In recent times, scholarship criteria has evolved to become more holistic. ‘Holistic’ is a word commonly used by schools and organisations alike, but what it really means is this: being well-rounded. Organisations are now looking at a range of indicators to see if the student is a deserving investment.
The next misconception is this: being active in co-curricular activities means taking on many different CCAs, in sports, performing arts, uniformed groups and in clubs and societies.
However, ‘being active’ actually translates to being very involved in your CCA, in terms of assuming leadership positions or taking on large responsibilities. This is an indicator of commitment and people skills, which will be important to the scholarship panel.
If at this point of time you have already missed the opportunity to be highly involved in your co-curricular activities, building up your niche and participating actively in competitions might help.
TIP 4: BUILDING GOOD RELATIONSHIPS
After building a good portfolio, it will be important to add a personal touch. This is in the form of expressing keen interest to the organization by writing in to enquire early about their programmes and initiatives. This will impress upon the organization your committed interest in them and form an initial connection.
Beyond a good relationship with the organisation that provides your scholarship, the scholarship recipient selection process may involve a day camp, monitored group discussions or networking tea sessions. In these avenues, you should try to build rapport with your fellow applicants instead of imposing a competitive mindset on these activities. This will be helpful in calming your nerves during the application process so that you get to showcase more of your innate skills and talent.
TIP 5: TAKE UP INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES
A very common mistake by most scholarship applicants is not making the absolute best out of the opportunities available to understand the organization better. In this case, it will be good for you to secure an internship in the organisation administering the scholarship of your first choice.
To do so, apply through public channels such as their official website, your school or write in personally to enquire about it. The internship is good platform for both you and the organisation to assess each other’s merits.
For you, on the internship, do two things—jot down your observations about the organisation’s internal structure and their external challenges, and do your assigned tasks well. This checks the accuracy of your initial assessment of the organisation and adds to your repository of interview knowledge. Further, your direct supervisor is likely to pen an internship report at the end of your stint, which might go into the assessment of your scholarship application.
Even if you can’t secure an internship with your organisation of choice, it will be good to procure experience for your related field. For instance, if you are interested in public service, you could consider volunteering in grassroots centres or in community services.
This is useful in converting theoretical research and perceptions into practical solutions to problems on the ground.
TIP 6: WRITING WELL
Before you get a chance to present yourself in person, you’ll have to do so via an application and very likely, an essay. The key to writing a good essay is the conveying both personality and stance.
All too often, before writing an essay, most people wonder: how do I start?
My recommendation is to start by picking up a pen, and begin writing your thoughts on the essay theme or question at hand. Forget about the structure (i.e. constructing an introduction) and the language (i.e. how polished your language is). Instead, focus on getting your ideas and opinions out before furnishing it.
A likely way to start your brainstorming is to begin by thinking in a few ways, for instance, in terms of the SWOT analysis on Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, through the lens of Social, Political, Economic and Environmental impacts and in terms of the Past, Present and Future.
For the final touch to your essay, attempt to come up with insightful comments on the issue at hand. This has to be, as much as possible, original and novel. Such a practice will ensure that your essay gets a second look. Try NOT to come up with trite conclusions that you feed to expository essays you write in school.
Later, proofread your essay and proceed to ask close friends and/or seniors to take a look at it and give you some comments. It is always good to get a second opinion on your writing.
TIP 7: INTERVIEWING WELL
The trick to giving a good interview is embracing uncertainty. The interviewers are likely to ask questions that will throw you off, yet staying calm is important in such a situation. The interview is assessed not based on the number questions the interviewee answers right or wrong, but the overall presentation and ability of the applicant to think on the spot.
However, this is not a cue to walk into an interview unprepared. Control what you can and let go of the worries for what you can’t. To prepare for an interview, construct knowledge for what would be expected and certain.
The areas that you might want to look into are:
1) Why did you apply for the scholarship?
2) Why did you apply for your course of study?
3) What are the challenges that face the organisation?
4) How can the organisation deal with these challenges?
5) What are the general affairs in the news recently that pertain to the organisation?
Apart from thinking about these questions and doing the necessary reading, you might want to re-look at your own application. The panel of interviewers is likely to ask questions relating to your essay as well as challenge your stance in the essay. You will be expected to be familiar with your own arguments.
At the end of your interview, remember to be courteous and offer thanks to your interviewers. It may not add to your scholarship assessment, but it is good practice to leave the room with a good last impression.
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TIPS TO CLINCHING A SCHOLARSHIP
Checklist for scholarship
– Are you financially willing and able to afford tertiary education?
– Do you see yourself as someone who cannot stay put in a specific organization or industry for 4 to 6 years?
– Is your main motivation for applying for a scholarship prestige?
– Is a scholarship just a means for financing your undergraduate studies?
– Will you be tempted by offers to stray from your scholarship at the end of your undergraduate studies?
– Are you applying for a scholarship because all your peers are doing it? Or your parents are pressuring you into it?
If your answer to any of those questions is a yes, then it will probably be wise to rethink applying for a scholarship. Yet, if you feel like you require more help because you are seriously contemplating taking up a scholarship out of your own volition, read on.
TIP 1: DO YOUR RESEARCH
Doing research is an incredibly important but often overlooked step. Understand that applying for a scholarship is equivalent to applying for a job. It is a career that you’d undertake for 4 or 6 years post-graduation, depending on whether you take up an offer for a local university or a foreign one.
What’s next on your mind is probably: how do I go about doing my research?
For a start, you may consider asking yourself these questions:
1. What do you look for in a scholarship? (this list is not exhaustive)
– Career opportunities
– Organisational values that align with your own
– Global exposure
– Supported course of study
– Public/private sector
2. What course are you intending to read at university?
3. Will you be looking to further your studies at post-graduate level?
4. Are you looking for a bond-free scholarship or one that comes with a bond attached?
Understanding your own expectations will help you find a match with an organization that meets those ideals, but beyond that, research will also show in your interactions with the relevant scholarship officers.
Often times, students head for scholarship fairs or talks with no clear idea of what each organization does and end up not being able to seize the opportunity to ask for ‘personalised information’, that is, relevant information unique to the scholarship officer on the organization culture and their new direction for the specific year. By going the extra mile in research, you are expressing your sincerity to take on a career with the organization you have in mind.
Make use of resources that are readily available. For instance, you might head down to Brightsparks at http://student.brightsparks.com.sg/index.php for a comprehensive list of available public scholarships and their requirements. For bond-free scholarships, conduct an extensive search online for suitable ones.
TIP 2: DESIGNING AN ACADEMIC NICHE
Junior college (JC) is a period of our lives that is both hectic and exciting, where the academic workload doubles in magnitude and difficulty. Yet it will be vital for you to identify an area or two that you have the aptitude and passion for.
Even if you do not have a specific university course in mind at this point of time, it will be helpful to scope your options a little by focusing on one or two niches.
This focus is not limited to scoring As on the subject (though that would definitely be helpful) but also in taking part in relevant competitions that use the same area of knowledge. For instance, if you are interested in Economics, do not limit your expression of interest to Higher 3 Economics, but instead participate in business, market analysis and financial competitions as well.
These are concrete methods to show passion and interest in your subject of choice, which is more convincing than mere lip service in saying, “I’m really passionate about Economics” with nothing to show for it.
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