Guide To ASEAN Scholarship #1

Thursday, April 8, 2010
It’s application season again and I’m sure a lot of you are contemplating applying for the ASEAN Scholarship. For those who don’t know, I was awarded the ASEAN Scholarship for four years beginning this year, which is a full scholarship including accommodation, school fees, medical check-ups, etc.

I took up the scholarship, stayed there for a month and a half and in the midst of my bridging, decided to come back.

But before I explain on how to get the scholarship, pros and cons of the ASEAN Scholarship, and what to expect from it, allow me to explain what it is first.

Basically, the ASEAN Scholarship is for students from around the ASEAN region, including Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia. There are 3 scholarships to apply for, namely the Secondary 1 scholarship, the Secondary 3 scholarship, and the Junior College Scholarship.

No matter which scholarship you apply for, if you are accepted, Singapore will pay for your education in Singapore up till the end of your Junior College education.

I think that about sums it up.

HOW TO GET THE SCHOLARSHIP

The whole application process is really easy because for starters, all you have to do to be shortlisted is fill in an online form. Some years, I heard that they can get over 13,000 applications online. Even if you’re not sure about the scholarship, I recommend you apply for it anyways because basically, what the form asks for is your extra-curricular activities, your results, etc.

In the application, I suggest you list down the more important and impressive activities, instead of a long list of tiny things. Space is limited (the last time I filled up the application), so make sure you try to have as wholesome an application as possible. If sports is your thing, highlight on that, but include a few performances or charity contributions as well. Good results are important, of course, so ensure that the results you’re listing out are at least Bs. Don’t lie, because they will ask for verification if you get to the interview.

After you’ve been shortlisted from this application, Singapore will send a letter to your house and email you to attend the scholarship application test.

I took mine in Sunway Pyramid in a gigantic hall. I think I was pretty much stunned by the sheer amount of people who came for the test. And it was only the KL batch. There were exams conducted in Penang as well!

I remember feeling pretty intimidated, looking at all the seemingly smart people with their glasses and their thick textbooks to ‘revise’ from, whereas I was pretty much dressed in casual clothes and equipped with three pencils, one pen, and an eraser.

At the test, they give out three tests, which are an English test, a Mathematics test, and an IQ quiz. I’m not sure what the last one is for, because the test basically gives you a bunch of random shapes and you have to try to pick out a pattern from it. Did I mention they give you about 100000 questions and 3 minutes to answer?

Okay, no. That’s a lie.

It’s more like 40 minutes and 50 questions, but I’m not too sure. I’m pretty sure the results of that test doesn’t matter though, because I distinctly remember circling random answers because I didn’t have enough time.

The math test, in short, is gruelling. It’s torturous, and it serves to make you feel as stupid as possible. The questions are ridiculously advanced (for Malaysians), and half the time you’re sitting there staring blankly at the question as the person sitting besides you scribbles furiously on their paper, looking like they know exactly what they’re doing!!!!

Ahem, in my case, at least. (AHA, BUT THAT PERSON NEXT TO ME DIDN’T GET THE SCHOLARSHIP AHAHAH.)

Basically, try to answer as many questions as possible for the math test, because a lot of the time, the questions they give are really elaborate questions, but if you analyze it long enough, you’ll be able to notice some sort of way to at least partially answer it.

So in regard to a reader’s question about is it going to be hard, yes, it is. But, I found it exceedingly difficult, and so did the other scholars, but we ended up in Singapore anyways, so don’t worry too much about that.

For the English test, I found it really fun! The paper is really unlike our Malaysian papers cause they’re those comprehension text ones, much like the English paper you’d take for ICAS.

I think, if your math is awful, English really is your last chance at getting the scholarship. They have to mark over 3000 essays and from these essays, they’re choosing the people they’re going to hand over a large chunk of their money to. Try to be as unique as possible in your essay, yet don’t come across as random. Creativity is key, but don’t derive too far from the topic.

I still remember my essay question. They told us to write about an ability we’d like to master. I wrote about the ability of stealth, and mentioned careers like private investigator, and ninja.

During the interview, the interviewer pointed out the private investigator thing, which I think proved that they were interested in offering me the the scholarship because of my essay. They also proceeded to insult my math, but more on that later.

After the exam, its pretty much waiting for about a month, and if you’re chosen for the interview, they’d send you a letter and another email. From the thousands of those who got shortlisted for the exam, under a hundred people are chosen per country for the interview.

A mistake I made was that I didn’t bring enough verification documents to prove that what I stated in the online application was true. A woman will ask you for these documents before the interview and trust me, it’s really embarrassing to say that you didn’t bring those documents. I saw those at the interview bringing in files and files of certificates and photographs of their achievements, and looking at notes as to what to say! Whereas I sat there.. and read a story book.

I think the important thing about the scholarship interview, or any interview for that matter, is to come across as genuine. If you are truly interested in the scholarship, they can tell. If you’re a naturally excitable person, don’t try to force yourself to be subdued. Just be yourself, but more professional. There’s no point in memorizing scripted lines for they might come across forced. What you can do however, is to get your siblings or parents to ask you mock interview questions to get a feel of it.

Well, I felt like the scholarship interview wasn’t very scary. There were four people in the room and for me, only one man was asking the questions. Throughout the interview, my sanity was questioned and my math was insulted.

Firstly, they asked me if I “was in touch with reality” due to my essay. I told them that I was a creative person. =D Secondly, they asked me ‘how well do you think you did in your math?’ Honestly, I thought I did horribly. But then again, it could be a trick question and they could have been wanting to test my confidence. In the end, I went with the honest approach. “Quite badly,” I said, laughing nervously. “So, you know that’s a problem ahh,” he said to me, marking something down in the large folder he had. -.-

What they will do during the interview is try to unnerve you as much as possible. They will pick holes as your answers and they will try to confuse you, scare you from Singapore, and basically gauge how much you want the scholarship. This is why it’s very important to think before answering. There’s no rush. I know a few scholars with interviews that lasted a mere 15 minutes, whereas mine took almost double the time.

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tl;dr: You start off with an online application, followed by a test, followed by an interview.

Once you make it past the interview, you’re there! You’ll get a call from a very solemn-sounding man, and within a few weeks, you’re going to have to pack and head off to Singapore for the next few years of your education.

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Part 2 on the Pros & Cons of the ASEAN Scholarship will be up soon.

Any questions?  Anything I missed out? Other scholars wanna share their own pathway to the scholarship? Let me know! =)

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