Getting your hands on a scholarship is a dream-come-true for many ambitious young people like yourself. Having a scholarship on the plate can thrust you into a successful career by awarding you a place at a prestigious university and funding your studies at the same time. In fact, many gifted students from disadvantaged backgrounds, of which there are many, rely on the cash from scholarships to help catalyse their career journeys.
Inviting thousands of applicants every round, competition for scholarship programs is fierce. As a result, it can be quite the challenge to bag one. The process is filled with multiple application forms, essays, tests, rejections, and if you’re lucky, a much sought-after acceptance at the end of it all.
In this guide, we shall unravel the procedure towards obtaining a scholarship, alongside its many hurdles, and what you can do to overcome them. Above all, reaching the finish line with a lucrative scholarship requires a tonne of preparation. Fortunately, that is a requirement that anyone can overcome if they seriously want a scholarship! So, read on if that describes you.
What you Need to Know Before Applying
To begin with, you must bear in mind the following realities before you make a start with applying.
Know what your “end-goal” is…
Before you press “Go”, you need to know where you are heading.
For example, if you are certain that you want to work in petrochemical engineering, then you must find the matching scholarship that will get you there. If you’re still unsure as to where in the future you wish to take your scholarship, then it may be a wiser decision to apply for a generic scholarship that isn’t pegged to a particular discipline.
Further, it may turn out that you don’t need a scholarship at all to get there. Many vocational careers do not require expensive degrees, which could mean that there are easier non-academic pathways at your disposal.
Sit back and take a moment to think about where you’d like the scholarship to take you, and how it can help you get there. Once you know that, you’ll be much better equipped to make a persuasive case as to why you deserve it.
Know what you’re up against…
According to BrightSpark, a staggering 87% of A Level and IB graduates “intended” on applying for a scholarship, with over half of them having already applied when surveyed. Since programs only offer a handful of places, the process can be hugely competitive.
But, whilst this is obvious to anyone, it is important that you do not let this discourage you. Those who successfully obtain a scholarship are not super-humans or amongst Einstein’s grandchildren, but instead are those that have effectively communicated their combination of strengths and talents. What’s important is that you know what you’re up against, and whether the potential result deserves the tireless effort to get there.
Know that a scholarship requires commitment…
When an organisation invests money in your success, they want to see solid performance. This means that once you enrol into your course, you will have to demonstrate strong results from freshman until graduation. Often, you’ll find yourself working harder than your peers to prove that you still deserve the investment. In short, there is no room for slackening once you’ve achieved your place.
The key question is, are you prepared to put in the continuous effort that’s needed?
Furthermore, depending on the scholarship, you may have to partake in a “bond”. What this means, is that the organisation sponsoring your studies may require you to work with them for a fixed number of years. Bonds are commonly found in scholarships that are funded by a specific industry, like petroleum, engineering or aviation.
This will prevent you from trying something new, or taking up internships in alternative industries. In other words, once you’ve bagged your scholarship, don’t look the other way. Devote every living moment towards the career path you have chosen.
Scholarships can be broken down into multiple categories, from their eligibility type, to their sponsoring organisation, to whether they include a guaranteed job at the end (a “bond”). Let’s begin by taking a look at the different eligibility types.
Merit-based scholarships are awarded to gifted students on the basis of their academic achievements. The requirements for these scholarships are usually generic, and depend on a student’s performance in national examinations.
Sector-based scholarships are usually awarded by companies or affiliated organisations in areas like engineering, defence, healthcare or public service. These scholarships are geared towards nurturing graduates to take leadership roles in the respective fields, and are awarded to students that show exceptional talent in any of those areas.
Needs-based scholarships are awarded to students from poorer backgrounds who cannot afford a university education without financial support. Your household income and your academic performance will both be assessed in an application for a needs-based scholarship.
Ethnicity scholarships are awarded to students from minority communities to help ‘level the playing field’ between differentially privileged ethnicities. They can be instrumental in helping minority students to gain a leg-up, but are exclusive to a ethnic group and are therefore barred to anyone outside that group.
Popular in many American colleges, Sports scholarships are given to students who shine in a particular sport, like football, basketball or rugby. Awardees are required to represent their institution in matches and tournaments.
Additionally, scholarships can be categorised by the type of awarding body. Commonly, these include the government, private sources, or the institution itself.
Scholarships offered by the government of Singapore include the Singapore Government Scholarship and A*STAR.
Private Sources (Profit/non-profit)
These scholarships are primarily offered by a mixture of non-profit organisations like the Singapore Institute of Management, or companies like GIC Ltd. Typically, these scholarships will be sector-based, with GIC being an example of an investment-sector scholarship.
Universities like the NUS and Nanyang Technological University offer their own scholarships that are offered to their applicants or existing students. The scholarship amount and type can vary depending on the subject and whether the student is local or international.
The Application Process
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s jump into heart of the process, namely, the application itself. This can be a cumbersome process, so it helps to follow a system like the one outlined below.
Study the eligibility criteria – Before you invest the time and effort in an application, ensure that you are eligible to receive it. Read the small print to discover any caveats or deal-breakers. Also, make sure that you confidently exceed its key criteria, be they academic or non-academic.
Build an application timeline – Look up all the deadlines for the applications you plan to pursue, and take note of them in planning your application journey. Ensure that you have enough time to prepare, write the application and submit it all within the allotted time.
Find the application portal – Whilst most applications can be found and filled on brightsparks.sg, some applications need to be filled elsewhere, so it’s vital that you know where to find them. The information can usually be found on an organisation’s brochure or website.
Answer the application questions – This is a chance for you to introduce yourself, portray your assets and make a genuine case as to why you deserve the scholarship. You may have to write an essay at this stage, too. Try to ‘be yourself’ and add your personal flair to the essays. Finally, double-check for any grammatical mistakes.
Master the interview – If you are successful at the application state, you will be invited for an interview. In most instances, the interview process comprises of two-rounds. This is your prized chance to sell yourself and share your enthusiasm for winning the scholarship. Prior to the interview, find a partner with whom you can practise mock interviews with. Your school may have a careers officer that can help you with this.
Additional Tips and Tricks
To help you smoothen the journey above, also take note of the additional pointers below.
Research the organisation – This is an underestimated, but crucial step in helping you obtain the scholarship. Researching the organisations helps you succeed at the interview, and demonstrates your keenness towards gaining the respective scholarship.
Practise, practise and practise – Simply said, there’s no better way to sharpen your essay-writing and interviewing skills than to practise and get familiar with the process.
Speak to former scholars – Get in touch with scholars who have already secured the scholarship you desire. See what tips they are able to give you, and make a note of them.
Be confident– To persuade others of your worth, you must first acknowledge your own worth. Being confident in your abilities will have a noticeable impact in how you carry yourself and in what you exude, both on paper and in-person.
Exploit your strengths – Chances are, that you are applying for a scholarship based on a talent in an academic or non-academic realm. Whichever it is, just continue to work hard and excel in order to maintain your shine in that area. Half the job towards getting a scholarship is to simply ‘be’ the outstanding student that universities vie for.
Letter of recommendation – To increase your chances of success, see if you can get your teacher or school to write a letter of recommendation for you. Having an external authority rubber-stamp your application can make a noticeable difference in your credibility and add another layer of proof regarding your competence.
Calculate your yearly budget – Know what you can and can’t afford. Not all scholarships are equal. Some provide more funding than others. It’s your job to know which ones will meet your needs and which ones will fall short.
Top-rated Scholarships to Apply for…
Okay, now let’s go another layer deeper, and explore the different scholarships available to you. The list below provides an overview of the most popular scholarships based on surveys. If you can’t find the right scholarship for you in the list, then take a look at the next ‘Notable Mentions’ list for additional, more niche-oriented, scholarships.
Offered by Singapore’s internationally renowned university, NUS provides a diverse range of scholarships for different subjects, including needs-based scholarships. Scholarships are awarded to those students who exhibit “academic excellence, high intellectual capacity, sound character, strong leadership potential and a passion for creativity…”
Find out more at http://www.nus.edu.sg/oam/scholarships
Nanyang Technological University Scholarship
Nanyang offers one of the most highly-sought after scholarships, which covers full tuition fees, includes a handsome living allowance, a computer allowance and even a separate accommodation allowance. It’s open to all nationalities and awards a scholarship based on academic excellence and leadership potential.
The Agency for Science Technology and Research, abbreviated as A*STAR, provides a variety of scholarships for scientifically-gifted minds who wish to pursue a career in research and technological development. Scholarships can be found at both graduate and undergraduate levels, including PHD level.
Find out more at https://www.a-star.edu.sg/Scholarships/Overview
Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA)
Also designed for science devotees, the DSTA scholarship provides a range of merit-based scholarships for various levels of studies. Alongside covering tuition fees, DSTA provides access to industry experts to build your network and give you a unique glimpse into the key players within Defence.
Find out more at https://www.dsta.gov.sg/join-us/student/scholarships-awards/
Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore
The Civil Aviation Authority provides a selection of scholarships for those who wish to pursue a rewarding career in civil aviation. You will be chosen based on your academic and entrepreneurial excellence, and will be groomed to serve civil aviation within management and leadership positions.
Find out more at https://www.caas.gov.sg/who-we-are/scholarships
Singapore Industry Scholarship
Founded by a partnership of multiple industries and the government, the Singapore Industry Scholarship awards undergraduate scholarships with the goal of breeding a generation of skilled young people that can serve Singapore’s most strategic sectors of its economy.
Find out more at https://beta.moe.gov.sg/sgis/application/
JTC awards scholarships for a multitude of subjects and career paths, ranging from engineering, human resource management and urban planning. Their scholarships are generous and also come packaged with internships in different business areas of JTC.
Find out more at https://brightsparks.com.sg/profile/jtc/scholarship.php
Singapore’s flag-carrying and internationally renowned airline, Singapore Airlines, offers scholarships for nearly all subjects (excluding medicine, dentistry and law), with the aim of nourishing future engineers, managers and leaders within the company.
Find out more at https://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/us/careers/students-internship/
The Keppel Group offers engineering scholarships on behalf of the offshore and marine industry, with the aim of cultivating the future engineers within this realm.
Find out more at http://www.keppelom.com/en/content.aspx?sid=2493
Public Service Commission
Termed as the “premier government scholarship”, the PSC awards funding to academically gifted young people who wish to pursue a career in public service. A diverse array of scholarship tracks is available depending on which line of business you wish to serve in the future.
More details can be found at:
Fabulous, well that’s the breakdown of the scholarship journey for you in a nutshell! If this all sounds like a lot to swallow – Just remember, a scholarship can change your life, so it’s worth all the effort. Feel free to refer to this guide as you fill in your application, and don’t forget to give yourself a break when you need it.
Good Luck from Tutor City!
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