“Scholarship? Pfft, in my dreams lah.” We all are guilty of saying this to ourselves at one point or another. Sometimes school counsellors only nudge the star pupils into applying for grants, and your family members can’t always babysit you through the process if you are doing it on your own. It can be a lonely and confusing phase of your life.
Scholarship hunting is not all that hard - plenty of sites have guides on how to land one. You’ve probably Googled it before, but aside from cover letter examples, there is not much info to scavenge. Luckily, I have compiled a few scholarship tips that no one tells you about!
1. It Is Not All About the A’s
Am I for real? 100%! Sure, having both stellar grades and active curricular will boost your application up. However, take it from someone who got mediocre final results and still came out with scholarships from 4 private universities. Of course, we all want those straight A’s. However, we have to face the music when those dreams are not met. You must start disassociating yourself from being just a number, understand that results are not a determinant on how your future will look like. When you’re over feeling disheartened, understand that curricular is highly taken into account even with so-so results. That is why teachers and lecturers are always recommending you to step up and join a club!
Your performance during scholarship interviews carries weight, as well as any personal portfolios you may have. How you present yourself during this phase adds merit to your application, because it’s not all just about what’s on the paper. If you’re lacking in some areas, may it be results or anything really, compensate for it somewhere else!
2. Do Not Forget the Deadline!
Let’s say on the off chance you are someone who has a lot of opportunities but is always missing them. Well, time to sit down and jot down important dates, if not you are always going to be late for a scholarship application! Firstly, create a scholarship calendar to prompt you about important dates. Try to pick an avenue you will never ignore. For example, the calendar on your phone. Download a different app solely to remind you, or go the traditional route and paste sticky notes somewhere very in-your-face. Bear in mind that missing these deadlines, could incur a whole year’s wait!
Know that scholarship submission have different datelines for each. Many scholarship submissions open way before results, like the one I took, called the ‘School Achiever Scholarship Awards (SASA)’ which opens usually in June or August. I suggest scouring through sites like Afterschool or even EasyUni, to see the available scholarships open. If you’d like, you can then create an excel sheet of the scholarships you want to apply for!
3. Always Read the Fine Print
If you’re the type of person who always skips reading the terms & conditions, I see you. Although a boring read, you may be interested to know that scholarships often have a lot of terms to be met. So, here’s what to look out for in the fine print!
For starters, your Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) must be maintained through the study term. In any case that the student cannot achieve that grade, the scholarship can be sent for review or revoked. Colleges and universities often help charities by outsourcing their students as manpower. So, if you become a scholarship kid, you may have to complete 50 to 80 hours of community service.
Other scholarships are contingent on you agreeing to be bonded to a company. This means after graduation, you will immediately work for that said company for X number of years. However, bonds are like a double-edged sword; it can either secure a job for you or limit you from other opportunities you may have after graduating.
4. Bursaries Can Be Won
Another way to earn financial assistance is by getting bursaries! A bursary is a grant given by an institution. It’s typically a ‘discount voucher’ you can use with little to no stipulations at all. Bursaries can be won in various ways, based on purely your talent and skill. Debate tournaments, sports championships, public speaking and writing competitions are the most popular ways people win bursaries. That’s how my team won an RM15,000 bursary from Sunway College, just for getting the 10th placing in a general knowledge quiz!
If you do manage to get or win a bursary, ensure you have proof such as the winning certificate and enquire from the coordinator what documents you need to ensure the validity of your win. Usually, it’s just a simple letter stating your achievement, but this isn’t always mandatory. Do also remember that some bursaries have an expiry date. Sometimes it is two years from the date you won, or it’s unlimited so make sure you confirm!
5. Fear of Educational Loans
Say your family does not have much of a financial background, and you’re finding it hard to make ends meet. If money is an issue, I hope this next bit can alleviate your fear of educational loans.
Loans can either be a worthwhile investment or turn into debt. Although scary, it’s a common option that most lower to middle-income youth go for. The most sought-after educational loan comes from PTPTN (National Higher Education Fund Corporation). You can get a loan for any level of tertiary education, anywhere from public & colleges, private institutions, universities, polytechnics and professional certificates! For other educational loans, check out these:
Education loans can be convertible into scholarships if you maintain or achieve a certain grade. So be sure to check what the requirements are so you can know how much money you can kick-off! In any chance you still have to pay back all or part the amount, loans always have a flexible payment process. For PTPTN, you only start paying 6 months after you start graduating. You can also opt to pay as low as 10% of your salary monthly.
Scholarships are attainable with hard work, but never compare how your journey went with someone else’s. Sometimes the universe has a way of taking things away from us, only to offer something better later. If you haven’t clinched any form of financial aid yet, hang in there because persistence is key!
*Do know I wholeheartedly believe in meritocracy. I understand if you may feel dejected due to the unnecessary race-based terms of this loan.