What To Do And When To Do It
When it comes to scholarships, timing and preparation are the keys.
Do your homework
Start out by doing research (refer to scholarship information sources). Find out what scholarships are available and how to apply for them. Study the requirements and weigh your strengths and weaknesses against them.
Some of the common characteristics of successful scholarship holders include:
- an outstanding record of achievement
- leadership potential
- clear goals and relevant interests
- motivation and commitment
While it is unrealistic to expect yourself to be flawless, you can still try to come as close as you can. Effort, determination and a positive attitude are equally if not more important than being an academic overachiever.
When to start: As early as possible! You wouldn't want to be stuck doing research with final exams just around the corner. Study consistently − there are no shortcuts to academic excellence. As for extra-curricular activities, you will need a minimum of one year's participation to prove that you are active, and to get to the higher ranks in clubs and societies.
Prepare CVs, forms and other documents
To avoid missing deadlines, list down the scholarships you are applying for and documents needed to make sure you have everything compiled, filled in and sent in time.
Identify the documents and information that you need and start compiling them. Don't forget to get reference letters from your teachers, advisors and employers (if any).
Start writing your CV (see page 20) and personal statements early on. This will help you see what gaps you need to fill and where you need to improve. Have your CV checked by your school counsellors each time you update it, to ensure the content is properly presented and grammatically correct?
Get application forms from your school counsellor or directly from scholarship providers; read the instructions carefully. Evaluators appreciate neatness. Practise writing your answers on a separate sheet of paper to avoid mistakes and copy them neatly onto the actual forms. You can also type out your answers on a typewriter or word processor. Some applications require you to fill in the forms online.
Most importantly, make sure you have filled in every field in the forms. Incomplete forms are the first to be eliminated from consideration.
When to start: The amount of paperwork can be overwhelming, so start collecting and filling in the application forms in April of Form 5. You can begin compiling your CV in Form 4 and update it as you go along.
The interview and the final stages
Once you have sent out all your applications, don't be too preoccupied with anticipation but channel the nervous energy into preparing for the interviews.
Talk to your counsellors, seniors and friends who are scholarship holders. They will reveal precious tips on what to expect and how to answer the questions. It is also a good idea to read widely and keep up with current events. At the interview, be honest and try to be as confident and humble as you can.
After the interview, take a deep breath, relax and hope for the best.
When to start: Start practising for interviews after your SPM examinations.