With so many applicants for scholarships every year, it’s no longer enough to score straight “A”s and expect a scholarship to fall into your lap. Organisations don’t look at paper results alone when choosing a scholar; they are searching for someone with passion and drive who will contribute to their success.
But the question is, how does one demonstrate such intangible things as character traits? Certainly, neither results slips nor CCA records showcase characteristics like a passion for technology, deep concern for the environment, or a calling to serve our country.
That’s where the portfolio comes in. A Scholarship Portfolio is a history of your school career from secondary to JC level (at minimum), as you would like employers, sponsoring organisations, or scholarship review committees to see it. Put together, this collection of documents will form a picture of “you” upon which your application will be reviewed.
It’s up to you to make sure you paint a flattering portrait. Here’s how:
Join a CCA, set up a CIP, volunteer for causes or sign up for courses! Not only will you learn valuable teamwork and organisational skills, but your participation will show that you are an active and involved member of the community. This speaks well of your passion and desire to improve, two qualities that sponsoring organisations are always on the lookout for.
Remember to include certificates of course completion, awards, and other supporting documents in your portfolio. If you worked part-time or were involved in religious classes, you can include these as well.
Due to perceptions about “holiday jobs”, some students don’t mention their work serving bubble tea or their blog-based fashion store on their portfolio, to their detriment. No matter how inconsequential they may seem, part-time work or running a small business can serve as proof of a student’s dedication and self-discipline. (As the reviewer may not be so clear on what exactly you did, you may include a short description of your duties and tasks. Always emphasise the skills you learnt and how you applied them to other areas of life.)
The important thing is that these activities showcase your talents, personality and interests, giving the scholarship provider a clear picture of you as an individual and where your passions lie.
A good scholarship application should include two or three testimonials. These can come from teachers, volunteer leaders, or work supervisors.
Because you should only include a few testimonials, pick people who know you well and have spent a long time around you. They should be able to highlight your strengths and describe your achievements. For example, if you won a music competition, you could approach your music teacher to write you a referral describing your learning process and attitude.
Make an effort to ensure that the activities included in your portfolio clearly illustrate your strengths and individuality. Many students blindly approach their teachers for referrals, not stopping to question if they are the most appropriate choice. Do you remember a volunteer leader who helped organise your CIP, or an employer that praised your work ethic? These people may know you better and write more appropriate testimonials.
Sometimes, applicants suffer from the reverse problem. You may be one of those well-rounded applicants with a portfolio stuffed to bursting with awards, certificates and referrals, and no idea which to include. In such cases, it pays to be concise and focused.
Remember, the total file size of ALL supporting documents submitted on the BrightSparks portal cannot exceed 3 MB. All the more reason to cut down on superfluous information and ensure that your portfolio only has the necessary. Include only the projects and experiences that best demonstrate your skills and abilities, and how they fit with the organisation.
Cut down on long-winded explanations and keep your descriptions short and to the point. As a bonus, a concise description may arouse the interviewer’s interest, allowing you to expand on your experiences in person during the scholarship interview. Be prepared for such questions!
The portfolio is the first time a sponsoring organisation will get a look at you. Make sure you present a collection of activities and achievements that reflects your individuality and excellence. That way, you will stand out as someone the organisation is looking for!