Year after year, one of the biggest reasons A-level recipients don’t apply for scholarships is: “My grades are too low, there’s no chance I’ll get a scholarship.”
After all, scholarships are all about grades, right? Without stellar exam results, there’s no chance of you even receiving that interview email.
While grades are certainly good to have, in today’s climate they are just one of many points a sponsoring organisation looks for in its scholars. OCBC Scholar Nazryl used his polytechnic results to score the coveted scholarship, while SPS’ Full Time Degree Sponsorship Recipient Koh Zhi Xiang came from ITE and clawed his way to success and more.
So stop thinking about how you’ll never make it, and start thinking about how to improve your chances in other ways. These include:
1. Active CCA Participation
Many successful scholars cited not grades, but their CCA achievements as what defined them and made them stand out. In particular, instances of leadership, perseverance and problem-solving made an impression on the interviewers.
Long-term CCA participation also shows that you remain committed to your responsibilities and have interests outside your lessons. That’s always a good thing as it will make you stand out amongst the sea of hopefuls.
We’ll say this up front: don’t volunteer for the sake of the scholarship application. Such shallow commitment will be seen through in a second, to say nothing of how hurt and used your beneficiaries will feel.
Instead, look for a cause that resonates with you and spend your time on it. We have a whole article on How Scholars Help the World to get you started if you don’t know where to begin!
3. Personal Projects
Too many CIPs and blood donation days has created a kind of ennui in some of us. We long for a way to give back, but current projects feel lacking, insufficient, or badly managed.
Then, blast off on your own! Social entrepreneurship (like the heroes highlighted here) will not only help the world and give you great learning experience, it is also a surefire way to leave your mark in the scholarship interview. After all, your courage to do something on your own steam will show them that you’re not a follower, but a leader – exactly who they want to give the scholarship to.
4. Internships and Experience Days
Nothing says “I want to make my career here” like an internship with that particular organisation. EMA Scholar Ekko Chua interned twice with her organisation of choice, learning all about their mission and how they make it happen. So it came as no surprise that she had a leg up when it came her time to apply, as she was already intimately acquainted with EMA’s work.
So get your fill of those internships, experience days, and even talks and seminars! You never know who you’ll get to meet and what insights you will gain… and what that might lead to when you apply.
5. A Global Outlook
One of the many interview missteps we’ve seen is simply regurgitating your book knowledge or what you read on the company’s corporate site when asked. Sponsoring organisations are looking for people to lead them into the future, and how can you do that if you don’t know what the world is like?
Read widely, get involved, and think about how you can make a difference. The more you learn about the world and what problems we face, the more ideas you’ll have.
As you can see, there’s a lot more than grades that go into that vital application. Go forth and expand your world!