BrightSparks has had the privilege of interacting with many organisations, and their many scholars, throughout its time. We meet them at our events, we interview them for our magazine, and we see one another at networking parties.
So, we are probably qualified to answer this difficult question: What are organisations looking for in a scholar?
The basic criteria are stated clearly on their websites, such as a Singaporean citizenship and excellent ‘A’ Levels results. Some organisations have specific requirements. For instance, the Home Team wants scholars who are physically fit.
However, whether an applicant gets shifted the “yes” category after the interview is largely dependent on his or her soft skills.
So what traits are organisations looking for in their scholars?
Passion is the “oil” that keeps your engine running when you run into difficulties in your job, or serving the bond feels monotonous and exhausting. Scholarship providers are aware of this, and take care to offer the scholarship opportunity only to individuals who can go the distance.
They look for individuals that are passionate about their mission and will contribute to their work. They do not want someone who joins an organisation only for a free education, who has no interest in what they do.
Yuan Teng, Entreprise Singapore Scholar, was frank about how working in the public service can be tiring, and that there will be days that you struggle with. Exemplifying the passion necessary for such a career, she told us: “While the work that you’re doing today may not result in immediate outcomes, celebrate the small wins, remind yourself of why you signed up for this in the first place, and keep that faith and passion going.”
Clearly, a passionate, dedicated individual is the sort of person a sponsoring organisation wants as a scholar.
While you may be a mess of nerves during the interview, don’t let it show! The interviewers want to know whether you can take on difficult challenges and face problems without crumbling.
Organisations are looking for someone who believes in something – a mission, a calling, a purpose. And one way to express that belief is with self-confidence. When an applicant has faith in his or her ability to deliver, he or she is much more likely to be able to live up to expectations and contribute value to the organisation.
During your scholarship interview, you may be asked questions you didn’t prepare for, or given possible scenarios to react to. Take your time and think through your answer before replying. It’s more important to maintain your composure and compose a well-crafted response that reflects your thoughts, than to simply blurt out the first thing that comes to mind.
Contrary to popular opinion, analytical skills do not belong solely to the realms of IT and engineering. The ability to analyse a problem and propose viable solutions is essential in any field of work.
Most organisations wish for their scholars to go on the fast track to management-level positions that involve large-scale decisions. On this note, the ability to analyse and make sound decisions with the information available is invaluable.
Tan Si Qi, recipient of the People’s Association Scholarship (Overseas), was firm in her belief that analysis skills would help her in her work bridging the government and grassroots. “Possessing such practical skills will hence shape me into becoming a competent civil servant, contributing back to the nation in my best capacity,” she said.
Organisations are made up of teams. Rarely, if ever, does anyone work alone today – and especially not a scholar, who may be expected to rotate through different divisions and work with multiple departments. The ability to cooperate and work together with others is incredibly important.
It’s important to be both a good leader and a good follower. It’s good to know when to speak up and take charge, but it is equally important to listen to others and take note of differences in feeling and opinion.
During the interview and in your personal essay, you might like to highlight instances of your teamwork. You can take note of projects you’ve led, CCA participation, and other examples of your ability. Remember to provide measurable facts as much as possible (e.g. “we achieved a Gold Award”), but avoid bragging.
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