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What is “Scholar Material”?

Tue, 03/24/2020 Zhou Mei An
What is “Scholar Material”?

If boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog’s tails, and girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice, what are scholars made of?

Nursery rhymes aside, every organisation is looking for different characteristics in its scholars. MINDEF, for example, emphasises that its scholars should be moved by the idea of defending our home, a personality trait that may not be as essential to another organisation.

But with every generation of scholars BrightSparks interviews, some characteristics come to the fore again and again. Based on our interactions with these scholars and those that came before, we have rounded up some of the characteristics and advice that have stood the test of time.

We hope this inspires you as you take the next step!

1.     Honesty

“You have to be honest about your passion for what you are doing,” said Ho See Jia, DesignSingapore Scholar. “My grades were not very good, so I tried to tell the interviewers what my aspirations are, and what I want to gain out of the scholarship. That worked well for me!”

This approach was endorsed by many other scholars, who all emphasised the importance of bringing your individual traits to the table.

This has long-term advantages as well. Roy Yuen, recipient of the Singapore Geospatial Scholarship, highlighted another important aspect of being honest with yourself and the organisation. “Trust me, you wouldn’t want to dread going to work knowing that you are working on something that you are not passionate about,” he advised. Even if you could ‘fake’ your way through the interview, it will be much harder to stick with your bond down the road.

Jonathan How, SNCF Co-operative Scholar, is even more direct. “Be passionate and be real. Don’t try to fake things up,” he said.


2.     Individuality

Joshua Tay, Singapore Airlines Open Overseas Scholar, advised: “Do not be afraid to show your quirks, personal interests and what you are passionate about. Don’t be a cookie-cutter applicant, and don’t fit yourself into a mould.”

Other scholars also highlighted how it was their individual characteristics, not their scores or awards that helped interviewers decide on them. For ASP Poh Yu Quan, recipient of the Singapore Police Force Scholarship, he discovered he wanted an exciting career – and that led him to SPF.

Indeed, his interview tip is: “Understand what you want in life and who you are as a person. That way, when you go into an interview, you’ll be more genuine and show what kind of person you are. The interviewer will be able to see if your real personality fits into the career you are looking for.”


3.     Research

“Getting a scholarship is not just about how it is going to benefit you; it is also about how you can give back using the education you have received.” Carissa Lim, National Environment & Water Scholarship recipient, said the above. Her words showcased the importance of research – the best way to get to know the organisation beforehand.

Organisations are ultimately looking for someone who will grow with them and contribute to their visions. Showing how you can do this is one of the best ways to stand out during your interview. Check out initiatives the organisation is involved in, and projects they have started, and see how they align with your own values and interests.

You may wish for a dynamic career where no two days are the same, so SPF or Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) may suit you. Or you may be inspired to help others, so the National Healthcare Group may be your choice.


4.     Passion

Scholars tells us again and again about the importance of passion, and that interviewers can tell if you really want to join the organisation or just want to scholarship. Don’t be the latter!

Chia Jieru, ST Engineering Overseas Scholar, offered some practical advice. “Be confident and be sincere during the interview. Some people show their nervousness and if that happens, just calm yourself down and maintain your confidence.”

Goh Yi Feng, SgIS Full-Term Scholar, said similar: “It is OK not to know the small details of what the organisation does. What’s more important is your attitude. They want someone who will bring value in the future and has a positive vibe.”

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