There are so many great scholarship opportunities out there, but there is only one for you; that is where the decision-making process should begin. It is a huge step to think about what career you would like to pursue when you are 18 and fresh out of Junior College, but that is what every applicant should consider when choosing scholarships. Understand the work you will be doing and the organisation you will be joining. Apply only for a scholarship with an organisation that you envisage yourself (happily) working for or even staying on for years after your bond. If you truly love your work, a bond would not feel like a bond at all. This is what I kept foremost in my mind when making my decision.
Honestly, it took me a while to be sure. Once I realised my interest was in Economics and Finance and that my personality was suitable for a career in these areas, I zeroed in on such scholarships. I also spent a lot of time talking to seniors who were current scholarship holders as well as scholars who had since returned to Singapore to find out more about Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) before I came to a final decision. Choosing the right scholarship is a combination of understanding what suits your personality and what you want for yourself. It is a tough choice that requires more consideration than I was prepared to do at the time – but at the back of mind, I also knew how important it was to get things right.
Well, after you’ve decided on the scholarships, next comes the mad rush of college applications. The choices are overwhelming, so I believe it is good to start early. At the risk of repeating myself, choosing the right university is just like choosing the right scholarship; it is a combination of understanding what suits your personality and what you want for yourself. The first question to ask yourself is: where would you like to study? Personally, I wanted to go to a university with a completely new system and a different philosophy. I love how the American education system emphasises liberal and broad-based learning, so it was definitely the US for me. But that was just the first step.
With over 4,000 universities in America, choosing which one to aim for was an even tougher dilemma. I made my choice based on the two things that were most important to me. First, the university should have a strong programme and department for the degree I had set my sights on. Second, my personality and what I want out of college life should fit the culture of the university (most US universities have very distinctive ‘personalities’). That was how I came to the conclusion that Brown University is the best fit for me. Brown has a great Applied Mathematics department and an interesting International Relations programme. It is also known for its liberal and unique culture. I knew I was going to have an experience so drastically different from all my years in Singapore, and probably different from all my peers as well – and I’m loving every second of it.
I hope I have given you a better idea of your college and scholarship choices. The rest is up to you now!