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This post is pretty darn long, so you might wanna bookmark it for later reading.  

It’s March and it’s that time of the month that’s especially busy for most school leavers. The SPM results have just come out and worthy students are clamouring and competing for good scholarships. Some are opting for Form 6 while others are vying for tougher entries into matriculation programmes.

2 weeks before, my head was spinning from all the seemingly infinite number of choices of scholarships available. My motto was simple.

Apply for as many scholarships as possible.

That way, the chances of getting shortlisted would be greater whether or not I wanted the scholarship. I know, I know. Why waste time on applying for scholarships I don’t even want?

The ugly truth behind my scholarship application frenzy was because I didn’t want to enter Form 6 at all cost. For those of you who know me well enough, you’d know that before this I wasn’t too hot about attending Form 6.

At that time, I was even seriously considering the idea of accepting a scholarship that I did not want so long as that meant not going to Form 6.

Although I didn’t hold anything agaisnt going to Form 6, the thought of having to go through the whole Malaysian high school experience again, albeit for only another year and a half, scared me away.

Fortunately, all my selfish preconceptions changed about a week or two ago when I had a heart to heart talk to my parents about my choices after SPM. Let’s just say I had to kill my ego and adopt a totally new outlook on Form 6. Not an easy thing to do considering I’m a very stubborn person.

Right now, I have drastically cut down my scholarship prospects to those I only feel really worth it. And that’s like only 2 or 3 from the 10+ scholarships I was going to apply for.

As far as I know, lots of people would opt for private colleges over entering to form 6 anytime. Why the sudden change, you might ask.

The logic behind this “madness” is because at this stage, there are not many real pre-university scholarships out there.

My dad and I went through the terms and conditions of the scholarship awards from private colleges like KDU, HELP, INTI, Taylors’ around Malaysia offering A-levels/Pre-U courses through the lens of a magnifying glass (it’s figurative okay?).

Our findings? Most colleges only offer fee waivers or partial fee waivers, which means students don’t have to pay the college fees.

But if that’s the case, what about other expenses? The “scholar” still has to pay extra supplementary fees, accomodation, food, transport and other personal expenses. There’s not even an annual allowance. You call that a scholarship? So before applying or accepting any scholarship, be sure to read their terms and conditions and also their scholarship “perks”.

But if you’ve got the money, then these kinds of scholarships which only offer fee waivers would be good to go. This isn’t the case for most average income students which this article is targeted at though. Taking loans would be inevitable at one point or another. 

I find the majority of really good and valuable scholarships offered are mostly tailored for undergraduate studies. Scholars can easily obtain a 5-figure annual allowance for their course.

For A-levels or pre-U, the choices available, although many, isn’t as comprehensive compared to undergraduate scholarships.

I’m not saying there are no good pre-U scholarships around. Of course there’re a few where the particular education body is really interested in helping notable students complete their A-levels with distinctions. The allowance given covers everything, from accomodation to transport to annual allowance.

Obviously, these scholarships are tougher to obtain and are quite selective but I’ve got nothing to lose anyway.

Last night, I thought about it carefully and I’ve compiled 3 main choices. For those of you who are still in limbo and haven’t decided on anything yet, reading this article might be a good idea especially in you’re on a tight budget.

1. ASEAN Scholarship

This scholarship is one or the most generous scholarships I’ve come across at pre-U level. ASEAN scholarship covers everything: food, accomodation, lodging, waiver of fees and other personal expenses. They even give you a $500 once only settling-in allowance up front to help students adapt at fist. Best thing is this scholarship comes with NO BOND. As in you’re not stuck to any organisation or whatever. The accepted scholar is given $2400 per annum which means $200 per month.

Now although that sum is quite tight to live off every month, I’m betting the Singaporean government purposely allocated that specific allowance as a way to curb students’ spendings and as a strategy to restrict students’ from wasting their time at entertainment hubs.

Also, whenever I think of Singapore, I think of some cosmopolitian, hip and trendy, modern kinda city. Like damn prestigious wei. No doubt the standard of education there is so much higher than Malaysia’s. Whatever it is, experiencing student life in Singapore is something that doesn’t come very often.

The only qualm I have is that if I do get accepted, I’d only be posted in January 2010 which means I won’t be studying anything this year. Whether that’s a good thing or not, it depends on how I use the time. Also, the duration of course is 2 years. That means I’ll only finish pre-U when I’m 20! Oh gosh…is there an express course?

I suppose I’ll just have to apply first and see how things turn out. Dude, I might not even get shortlisted yet.

So while waiting for the application to be processed, students might as well attend Form 6 first. If you do get accepted, yay you! You’re off to experience college life! Woohoo! But if you don’t, then that’s okay. There’s still form 6 for you to rely on. I mean, contrary to most people’s belief I don’t think form 6 isn’t bad. No point moping.

Those few months in Form 6 won’t be a waste in any case cuz you’d have done some reading up as a buffer. Besides, there’s no harm in doing extra revision up front right?

2. Enter Form 6. Period.

This ex-number one Form 6 hater is going to write an entire article (more like sub-article really) on the wholesome goodness of attending Form 6. So you’d better listen up. This doesn’t come very often ya’ know.

Petty things first:

I’ve weighed out the pros and cons of Form 6 with an open mind. Bad news first: I’ll be stuck in a uniform. Gah…Another thing is I won’t be going through the college experience for another year and a half. Pooh…

I’ve managed to pacify myself with the following good news though. At least I won’t be studying Form 6 in the same high school. It’ll be in a different high school instead (duh!). Change is good. I like change. Besides, the school uniform will also be different than the normal boring blue pinafore.

 Now for the more important, non-petty facts:

Actually, entering Form 6 is basically like getting a scholarship by itself. In simpler words: It’s the cheapest pre-university/A-level option there is out there even if you’re not an A student.You don’t need to pay for any fees except the compulosry MUET fees. Addionally the living cost is way cheaper because you’ll be living with your parents, and

Personally, if you have the results to get into the science stream, I think it would be wiser to opt for the science package even though your interest may lie in arts. This maximises your choices once you leave school. You can always switch to art courses later if you choose to.

But if you’ve opted for the arts package, then you won’t have the privilege of switching to science related careers during your university years. You’re basically stuck with arts, even so more if you had the brains to start off with. You’ll regret it.

What’s more, the science subjects are taught in English.

In Form 6, the arts subjects are only taught in BM. And if your command of English language is weak, you’re good as doomed once you enter university.You might as well apply for scholarships if you opt for the arts subjects and hope for the best. Then at least you’ll be able to study them in English from the beginning instead of struggling later.

But if you’ve got a strong command of English but you don’t have the results to enter the science stream, form 6 is also a good option. I doubt you would have any problem translating BM to English.

I like my choices to be as varied as possible especially since I haven’t decided what to do yet. So after completing Form 6, my options would be very open.

Compare this if I were to take a foundation programme which meant that I’d be stuck in that college until I completed my studies (which would be approximately 5 years in the same university). And god forbid if I decided half way that a certain course doesn’t suit me.

I’ve heard that Form 6 is much harder than matric programmes or other pre-U courses. STPM is one of the hardest examinations in the world if I’m not mistaken. But if you’ve got the brains and confidence, why not go for it? I heard Form 6 also equips students with a stronger base when students pursue their degrees later on.

I suppose STPM has to be tough to be recognized as equivalent to Cambridge A-levels or Australian A-levels. Also, STPM is accepted internationally. And if you’ve managed to obtain excellent STPM results, you wouldn’t have trouble getting shortlisted into prestigious universities.

Whatever it is, I might as well enjoy another one and a half years of high school before leaving for university. And I darn better score good grades in STPM if that’s my choice.

3. Apply for Malaysian Matriculation

One good thing about these matriculation programmes is that they’re by the government and therefore, the facilities provided there are top notch. So rest assured that you’ll be studying in as conducive an environment as possible. Also, these government scholarships are quite generous. Well, it is the government’s money.

Look at the bright side of it though. You’re almost certain to do very well in exams which can lead to pursuing your studies in top local universities because you’re gonna be seriously drilled day in, day out. You get to save one year compared to your other peers too. Also, getting 4 flats would be snap easy.

But of course you’re gonna be seriously drilled day in day out for a complete whole year. As in no dating, no fooling around, no shopping thrice a week, no … fun. If you don’t mind a whole year of your life just studying to ace your exams then that’s okay.

There’s a catch though. Usually these kinds of government scholarships come with a bond. So after you’ve completed your studies, you’re tied down to the government service for a couple of years. For some of you, that sounds okay. I mean, it’s a job. Who doesn’t want a job in recession times?

But for me, I want to be an entrepeneur which means I don’t want to be working my ass off for other people.

Another snag is that these kinds of scholarships are quite hard to obtain especially if you’re a non-bumiputera. Of course other factors come into play too, like your performance in the interview and co-curriculum achievements. Also you’ve got to have excellent SPM results especially for your science subjects.

I’m very confident that I have 2 chances of getting it: Slim and none.


So to summarize the whole long thing, it’s down to three choices: Form 6, ASEAN Scholarship and Government Scholarships.

I think the real headache should only start after the completion of my A-levels/STPM/pre-university because that’s the time I’m going to be choosing a permanent course, permanent university and all other permanent stuff for the next couple of years (Although I might just ditch everything once I’ve finished my studies and pursue a totally different path. Hey, I like the freedom of spontaneity).

p.s.: I don’t mean to offend anyone in this post. These are just my personal opinions and may not be accepted by everybody. So don’t take it too personally if it doesn’t match with your views. Thanks =)


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