Etching Footprints: The Journey To Becoming A Yayasan Tenaga Nasional Scholar
“The sky is no longer the limit, when there are footprints on the moon”
The prerequisite for success isn’t money, passion, or dream. It’s the hunger.
The desire to carve a difference in the world.
Life is never a bed of roses, and my journey to where I am now is no different. There were more than a million times I nearly gave up and let go of my dreams. Ever since I was little, my parents (both teachers) poured their motivation, guidance and love to me in the strongest way that pushed me. They taught me how the world works, how life is getting more challenging, and never failed to educate me spiritually.
As an 18-year-old Yayasan Tenaga Nasional Scholar, I can evidently say that every ounce of those teachings played a major role in my life. My path began since early childhood, I would drown myself in mountains of books, immersed in the never-ending adventures of the characters. This enhanced my language and became the most powerful weapon I could ever ask for.
Perhaps the strong hunger I have originated from my childhood. Though I lived an average life, it was tough. Meals were fine, but anything more than that was carefully weighed. Extra toys were a luxury, and vacations was a fantasy.
During my primary, I mingled with students with very different cultures and mindset. They were mostly well-off and well mannered. Quickly I had many friends, which was when I began to realise our differences. Why are some people well to do while others weren’t? Why some could live in big furnished houses while life was tough for the rest?
After a long hard reflection, I came to a conclusion at a tender age of 11 – I had to do something, I had to educate myself to surpass them and to compete at the global stage. The importance of education could not be overstated. Malala Yousafzai once concisely summed up, “A gun can kill terrorists, but education can kill terrorism”. The point is simply education brings a complete revolution, it incorporates maturity into our thinking.
Every day I would tell myself and pray hard to study overseas in a top university for my tertiary education.
So why am I telling you all this? It’s because ultimately it’s your thinking, mindset and attitude that gets you the scholarship.
Similar to the others, I began applying for scholarships right after my results came out. I thank God, family and friends for the strong results as it helped me very much. Being a straight 10A+ scorer, I received an offer from JPA to do any course I wanted locally. I was overjoyed, but my heart still longed for that overseas dream to compete globally. As such, I applied for mostly overseas scholarships. Petronas Overseas, Tenaga Nasional Overseas, Bank Negara Kijang Emas, Yayasan Khazanah Global, PNB Overseas, etc.
Note: Be sure you know what course you want to do. I had decided earlier that I want to pursue engineering.
Honestly, to be a Tenaga Nasional Scholar locally is relatively easier than other scholarships. This perception, however, is very different for overseas! Tenaga Nasional has very strict quotas and tough interview rounds.
The online application was pretty straightforward and easy. You have to select your results and choose either “Overseas” or “Local”. Next, select your preferred course out of 5 choices which are Electrical Power Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Accountancy and Economics.
In the following screen, you will have to add your achievements and positions from clubs/society. Also be sure to add in extra achievements, such as Kangaroo Math Competitions, National Chemistry Quiz, etc.
Just to give some perspective on how tough their standard is, my positions were Presidents for 3 Clubs and Head Prefect. And of course, other achievements too. The point here is to ensure you have really, really strong leadership skills and achievements for the overseas application.
Stage 1 (Interview)
Around 2 weeks later, I received an email and a text message that I managed to get to the interview stage. The interview was held at UNITEN, College of Computer Science and Technology. Yes, it will be incredibly scary as there are interviewees from all over Malaysia. And there’s many of them. Do remember to dress formally and neatly, as the first impression gives you the biggest boost. I was called into a room around 11 in the morning.
There were 3 burly men, each typing away on their laptops, evaluating me from the moment I entered. They appeared to see how I would react, offering no clues or cues.
I walked in with a confident smile and shook their hands firmly with a strong “Good morning”. Literally, it did impress them, and I would encourage you to do the same. The questions were nothing related to academics. The asked to talk about my family, what was dad and mum doing, if I had any siblings. They asked me why did I choose the course, what my hobbies and what was the working nature suited me. It was all conducted in English. Then they asked me if I could converse in Malay and I said yes. They tested my proficiency and was satisfied after a couple of questions. They also looked through my certificates and asked me questions on my co-curricular. I spent 10 minutes talking about archery! It was pretty casual and warm, not cold and strict. (Yet they had high evaluation standards)
After that, it was time to leave. Once again, shake their hands and politely say thank you.