Sunday, January 31, 2016

Study Abroad Without Spending a Fortune: Alternative Funding Ideas.

Hey all, with the recent revamp of the bursary program announced by the government, I am sure that some of you are facing a sheer amount of disappointment and feeling like it’s a dead end to your dreams of studying abroad. I understand that not everyone’s family is able to afford in sending their kid to study abroad.

 Hence, this blog post here is to provide you with some alternative ideas and routes for you to still achieve your dreams of studying abroad with funding and methods that you might not thought of at first. It is here to spark your creativity and let you understand that there are other methods out there to study abroad without relying solely on the bursary program.

This post is not only directed to all the students affected by the recent policy change also anyone who wants to learn more about alternative funding to study overseas.

I believe that if you want to achieve something really badly, you will eventually get it somehow with some ways. You will be surprised by how far your determination can take you.

Okay, let’s begin!

Since the bursary program stated that you can only apply for universities in the top 20 category of Times Ranking, I will focus my topic on these schools. As I can remember, most of the schools in the list are schools in the US, some from the UK, Asia and Australia. For this post, I will concentrate on students applying to schools in the US and UK. So at this point of the year, I assume most of you already applied for the schools that you intend to attend and at the same time in the list of approved universities.

Here are the alternatives for you right now:-

Alternative 1: Getting some form of financial aid or merit scholarship from the university you applied to. 


 If you applied to US schools, you might want to see if the deadline to submit a request for Financial Aid have passed or not. If my memories did not fail me, a majority of the universities in the US have financial aid deadlines in February or March. So, act fast! Research and gather the documents that you need to apply for financial aids. Of course, please bear in mind that there are need-blind and need-based schools in the US and make sure you understand if applying for financial aid will affect your chances of getting in to the school or not. As I remember, there are only a handful of schools that are need-blind (application of financial aid does not affect admission results) to international students. And they are Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Amherst and Dartmouth (pardon me if I missed out any). Hence, if you applied to any of these schools, definitely try to get your financial aid application IN by the deadline.


 If the school you applied to does not offer any form of financial aid for international students. You can still try your chances for merit scholarships from the universities you applied to. It is fairly easy obtain information about merit scholarships with a simple google search. For example, if you applied to UC Berkeley just search “uc berkeley merit scholarships” and add “international” to filter out scholarships for international students. From a quick search, I got this website as the first result From there you need to conduct your own research and see which scholarship fits your needs. This same action can be applied to UK, AUS or any universities in general. Just search for merit scholarships for international students from the university you applied to and I am sure you will find some options out there. Bear in mind, most of these merit scholarships often do not offer full coverage of tuition fees.

I actually wrote a post about this topic some time ago here. Check it out for a more detailed explanation.

I also recommend this website for universities that offer aid or generous scholarships for international students.  The information there is quite old (2010) but should be still applicable.

Alternative 2: Wait for your admission offer letter and apply for other corporate/government scholarships 

This alternative here is really a no-brainer and I am sure many of you already know about the many corporate scholarships out there. Organizations like Khazanah, Axiata, Astro, Maxis, Genting, BNM, Sime Darby and a whole lot more have been offering scholarships to universities overseas for some time now. These scholarships usually open anytime from March till August and often require you to have some kind of offer letter from a university. Since you do not have all your offer letters for now, what you can do now is to research the different scholarships to apply for and brush up your skills on interviews, presentations, Q&A, diplomacy and etc. Keep in mind that these scholarships have certain criteria (major, pre-u results, income, etc) that are specific for the scholarship. So, it is up to you to find out which one you are eligible for. If you do not know where to start, afterschool offers one of the more comprehensive and updated list out there In the near future, I will also compile a list of guides for specific scholarships such as Khazanah, Axiata, Astro, Maxis and etc. in their different stages of assessments and interviews.

I wrote one for Khazanah a while back if you want to catch a glimpse of how these interviews were run. The format of the assessments might have changed throughout the years but the guides will still give you an idea of what to expect. Message me if you need other scholarship guides.

Alternative 3: Petition for JPA to continue sponsoring bursary students. 

This step here is a 50-50 chance but it might still work depending how big and impactful the petition turn out to be. Considering JPA is low on budget, affected students can try to petition for JPA to continue the bursary program for top 10 universities in the list instead of top 20. That way, it might seem like a more conceivable for JPA. If any of you are up for this alternative challenge, feel free to message me. I have some experience in petitioning for JPA to reopen their program ivy league dan setara (or known as Program Universiti Terkemuka recently) back in 2012. We used systematic ways for the petition such as scheduled office visits, phone calls, media publication, writing to politicians and getting support from JPN and MOHE. Although there’s no guarantee that this might work but who’s to say that you can’t try right?

Alternative 4: Attend a low/free tuition fee university I actually know quite a few people who did this path way. 

 If you did some research, you will realize that a lot of the universities around Europe offer low or even free tuition fees to their students. The only caveat here is that the university’s courses might be taught in a foreign language (like French or German) and you need to gain a proficiency in those languages first before attending the university. Many of my friends who chose this pathway told me that their experience has been just as fulfilling and have no regrets whatsoever with their decision. 

........If you're willing to go further..........

Okay, here comes the unconventional alternatives. These alternatives ways are pretty much creative ways to raise funds. The reason I am listing down these alternatives is because I actually know or heard first-hand about people that actually succeeded to fund their education using these methods.

Alternative 5: Crowd funding 

 With the new world of the internet and social media, news can be spread faster than ever before. It definitely isn’t a farfetched idea to try to fund your education through crowd funding. There are a bunch of crowd funding platforms out there but they are mainly based in the US. The two crowdsourcing platform from Malaysian that I know of are and You can browse around and see if launching a crowdsourcing campaign is something for you.

You can also conduct some physical campaign to help yourself raise funds.
I once used a crowdsourcing platform to fund raise by cycling 40km in a onesie suit in order asking for donations to attend a competition in Taiwan. You can watch my video on YouTube here: (It’s embarrassing lol but hopefully it will provide some motivation.)

Alternative 6: Writing/cold emailing wealthy philanthropist 

 I kid you not that there are actually a lot of wealthy people that are willing to lend a helping hand to people in need. I have heard of stories about students that write personal letters to the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong (Genting boss) to ask for some aid in their education and succeeded. With the power of the internet today, it is fairly easy to email/contact another person. Who knows, your conditions might move the philanthropist which might lead to an agreement of education sponsorship in exchange for a bond in his or her company.

Alternative 7: Jump first, fix your parachute on the way down 

This method here is obviously not advisable and one should take this path at his or her own risk. This alternative is to basically wing it and just attend the university without actually “having” sufficient funds for the full cost of the university. I guess this pathway is to serve more as an inspiration and motivation to spark your own imagination. I know students who actually only have funds to attend one year of university abroad. Nonetheless, they decided to take the leap of faith and attend anyway. In between, they work multiple jobs, apply for scholarships, do co-ops, trade stocks and basically anything to fund their cost. Some even took up classes online and sneaked into classes from other universities to learn software programming and graphic design to do freelance jobs in between their studies. These students essentially arrived in a new environment and manage to learn and game the system.

That’s all that I can think of right now, I will add on to the list if there’s more that I can think of.  All of the alternative methods can be applied at any given time even if you decide to take a gap year.

Also, you are free to message me on Facebook under the name “Dylan Ler” about any questions that you might have regarding anything that I have mention in this blog post.

Last but not least, I created a Facebook group for everyone who wants to gather, discuss, and collaborate together to try out these alternatives. Whether you are a bursary program student or someone who has a dream to study overseas, feel free to join here:


“If you set goals and go after them with all the determination you can muster, your gifts will take you places that will amaze you.”—Les Brown

Sunday, March 23, 2014

2014 Overseas Scholarships for SPM 2013 Leavers

So, I compiled another list this year for the SPM 2013 leavers.  Hopefully people will find it more useful and convenient to use this list as a reference.  So, mark your calendars and don't miss the deadlines to apply for these scholarships!!  If you need any help or guidance for any scholarship, google it, go on recom(forum) or ask someone who has experience.  Or if or else fails, you can email me your questions ( or facebook me (Dylan Ler).

Overseas Scholarship

1.  Bank Negara Scholarship (Deadline 27th March 2014)
Read about it here (Click Pre-University)  and click here to apply.

2.  Petronas Sponsorship (Deadline 26th March 2014)  *offers both local and overseas scholarship
Read about it here and click here to apply.

3.  Yayasan TNB scholarship (Deadline 27th March 2014)
Read about it here, read the instructions and click here to apply.

4.  Mara Scholarship (Only to bumiputras) (Deadline 28th March 2014)
Read about it here and click here to apply.

5. ASEAN Scholarship (Deadline 28th March 2014)
Read about it here and apply online here.

6.  JPA scholarship (Program Khas Jepun, Perancis, Jerman dan Korea)  (Deadline 27th March 2014)
Read about it here and apply here.

7.  Maybank Scholarships (Deadline 31st March 2014) *offers both local and overseas scholarship
Read about it here and download the form here and mail it to them or apply online here.

8.  Sime Darby Scholarship
Sime Darby has two scholarships for SPM leavers this year.  One scholarship is where you will sent to do a pre-u course to prepare you for a university in China and the other one is a pre-u course where you will prepare to go to UK/US/Overseas universities

a.  Sime Darby Pre-U Scholarship(China) (Deadline 28th March 2014)
Read about it here and click here to apply.

b.  Sime Darby Pre-U Scholarship (Local for pre-u, extendible till undergraduate(overseas)(Deadline 28th March 2014)
Read about it here and click here to apply.

9.  Security Commission Scholarship (Deadline 3rd April 2014)
Read about it here and click here to apply.

10.  UEM Scholarship (Deadline 6th April 2014)
Read about it here and click here to apply.

11.  Felda Global Scholarship (Deadline 30th March 2014)
Read about it here and click here to apply.

12.  Khazanah Global Scholarship (Deadline 30th March 2014)
Official homepage
Read about it here and click here to apply.

13.  Astro Scholarship (Deadline 16th April 2014)
Read about it here and click here to apply.

14.  Bursary Pelajar Cemerlang SPM 2013 (Local extendible till undergraduate (overseas))
Read about it here.  Based on this policy.

15.  Japanese Government MEXT scholarship (Deadline 10th April 2014)
Read about it here.  General guidelines here. (You have to mail it in/ send it to the embassy in person)

Local Scholarship 

1.  Sin Chew Education Fund (Deadline 3rd April 2014)
List of participating universities/colleges and general guidelines here.   Apply online here.

2.  The Star Education Fund (Deadline 5th April 2014)
Read about it here.  Application form here (mail to them).
The Star Education Fund sponsors a variety of courses, make sure you can enrol (with SPM) to the course you are applying for.

3.  Respective private colleges' scholarship
Note:  These scholarship are mostly based on merit (your SPM results) and if offered at most private colleges.  For example: Taylors, KDU, TARC, INTI, KBU, SUNWAY, etc.

PS:  This list of scholarships is targeted to SPM 2013 leavers.  It is by no means a complete list of all the scholarships out there, it is just a compilation of the big ones out there to bring convenience to students.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Longkang Mee's Opinion on US College Application Essays

Recently, a few people have been asking me to proofread their essays for US college applications.  I just have a few things to say about the essay and would like to contribute some stuff to spark your inspiration =)  Of course, this is just my opinion.  I am in no way a professional essay writer nor am I a spy in the admission office or an expert psychologist who happens to know how the admission office thinks.

These tips and opinions are based on my own experience in writing the application essays and feedback I get from other people.  In short, it's just my own collective perspective about the US college essay application.  I hope that after reading this post, you will have the inspiration to write a piece that is one-of-a-kind and truly yours.

I will start my tips with a FAQ style format:-

1.  It's about you.

I feel that an essay should first and foremost describe you as an individual.  If you find yourself describing and explaining about another person (your family member, some professor you admire or some famous movie star) more than yourself, I suggest to take a step back and restructure your essay.  After all, colleges want to admit you and not someone else.  If a stranger can pick up your essay and after reading it, give a 5 minute introduction about you then you know you're good to go.

2.  Uniqueness.

How do you write a non-cliché essay?  After reading your own essay, your first impression should be like "is that really me? That's kinda embarrassing/weird/etc, but it is truly and undoubtedly me".  Don't assume that everyone out there in the world is the same as yourself.  Many people tend to regard their mundane daily routine as normal and feel reluctant to showcase themselves in their genuine form.  It is the things that seem normal to you that might turn out to be the most interesting.  For example, I may find that making bubbles in the bathroom to be normal.  Of course, I would later find out that the movement of the the colors on the surface of the bubble is somehow connected to the weather patterns of other planets.  My point is, try to write about your normal daily life and don't try too hard to portray what you want people to think of you.  There's far too many essays like that--sculptured with hand-picked words to meticulously describe yourself as if you are an object.  After all, the essay is to provide the "human" factor in the application, have fun with it and go with the flow.

3.  Honesty

Honesty is the best policy!  Sometimes, really amazing essays comes from telling a secret.  Something that you wouldn't even tell your best friend or parents.  Some thing like whenever you tell you parents you're going for a jog but actually you went bicycling in the back alleys of your neighborhood that your parents have explicitly told you not to.  And later on, you make friends with the beggars of the streets, the 20-sen-tissue-sellers, the aluminium-tin-can-collector and how those people shed a different perspective about life to you and ultimately taught you to appreciate the life you have.  Or how you actually unconsciously critique people's clothing choices and you secretly want to have your own clothing line because there's just too many people out there who don't know how to wear matching outfits.  Sometimes, plain brute honesty will bring out some of your most interesting traits.

4.  The classic "show, don't tell"

If you have a hard time following this, try to write an essay without using the adjectives you want to describe yourself.  Let's say you want to describe yourself as a hard working, determined and patient person.  Do this by not writing those words in your essay.  That way, you will somehow force yourself to show your characteristics through an incident.  For example, if you want to portray curiosity and innovation.  Don't say "I am curious and innovative because..."; instead, try to show it by writing an essay about drinking Chinese tea.  And when you stir the cup of tea, you observe that the the tea leaves swirl around the cup and will only stop in the center of the cup.  You then take this idea and observation to the next level and invent a water cleaner which uses the same concept.  Well, you get the picture.

With all this things combined, you will ultimately end up with an essay that is unlike any other on the planet.  Who else in this world blow bubbles when their bathing, invents a water cleaner, critiques people's fashion and personally know the alleys of their neighborhood inside out?  The answer is you, and only you can come out with an essay like that.

I hope this post will help all of you to write great college application essays.  Enjoy the application process, it's a time of self-reflection and a process to get to know yourself better.  Take your time, question yourself and most of all have fun!

Wishing all who are applying the best of luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.  And don't forget to proofread your essays!  Hit me up on facebook if you want to just chat or talk about the applications.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

US College Application Fit

It's that time again when everyone is busy finishing up their online applications to the many schools they are applying to.  One of the most common questions I observe people asking is, "how do I get into ___ college?" or "what are my chances of getting into ___ university".  One thing US colleges emphasizes is the "fit" of the student in their university.  What exactly is fit?  I don't really have a clear description of "fit" but here's what I imagined it to be like in my mind (don't take my word for it).

*In the admission office of ___ university*

Chief officer: "Ok, we are going to take 500 students for our class of 2018 this year.  Let's get going reading all these profiles."

And then the process goes on something like this:-

"First things first, better get those athletes on board, we need to gear up our rankings this year."
"Ok, take some musicians here and there."
"We need some diversity in here!!"
"International? put her in that pool."
"Build a nuclear reactor in his backyard?  But we already have 5 of them here.  Nah..."
"Look, this guy likes to dance in the shower, take him in!"
"Performed for president, meh....."
"Olympiad medallist right here, we'll take 3 of them, no more."
"Invented a cat-dryer machine?  take her in!"
"Stopping and staring and flowers beside the road? Cool, take him in."
"Want to take over the world?  Well, if he's our alumni, that'll be good. take him in."
"At the last spot goes to the girl who just said she wanted to enter our school just because she loves our mascot!"

Well, my point is, it's really hard to know if you fit a certain school or not and that some school might like you way more than another.  So, I just want to remind everyone to not be afraid of applying to a school that you really like even though you might think that you don't have a shot at it.  After all, there really is no harm in trying--you never know what to expect.  Don't be discourage by score statistics, admission percentage, collegeboard forum admission pages and etc.

Just be yourself, write an essay that is true to yourself and hope that you fall into your fit school like a jigsaw puzzle =)


Saturday, September 28, 2013

How to study in the USA without spending a fortune. (For Malaysian students)

It's been a while since I last updated my blog.  So here's some tips and advice I'd like to share with any aspiring Malaysians that would like to study in the USA but don't really have the financial capabilities to do so.

The first step to succeed is to have the will to study abroad.  If you really fight for it, take initiative to research and find out about all the different scholarships and financial aids then I have no doubt that sooner or later you will eventually attain one.

So let's move on to the details.  I won't be talking about any post-SPM scholarships since a lot of the post-SPM scholarships are determined mainly by your SPM results + what you do back then in secondary school (ECA's).  I will be discussing about the steps you can take after SPM and whether or not you did badly in secondary school would not affect your chances of obtaining scholarships.  This means that what you do after SPM is entirely up to you, but in general cases, most people will study a type of pre-u in the form of IB, A-level, STPM or etc.  

There are basically two common pathways for people to attend a US university/school/college with financial help:-

1.  Getting funding from private/government organizations from Malaysia to fund you in the USA.
2.  Getting financial aid from colleges/universities/schools in the USA itself.

I did number 1, 

For number 1, you have to first understand how these private/government organizations select their scholars.  Some stuff to keep in mind is that most companies have a specific list of universities that they are willing to sponsor students to. Although university rankings are certainly not a true measure of the quality of an institution, most of these scholarship providers unfortunately choose to use some kind of ranking either way.  In addition to that, you got to make sure that the major you're applying to fits the field that the scholarship provider is sponsoring.  

So, to follow these pathway, you need to:-

1.  Get into a university that is in the list of the scholarship provider.
2.  To do this, you need to do your own preparation. (Doing a pre-u and of course applying a university)
3.  Study a course that the scholarship provider is willing to sponsor.

Example of scholarship providers:- Khazanah, Petronas, Sime Darby, JPA, MybrainSc, Malaysian Airports, Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, Yayasan Terengganu/Sarawak, Maxis, Astro, Shell, Maybank, Bank Negara and etc. (Do your own research!)

For number 2, it is somewhat more flexible and you get a more variety of choice for the schools you want to attend.  It also upholds the whole concept of "fit" for US college admission (since you got to "fit" into a school for a school to really want you to attend thus giving you financial aid).  To follow this path, you got to do more research to find out which colleges are generous enough to give you financial aid.  Most of these data can be found on each college's respective website and if you're lazy, here's a rough guide.  It takes a whole lot more time to do number 2 since you got to start your whole understanding of US financial aid from scratch.  You will need to learn what's "need-blind", "need-aware" or "need-based".  You'll need to weigh in your chances of admission vs. the amount of financial aid you're receiving--stuffs like that.  However, most people that I've known that took this path ended up really happy with their schools in the end.  So yeah, it is a perfectly viable route for an affordable education in the US.

Of course, this is just a brief explanation.  If you really want to do it, better start early (because trust me, there's a lot of work to do).  Like I mention above, a lot of the application comes down to your own research and whether you want it badly enough to take the initiative to know about it and apply.  I'm just here to spark the idea in you and hope that more Malaysians will take the time to consider the vast opportunities out there.

I guess I'll end my blog post for now.  I will try to explain in further details about the two pathways if I have the time (and if there's a demand).  If you have any questions, feel free to message me at or add me on facebook with the name "Dylan Ler" (be sure to message me telling me who you are first!).

Oh yeah, there are a lot of other ways to attend schools in the US and this is by no means the only two ways.  I'm just here to share my experience and to talk about what I observe after my experience in applying. =)


Tuesday, August 6, 2013


This banner is awesome!
I just want to thank all the organizing committee for such a successful workshop this year!  I hope all the participants get what they need and are super pumped up to apply to the US.  By the way, if any of you out there need any assistance,  please find the respective facilitator's contact info through this page.  Also,  you guys can contact me too :)  Talk to me about scholarships, financial aid, essays and application process in general!

I wish those who are applying the very best,

And may you find your dream school!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Khazanah Stage 2- Breakdown

Stage 2 is a full day assessment
It consists of a presentation, individual interview, group interview(with some critical reasoning) and critical reasoning (read and answer).

For the presentation, for my year, the topic was "Should Facebook be banned in the workplace?" So your group will either support or go against the topic.

Reminder that while the presentation is done by the whole group, each person is assessed individually, so try to carry yourself confidently in order to stand out of the crowd. Do not be discouraged if someone suddenly comes in and steer the whole group as if he/she was the chosen one,  each person is assessed individually so don't worry about it.  If you have any opinions about the group, you can always voice it out during the group interview.  Of course, play nice and don't undermine/diminish your counterparts in the group.

Individual interview
The individual interview is a cliche scholarship interview, with questions directed to you to dig the most information out of you.

Questions range from: "tell me about yourself", "tell me about a failure and how you overcame it", "what is your proudest achievement", "what is your future vision should you work in khazanah" and other questions of similar fashion. You don't need to memorize a script but just select a few interesting points to talk about for the interview.

For more information about individual interviews, refer HERE on my posts about individual interviews.

Group interview
For the group interview, during my year, the panelist hands us a list of cards with two situations on each sides--in the front and back. Each person is suppose to pick a side and reason out why he or she chose it. Some questions are directed towards you about your group mates too; for example: "what do you think about XXX as a person?", "if there is a person you would like to eliminate, who should it be?", "which person is the strongest is the group" and "do you think XXX poses a threat to your advancement to the next stage?" Overall advice: play nice, get to know your group members beforehand and play each other's strengths out. Talk with confidence, play humble, highlight your strengths and don't bad mouth others in the group. 

Critical reasoning (writing based)
The last assessment was a critical reading (writing based) assessment. For my session, khazanah gave us a set of questions which was part of a survey. We were not asked to answered the survey but rather we were asked questions like: "is the survey effective or not?", "if a person answered (so and so) to question X, what is your opinion about him/her?" The questions are formulated to make you think.  Is also encourages you to speak about your personal stance/opinion about something.

So there you have it, a brief explanation of stage 2. I wish you all the best and good luck for your future endeavors.