Bank Negara scholarship is one of the most sought after scholarships for post-SPM leavers. First of all, let me give a little bit of info on this scholarship.
There are two types of scholarships offered by Bank Negara, which is Kijang and Kijang Emas. Kijang is open to be applied by those who scored minimum of 8A in SPM (no A- allowed). The courses offered are business related and bank-related such as Economy, Accounting, Computer Science, Law and etc. You will be bonded to work at Bank Negara for twice the number of years you are sponsored after you graduated. For example, if you studied for 5 years, you will be bonded for 10 years. Kijang Emas is open to be applied by those who scored 9A+ and above in SPM only. For this scholarship, you are allowed to choose any course and any country of your preference, and you will not be bonded to Bank Negara, instead you just have to return to the country and work for anywhere you like. This is an extremely difficult scholarship to obtain, as only 3-5 students are chosen each year, after a lot of contemplation. Both scholarship will sponsor you overseas.
Bank Negara scholarship is one of the earliest ones to be open for application. Usually, they would only open for one week after the results of SPM are announced. For 2016, since the results are out on 3rd March, the application is only open until 9th of March. Therefore, you have to prepare the documents needed before you get your results. Starting this year, you have to write a 250 word essay on “why you deserve this scholarship”. The essay is timed, which means they will see how long you took to write the essay. Therefore, do not be too obvious if you wrote the essay on Microsoft Word and pasted it on the space provided. (although it is recommended to do so to avoid losing your essay if the connection is lost etc). The time taken is advised to be between 20-40 minutes. Do not take too long as this could show that you procrastinate a lot. In the essay, write honestly and in simple sentences on why you want the scholarship and why you would be a perfect candidate for this scholarship. Don’t just highlight your achievements, but do show the good points in your personality and attitude to increase your appeal.
You will also have to state your achievements at school so make a list of the things you participated in. International and national level participation and achievement will give you a higher chance of being shortlisted.
A few days after the deadline, I received a call from Bank Negara. Do keep your phones close by all the time as they could call at unexpected times (even after office hours). I received the call around 7pm and I was getting ready to shower, so I was caught off guard when they called. Basically during the call they asked about the course you wanted to do, and what university you have in mind to pursue your studies. There was also some tricky questions where they give a situation and you have to tell them what would you do in such situations. Finally, they asked “In 3 words, describe why you deserve this scholarship”. I was a bit stuck on that question, but the staff who called was really nice and supportive throughout the phone call.
A few days later, I received an email inviting me to go to Kijang Academy which is a 3 days and 2 nights evaluation program at Lanai Kijang and Sasana Kijang, Kuala Lumpur. Lanai Kijang is a very beautiful accommodation owned by Bank Negara. It was really like a 5 star hotel, even the buffet was delicious. You will share a room with another candidate. It is important to be friends with your roommate as she/he will be the one to help you to wake up in the morning if you’re a heavy sleeper like me 😛 Thankfully I got a really awesome roommate and that helped to soothe my nerves even if it was my first interview.
True to its name, Kijang Academy, this is not only an evaluation camp, you will also be able to learn a whole lot of things for your future interviews as well. For the first night, we were put into groups which consists of 7/8 person per groups. There are around 30 groups for Kijang and only 3 groups for Kijang Emas. (I was in the Kijang Emas category). There is an ice breaking session and we have to create a group name and group cheer. You should really take the opportunity to open up and be comfortable with your group members as it will really help you to stand out more during the evaluation sessions the next day.
For the second day, it was definitely the most tiring day. 4 sessions were held in your respective groups.
The first session is the most challenging session. It is a case study. The case we were given was about Pak Ahmad’s book stores which are facing financial problems and competition from big retail companies. We were given a few sheets of paper with information on Pak Ahmad’s company and some graphs to show the profit projected for a few months. We were given a few minutes to discuss in our group and we have to divide to several sections, such as the accounting section and resources section to present our strategy to save Pak Ahmad’s book stores from facing bankruptcy. It was quite challenging since not many of us took economies and understood economical terms, however it is made easier when we worked in groups and everyone contributed their opinions and knowledge on certain things. Keep in mind that during the discussion, you will be observed and evaluated to see your participation and teamwork. After the discussion, we had to present our strategy according to the sectors.There was 3 panels for each group, they provoked our plans a lot and challenged our strategy, but it would be up to yourselves to defend your idea. Do not worry too much because in the end all they want to see is your contribution and enthusiasm in the team according to your capabilities. At the end of each session, they gave constructive comments for us to improve ourselves for the next sessions. For the first session, our problem was time management, so make sure to assign someone to be the timekeeper in your group to avoid bad time management. If you volunteered to be the timekeeper, it would be a plus point for you.
For the second session, we were required to be the organizers for a graduation carnival. again, we were split to different sections. We were given a certain budget and a price list for canopies and etc. Then, we have to create a theme for the carnival and make the floor plan for the carnival on a mahjong paper. We also had to present the budget for the carnival and how much we would spend on certain facilities such as the surau, the main stage and etc. Then,again, we were scrutinized and asked a lot of things regarding our carnival such as, “what would you do if it rains?” and things such as risk management for our carnival. Again, it is okay if you barely have any knowledge in accounting and economics but most importantly you give your all and contribute based on your own abilities. Also try to stand out more during the sessions by answering their questions and giving your opinions. At the end of the session, we were asked about what we learned during the first two sessions. For the second session, we could easily see that we improved a lot compared to the first session.
After lunch break, we had the third session. By suprise, we were shuffled into different groups just as we were about to be comfortable in our own groups. All the 3 Kijang Emas groups were gathered together and we were shuffled to groups based on our ambitions. So there were three groups medicine, engineering and miscellaneous. Unfortunately, I was put in the miscellaneous group where all of us had ambitions very different from each other! We were asked to promote our future jobs to the panels. There were about 9 of them in the room. So in our new groups, we planned our own ways to present it. For medicine group, they presented their course by talking about the different misconceptions people have about medic course and counter it with facts and their opinions. For engineering, they made a short skit about the different types of engineers such as electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer engineering, bioengineering and aeronautical engineering. For my group, the miscellaneous group it was quite challenging to relate our careers to each other. There was law, actuarial science, medicine, and me, veterinary science. In the end we chose law and showed how our different careers still need law for each of them. Some examples are how insurance companies need lawyers and for me, I presented on how animal abuse are happening and lawyers are the ones who would be able to change it. I think, the most important part of this session is to make an impact to the panel so you would stand out from all the high achieving students in the same room as you.
The fourth session was the most fun. We were given a box of cards and two pairs of scissors and we were required to make a tower for a rocket to land on. It has to surpass a certain length, be connected to another tower and able to withstand vibrations. My group failed miserable in this mission haha. Once you have finished constructing, other groups will come and bang the table to make your tower fall thus proving, it could not withstand vibrations. What is important in this activity is, do not show that you have given up on your group or bicker with your groupmates even if it already obvious that the tower would not be able to stand. In the end it is all about teamwork and the role you play in your team.
The night of the second day, they will immediately announce the shortlisted candidates for the interview session. For Kijang Emas, only 9 people were shortlisted and alhamdulillah, I was one of them. There were also some Kijang Emas candidates who are switched to Kijang based on their courses so don’t be disappointed if you are switched as you are given a second chance.
For the final session, which took place on the next morning, again we were taken to Sasana Kijang. We were given mahjong papers and 3 topics to choose from. The topic I chose was “Attitude vs Aptitude; which is more important in university?”. We were given time to prepare for about 30 minutes I think. Then we were taken to the place to be interviewed. The interview is a 3 to 1 interview. There were 3 panels that interviewed us each. Firstly, we were required to present the topic we chose with our mahjong paper and then we were asked to sit down for our interview. The panel was extremely nice and encouraging. They asked me a lot about my future plans and my vision for Malaysia in the future. They also asked me patriotism related questions such as “why do you love Malaysia and etc”. I think it took about 1 hour for each person. My tips for this last round is to fully understand yourself before you come to the camp. Fully research about the course you want to take, and where and why you choose that university. Do not talk about your achievements for the whole interview as they would already know that based on your application. The panel would prefer people who cite examples from their previous experiences in school or outside school and how you overcame a problem or your opinions on certain things. Be confident, and take your time to answer their questions so you can give a genuine and intelligent answer. In the end of the interview, you are able to ask a question to them. Be sure to be genuinely curious about your question so you can use the answer they gave to improve yourself later on in life.
All in all, the Kijang Academy was definitely one of the best interviews I have ever went to compared to all the other interviews. The panel and staff there were also Bank Negara scholars before they returned to fulfill their bond, thus they were very understanding and considerate. Some of them might appear scary and provoking, but it was all a test to see how well you can face stress in the future, as well as being a good staff for Bank Negara in the future. I definitely learnt a lot and met amazing people there, it was an amazing experience and if you were able to go to Kijang Academy, make full use of it to improve yourself in the future.
Even though I was not chosen to receive Kijang Emas, I am already very grateful for the opportunity to go to the camp and be at the final 9. All in all just enjoy yourself!