Monday, August 22, 2016

Scholarships and universities - letting God lead

This post is a testimony on Lesley-Anne's scholarship journey. Some of you may recall that I blogged about how Lesley-Anne would only go overseas for her university education if she could secure a scholarship.

While most students think of the scholarship bond as a burden, Lesley-Anne holds a different view. Since she's looking to study Liberal Arts or Literature (which don't necessarily have the best job prospects), she sees the bond as an advantage because it would guarantee a job upon graduation. I guess she's unusual that way.

So when exploring scholarships, she applied only to organisations where she was interested in carving out a career. One particular organisation stood out as her first choice. Funnily enough, it has nothing to do with the arts. What she found out about their role and work intrigued her. She was invited to go for the first round assessment centre and the process was rigorous. Lasting a full day, she had to analyse real industry papers, present recommendations, participate in a debate and do a written test. While it was exhausting, she found the content fascinating. That reinforced her belief that it would be interesting to work for this organisation.

From our past experiences, we have learnt not to just pray for something as what we want may not actually be good for us. So we asked God to grant her this scholarship and create a place for her ONLY if this organisation was right for her.

Lesley-Anne must have done well in the assessment centre because she received a call-back the very next day to attend the first round interview. Yay!
We were hopeful but the interview didn't turn out the way she wanted. She came back all moody and said "I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT." Later, the kaypoh in me managed to pry a little out of her. She said the HR director, who was the main interviewer, started off cheery but as the interview progressed, he didn't seem to like some of her answers and started looking bored. At one point, he even slumped in his seat.

She was deeply discouraged but I reminded her of what we prayed - if it's right, God will make it happen. If it's not, then it's actually a blessing in disguise not to get it because it wasn't right for you.
To be perfectly honest though, we all kinda thought it was a lost cause. She was shortlisted for interviews/assessments with other organisations, so she began preparing for those.

It was also around this time that Lesley-Anne had to consider which university she wanted to go to. She had received 4 offers from UK universities to study Literature, including UCL and University of Edinburgh. Apart from those, she also had an offer from Yale-NUS, the only local university she had applied to. If she didn't manage to secure a scholarship, the choice would be clear because we had told her we would only be able to fund a local tertiary education. However, if she did manage to get a scholarship, she would have to indicate her preference.

One attribute about Lesley-Anne is that she's terribly indecisive. If we left her to decide where to have dinner, we'd probably starve. On one hand, she knew that going overseas would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. On the other hand, she was very attracted to the Liberal Arts programme in Yale-NUS, with its broad-based curriculum, international student mix and incredible opportunities for overseas exchanges.
There she was, swinging like a pendulum from one to another, unable to decide. In the end, she added a request to God - if she were to land a scholarship, let the organisation tell her where to go. I could just imagine God smacking His forehead and going, "Aiyoh, this girl! Everything oso must specify until liddat." (Yes, in my imagination, God speaks Singlish).

Then out of the blue, the first organisation called her back. She had been shortlisted for a final interview with the top brass! It was an unexpected and fantastic surprise. I don't think the interview panel knew what to make of Lesley-Anne. She's just so different from their usual candidates, most of whom chose to study fields relevant to the industry, like engineering, law or economics. Here instead was this girl who had written books, enjoyed dance and applied to study Literature and Liberal Arts. She was an outlier if ever there was one.

But clearly, they must have seen something in her because in the end, after a long excruciating wait, they offered her the scholarship! We later found out that the organisation only gave out 7 scholarships out of 1,500 applicants this year. (I'm glad we didn't know the odds beforehand as she might have just given up due to the sheer improbability!) What was even more amazing: hers was the ONLY award where the organisation specified the university - they wanted her to attend Yale-NUS.

God answered every request she had made. Tell me that's not divine intervention. Everything happened with such uncanny leading that we could scarcely believe it.

A little more related information: after she was offered the scholarship, she was shortlisted for a final interview with the CEO and Chairman of another organisation. My gut tells me she would probably be successful in that application as well, as the people there like her and it's an arts-related organisation. Plus that scholarship would probably allow her to go overseas.

Some people may think, oh why not try for it then? But Lesley-Anne turned down that final interview with our blessings because she knew what the right path was. Isn't it great when God has shown the way so clearly, that you know that's the one to take? There's no better feeling.

So long story short, Lesley-Anne did get her scholarship but the irony is that she won't be going overseas after all. Sometimes, God is funny that way. And it's all good.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Lesley-Anne!
Oh Yale-NUS is a stay-in 4-year programme ...exciting times ahead =)


monlim said...

Thanks, Grace! Yes, exciting indeed. Boarding makes all the difference - the bulk of my uni memories are made up of hostel living and friends :)

Yin said...

Congrats to Lesley-Anne! How wonderfully God has led! By the way Ryan is in NUS too :) God is good and I rejoice to hear how He is working in our children's lives.

monlim said...

Yin: Hey, great to hear! What course is he doing? Yes, it's truly wonderful to see God's hand at work in their lives :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Monica,

Congratulations to Lesley-Anne! :) Hope she has a great experience at university.

Could you share a bit about the application process to Yale-NUS? Was it difficult to get in? How were the interviews like?

Thank you very much!

- Rachel

monlim said...

Rachel: Yale-NUS lists quite comprehensively their admissions process on their website, you might wanna check it out. The interview is very informal, they basically just want to know you and how you can play an active role in the YNC community.

As for difficulty, well, since their enrolment is very small, the number of applications does exceed their intake many times over. But if it's any consolation, the rate of admission for locals is higher than that for international students.

Hope that helps!

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