Being offered a scholarship often comes across to most tertiary graduates as a proud achievement. And more often than not, these scholarships are readily accepted by students.
However, the decision to take up the scholarship is done at a tender age (usually 18), where many students are still figuring out what they want to do in life. Yes, even adults in their late-20s, 30s or even 40s may not have figured out what they want to do. Which is precisely why we question if students should have the first few years of their working lives set in stone.
Granted, scholarships provide students with financial aid, awarding amounts that are difficult to turn down. Many of these scholarships also require you to serve a bond. Are the benefits of the scholarship worth those prime years of your life? Do you know what you are signing up for?
Here are 4 things you need to seriously consider before taking up a scholarship.
#1 Actual Cost of the Package
How much are you awarded? Scholarships typically provide for these main things:
(1) Tuition Fees
(2) On-campus accommodation subsidy
(3) Monthly allowance
(4) Book/computer allowance
Taking up the scholarship will help reduce your financial burden. It means that you do not have to depend on your parents or other sources of income for your education fees. Over the course of your university education, this could amount to a significant sum that can be used elsewhere.
Does this scholarship apply to an overseas education? If it does not, are you then closing the doors to an opportunity to study abroad? A scholarship should not entirely dictate your decision in choosing your university and academic course.
#2 Do You Really Want That Job?
Scholarships often require you to serve a bond. These bonds can range from a year to even 12 years. It will assure you of a job and shape your career path (at least for the start) when you graduate. However, a bond is not a pinky promise. A bond is a contractual obligation written in black and white that requires you to work for a particular company for a specified period of time. Whether you like it or not. And yes, you can forget about keeping that resignation letter in your wallet like what so many of us working people are doing.
Do you see yourself in that industry in the future? Are you sure that is where your interest lies? Is that what you want to be doing?
A common issue raised regarding scholarships is the breaking of bond. Some graduates choose to break their bonds due to reasons such as a change in interest and perspective or a passion extinguished. Breaking the bond is possible, but it comes at a (very) heavy price. We are talking about paying damages of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization that supported you through your university education.
Monetary issues aside, breaking the bond does not leave a good impression of yourself towards employers. Can they count on you to commit to their company then?
#3 Sacrificing Your Fresh-Grad Years
Time lost cannot be recovered. Ever.
As a fresh graduate, your opportunities are aplenty. You’re free to pick an industry that interests you and do what you’re passionate about. Are you willing to give up those fresh-grad, prime years of your life?
Let us put this into context. A Singaporean male, is likely to be around 25 years old upon graduation. By fulfilling a 5-year bond, he would be 30 years old at the end of the period. At 30, it becomes more difficult to switch industries, job roles and environments as easily. That’s the hard truth that we need to accept.
When you switch to a different field, you risk lowering your market value. At 30, your experience in a different industry is not much more than a fresh graduate. A fresh graduate has the advantage of being a better investment to the company. It is a well-known fact that fresh-grads are cheaper to hire, with greater room to grow and contribute to the company as they gain experience. With proper grooming, fresh-grads are a good, long-term investment to the company.
#4 Extra Benefits
It is important to find out more about the extra benefits and clauses included in the scholarship.
For example, internship opportunities are offered by SPRING under their Executive Development Scholarship (EDS). The Housing Development Board (HDB) Scholarship has an attachment programme that places their scholars under a structured internship during their school vacations.
These extra benefits expose the scholars to first-hand experience into the organization’s operations, also providing them with the opportunity to network and gain knowledge in the industry.
We are not saying that taking up a scholarship is not a wise decision. Being offered a scholarship shows the potential organizations see in you and also helps to reduce your financial burden. However, a scholarship is not free for no reason. It comes with commitment on your part. We hope that you have factored in some of these considerations before reaching your own conclusion.
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