A few things you can do to stand out from the crowd
There are hundreds of scholarships handed out by foreign governments and various organisations within the Kingdom to high school graduates and aspiring young professionals every year, and each one has its own prerequisites and guidelines that you must follow. We talked with the people in charge of these programmes and past recipients to give you some guidance in how you can stand out amongst your peers.
Keo Sakal, chief of the scholarship office in the Ministry of Education, said that universities in approximately 17 countries gave more than 400 scholarships to Cambodian students last year.
“All of the countries providing scholarships require students to have a high score in TOEFL or IELTS exams and good math skills. Students should keep in touch with the Cultural Relations and Scholarship Departments so that they can get information specific to the scholarships which they are aiming for,” he said.
Bee Sothea, 22, who won a scholarship to study in Japan, says that there are three screening processes, including two written tests, covering mathematics, Japanese and English, as well as an interview. Forty students are selected for the second written test and 10 for the interviews.
“It was extremely hard. The exam might look easy; however, once you start trying to solve the problems, you see that they are tricky and complicated,” said Bee Sothea. “I guess if you are a genius in mathematics it would be no big deal.
“If you want to apply for scholarships in the future you should decide which one and then begin to study whatever you can to put yourself in a position to get it,” he explained, adding that you should keep an eye out for new scholarship openings in newspapers and online.
Bun Sambath, alumni coordinator of public affairs at the US embassy, described the demands placed on students who are accepted into America’s seven study abroad programmes.
“First, students have to fill out the application form and send the required supporting documents to be placed on the shortlist (usually an online application). After being shortlisted, they will be invited for an interview. Lastly, after the selection by the US embassy in Phnom Penh, their application will be screened by the Education and Culture Affairs Office at the US State Department. Criteria for scholarships are dependent on the programme, but generally, they require a good transcript, community work or volunteer experience and a TOEFL score between 500 and 570,” Bun Sambath added.
According to Lachlan Pontifex, AusAID counsellor for the Australian embassy, “The embassy of Australia has two scholarship programmes: the Australian Leadership Awards (ALA) for 10 students and Australian Development Scholarships for 40 students for postgraduate study in 2010”.
“To be competitive, the most important eligibility criteria we require are academic achievements, English language capability with high score of IELTS. We need students to be very confident in the application and also to demonstrate their academic achievements when they are interviewed,” he said.
“The capacity of English language, a good transcript from university, along with practical and volunteering experience are the main requirements from scholarship providers and are things that allowed me to win a SUSI scholarship in 2008, ” said. Chhay Chansopheaktra, a 21-year-old law student of the Royal University of Law and Economics. “Writing a good personal statement concerning community contribution, impression of the programme and commitment to helping society are also crucial to winning a scholarship,” she said.