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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Applying Skim Biasiswa MyBrainSc Scholarships: Complete Guide & Exclusive Tips

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Skim Biasiswa MyBrainSc Scholarships KPM
Skim Biasiswa MyBrainSc Scholarships

MyBrainSc Scholarship Info Sheet

This post will provide you all the essential information you need to know about the MyBrainSc Scholarship given by the Ministry of Education, Malaysia.

Skim Biasiswa MyBrainSc Scholarship was established by the government in 2012 to encourage Malaysians to become world renown scientists, and hopefully one day producing a few Nobel Laureates too. This scholarship sponsors approximately 200 students every year: 150 students in Malaysia, and 50 students abroad.

Closing Date
29 February 2016

Who can apply?
This scholarship is open to all Malaysian citizens who are prepared to pursue an undergraduate / master's / PhD course in purse sciences only (physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics). Applied science (e.g. statistics) or engineering (chemical engineering) courses will not be considered. There are certain age limits to apply (view website), but you don’t need to worry about it if you are are a fresh graduate from your previous institution (e.g. just graduated from high school, bachelor’s degree etc).

How much does this scholarship cover?
The amount depends on where and which stage of studies you are in, but here are the items covered in this scholarship:
  1. Tuition fees (paid directly by government)
  2. Living allowance
  3. Accommodation fees (undergraduates only, graduates have theirs included in the living allowance. Local students will have it included in the tuition fees I think)
  4. Book allowances (every year)
  5. Stationary allowances (every year)
  6. Computer allowances and paper presentation (one time, for local universities only)
  7. Practical work allowance (90 days max if required)
  8. Thesis allowance (at the end of the course)
  9. International conference allowance (post grad most likely)
If you applied to study overseas, these are a few extra allowances you can get:
  1. Placement allowance (for you to 'settle down')
  2. Ending allowance (for you to pack up and come back I guess)
  3. WInter clothing allowance (don't want you to freeze to death in the middle of winter)
  4. Visa & passport claims
  5. Flight tickets (1 to go and another 1 to get back)
Local scholars get RM900 per month, and UK scholars get about £440-£495 a month. I'm a PhD scholar in London, si I get £1557 per month. I have to say that this scholarship pays us very very well: I get higher allowance than what my fellow British PhD friends get from their government!

When to apply?
The application period is opened every year between December and March. Results will be out usually in June or July, should be just in time for you if you need to apply for a visa if you’re heading to the UK.

Choice of universities
Your choice of university makes a difference in the application outcome. The best way to know whether your university of interest is acceptable or not is to check whether it appears in any of the lists on the website. Anyway to summarize, your application will be considered only if you're applying to any of the following:

(1) One of the 20 local government universities (IPTA) or 24 local private universities (IPTS)
(2) One of the top 85 universities in the US
(3) One of the top 100 universities in the world according to QS Subject Rankings, provided that they are from the following countries: UK, USA, Australia and Canada.

The ministry follows this list quite strictly (i.e. no Singapore or Germany), and the list changes as the world ranking changes (take note)! Please also note that you do not need to have a university offer letter ready at the point of application. Another interesting note is that this scholarship sponsors undergraduate but not postgraduate studies in Canada. Strange.

All scholars will be required to return to Malaysia to serve a 5-year bond if they complete their courses within the expected number of years stated in the scholarship offer letter (usually 3 for BSc and PhD, 1 for MSc). However, if scholars complete their courses more than 6 months beyond the expected time, the bond will be lengthened to 7 years.

I may be wrong, but from what I understand, scholars may apply for the job of their choice themselves to work in any local education institution permitted by the government. Therefore, if you intend to work overseas / in private sectors, then this is not the scholarship for you. You could break the bond if you want to, but you have to pay back whatever the government has paid you for.

How to apply?
All applications are done through the online portal, first time users need to register for an account. Just like any other application forms, you need to provide details of you, your family and etc. But here are two extra things to note:
  1. If you are applying for a master’s / PhD course, you need to list down a project title. If you’re applying to the UK, this information can usually be found from the website of the university that you’re applying to.
  2. You need to submit soft copies (PDF format) of your passport photo, IC, SPM certificate, university transcript & research proposal (for postgraduate applicants) and your university offer letter (if present). Usually at this point of time you might not have obtained an offer letter yet, but do not worry, as the presence of an offer letter does not affect your chance of getting the scholarship.
Once your application is done and submitted, you should print a copy of the form and keep it, as this document will be requested during the interview (if selected). The form is made in such a way that you can edit it multiple times even after the deadline, so do not worry about it.

Next Step: UKM2 Test
[edit: I was told that this test had been replaced by a JPA psychology test from 2015 onwards. This section may not be very helpful anymore, but I'll just leave it here for your reference.]
If you passed the first round of selections, you will be e-mailed and invited to take the UKM2 test, probably in April. This is a computerized test which tests your speed in answering many IQ questions within 2.5 hours. A test venue will be arranged (usually in a secondary school computer lab near your place of residence), and you can only have the chance to take it once.

If want to know what kind of questions come out in the test, you can check out Farhan Layali II's blog, I guess he literally remembered everything... Anyway, sample test questions that I can remember are:
  1. Arranging numbers. Numbers will flash one by one, then disappear, and you’re supposed to type them out in ascending / descending order.
  2. Jigsaw puzzle. There will be puzzle pieces where you should arrange as the picture shown on the screen.
  3. Match pictures. They will ask you to select two out of four pictures that are related to one another.
  4. Written test. They will ask questions like “what’s the distance from the earth to the moon”, “why shouldn’t we kill people” or etc.
The test can be taken in English or in Malay. The test is not hard, but don’t make unnecessary mistakes! It is usually not hard to pass, but still, you don’t want to lose a chance, do you? Just remember to do as fast as you can, as time can run out very quickly.

The results should be out in May, and you will be notified in e-mail if you passed the test.

Final Selection: Interview
The interview will be held roughly at the end of May. Selected students will be interviewed in a venue based on the state they live in, with the exception of interviewees staying in KL, Putrajaya, Negeri Sembilan and Selangor, where they will be interviewed in Putrajaya collectively.

Some statistics from 2014: I’m not sure about other states, but there were approximately 52 students selected for the interview in Johor, and the venue was at UTM. When I was there, there were only 1 PhD and 1 master’s student being interviewed, the rest of them were interviewed for undergraduate courses. Students at the Putrajaya venue are interviewed in the Ministry of Education building itself.

The things you need to bring:
  1. Original copies of documents that you submitted in PDF
  2. Two certified copies of the documents above
  3. The online form that you printed
  4. Award certificates that you think might impress the interviewers. It’s best if they were presented in a clear file folder, makes it look more professional.
Generally those who applied for undergraduate studies will be interviewed in pairs, while the postgrads interviewed alone. I had two interviewers, a Malay lady and a Malay man, both are lecturers from local universities. The interview is conducted in English, but there will be sections where they want to test your Malay language as well. A few questions they asked me were:
  1. Do you know why you are here today?
  2. Tell me why are you interested in this field / the significance of this research project?
  3. Why would you take this scholarship and come back to Malaysia to work when you could earn more money overseas?
  4. What will you do when you return from your course?
  5. Tell me something about your school environment in your previous institution?
  6. List down a few recent events that happened in Malaysia, and what are your opinions on [a particular recent event in Malaysia]?
You can scroll all the way to the end of this post to see stories of what other people say about the interview. Tips from me: you have to know why did you apply for this scholarship, what is this scholarship for, and what are your future plans with this. You must remember that this is a scholarship from the government, so you should put in mind that everything you do with this scholarships should have some sense of ‘gratefulness’ towards the government. Be motivated, and be strong willed. Be careful not to make racist remarks.

The results will be out in end of July, you should be notified by an SMS / e-mail asking you to log in to the portal to check your results. If you have succeeded, congratulations! You’ll see a conditional offer on the portal, but there are still a few steps left. At this point you should send a softcopy of your university’s unconditional offer letter to the officer in charge (probably still En Mohd Afizal bin Mehat) in order for him to send you / update in the portal your unconditional scholarship offer. Your scholarship offer letter should contain your name, your IC number, the course you’re taking, the university you’re admitted to and how long your course will be.

I hope you know the difference between conditional and unconditional university offer letters. The conditional one usually says that you’re offered a place “in condition” of stuff like grades greater than a certain value, English test taken and etc. You need an unconditional offer letter to prove to the government that you are indeed accepted as a student in that particular university.

If at this point you still do not have a valid unconditional offer letter from your university, do not panic. The scholarship offer lasts for almost a year, which means, that you could still submit your unconditional offer letter to the Ministry even in January next year. But the rule of thumb is: submit your documents as soon as you can! Remember that there’s still a bunch of documentations that you need to submit.

Random statistics: in year 2014, 112 students selected have their offer letters ready by August. There was meant to be a Majlis Penyerahan Surat Tawaran Biasiswa MyBrainSc KPM 2014, but it was delayed and cancelled and no reason was given.

This section onwards are information for successful applicants.

Documents to be Sent
Once you've gotten the official offer letter from the Ministry of Education, it's time to send them tonnes of documents. You need to go to this website, download the relevant documents (depending on whether you're studying locally or abroad), fill them up and send them to the address given in the instruction sheet. Here's a rough guideline of what you need to provide to the ministry:
  • Acceptance Form (Borang A). This is just a written confirmation that you decided to accept the scholarship. Usually expected to be sent in within 14 days of your offer letter, but no worries, you can always let them know that you need some extra time to get them done.
  • Guarantor forms. You need two persons to fill this up to guarantee that you won't run away with the government's money. One should be your parent, the other has to be some family friend who is less than 45 years old. You need their details, a copy of their ICs, then they need to sign this form and the agreement form with you in front of a commissioner of oaths (or some government ranked servants listed in the manual). This can be a little tricky due to the age requirement. Usually a pastor from church can help, provided he's not too old...
  • Health declaration form. This can take up quite some time, as you need to go to government hospitals to register and get yourself checked. You might want to tell them that you're not a JPA scholar though, and that you DO NOT need a teeth checkup. You need to follow the schedules of the hospital to do your urine test, hepatitis test, eye checkup and pregnancy test. If you're going to the UK, you need to take the TB test too. Get it done as soon as possible! Sometimes your booking may need to be delayed etc, you don't want to miss your flight / orientation times...
  • The agreement. This is probably the most important document, don't screw this up. You need to print out 4 copies of this form, buy 4 setem hasil (1 for each form) from Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri counters, stick them on the form, read the terms carefully (please do read them!), and get this form signed in front of and by a commissioner of oaths. Be careful of what kind of stamp you get though, ask for advice, cause I heard there are different colours and you don't want to get the wrong one.
  • Bank details. For a start, you need a Bank Islam account, so that they can send the first round of cash to you. Usually it would be your first 3 month's allowance, placement, clothes / computer / visa / passport allowances. If you're going abroad, you need to send in your bank details form of the bank account that you had opened in that country. The sad thing about most countries unlike Malaysia, they don't have bank books, so you need to print an e-statement to replace the copy of first page of bank book requested. Send in bank details as soon as possible, so that you'll get your money soon too. By the way, knowing that you're sponsored by the government, don't expect the money to come in on time, and neither expect to get a proper notification / breakdown of how much money was sent into your bank account either.
  • A copy of your IC, and passport photo. The two most wanted things by the government from you, although they have it somewhere in their database... stuck_out_tongue
These additional forms are for those going abroad:
  1. Flight date confirmation. You have a choice of dates you want to arrive at the country of interest, but you have no choice of airline and route. The ministry will take note of the date and time you would like to arrive, and they will plan and pay for your flight. They will then send you the booked e-ticket for you, and you're all ready to go!
  2. Winter clothing allowance. Just fill it up to get the allowance. No one buys winter clothing in Malaysia though, they are overpriced, and they are outdated in terms of design (the bubble thing). But get a good jacket before you get to the cold country, it's autumn and it is relatively cold compared to what you have experienced in the past 20 years of your life...
  3. Visa and Passport claims. Man these visa processing fees are expensive, you definitely need these! If you already have a passport at present, oh wells, you can't claim for your passport then. Remember that visa takes a few months to process, so it should be done as early as possible! Take UK for example, you may need to sign an ATAS form (to certify that you're not coming to UK to create nuclear bombs) which takes a month to process, take a TB test, and the visa application itself takes a week or so. There's no proper receipt for the UK visa though, so do keep a copy of the load screen / e-mail which confirms your payment.
There is a checklist provided in the downloaded files, you should take a good look at it before sending anything. smile There's probably one more thing in the checklist that I did not mention, and that would be, the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) Certificate.

BTN Camp (5D4N)
Who would have expected that the prerequisite of getting a scholarship to study abroad requires an attendance to a camp? And also, why wasn't it mentioned on the website at all? So apparently every scholar sent abroad are required to attend a patriotism camp to ensure that you'll come back to serve the country (for obvious reasons). They'll feed you with Malaysian food, 1Malaysia mineral water (I'm not joking), and knowledge on the Malaysian Constitution and 1Malaysia. From what I understand, every state has its own campsite, and undergraduate scholars will be sent to their respective campsites. As I am a graduate scholar, we attend one organized at the Akademi Negara (Jalan Bellamy in KL, trust me not many taxi drivers know of the existence of this place), an event held monthly. It is only after going to this camp that you'll realize the number of scholars our country is sending overseas every year... I'm not sure how different are the camps for undergrad scholars, so my experience below belongs a postgrad scholars.

So basically this is a patriotism camp. You'll be singing some patriotic songs (1Malaysia and what's the other one called, oh no...) about 3 times a day, eat some nice Malay food, exercise in the evening, and you have classes in between. The first 2 days are lectures, where a guest speaker will speak on different topic (1Malaysia concept, meaning of patriotism, the Malaysian Constitution etc). The next few days will be discussions: we were split into groups, we discussed everything about the Malaysian Constitution, and we were supposed to understand the various important points in it, more often touching some really sensitive issues (racial harmony, position of Malays and the sultans, national religion, national language etc). We had an MCQ exam on the last day before we leave, testing us what we know about the constitution and the 1Malaysia concept. It is actually not very hard (advantages of taking STPM), it is just a revision of what you learned in Pengajian Am, but then again, if you put your heart into understanding it, you'll be surprised by the extra things you learn. You'll realize that a lot of effort had been placed into making this 1Malaysia thingy, I had a newfound respect towards Dato Seri Najib after the camp. You'll also realized that there's only so much the government can do, and whether the nation will improve for the better, it really depends on the rakyat.

There would also be some fun time, don't worry... Each group will need to make a performance on the last night. The physical sessions were fun, we get to make new friends, and work with one another. Overall I think this camp is so much more fun than I expected. Learned a lot, made some valuable friends, and realized the importance and conflicts faced to make Malaysia a better country. Oh wells. confused

When do we get paid?
I was told that the money is paid in blocks of 4 months. I may be wrong, but I think scholars are paid in September and March, or maybe in June too? I'll update this when I know more.

Overall I think this is a good scholarship to apply to, provided that you love science, you see yourself serving in Malaysia in the next 10 years, and that you love Malaysia. Well paid, but maybe they can work on the career route in the future. If you have any other questions, do register a ReCom.org account, and comment below! smile

Here are a few links that you might want to check out to see if they help you in any way: Stories
Here are some blogs / testimonials / sharings / tips by some of our scholars. They gave some really useful tips on applications, personal experiences of the interviews and etc. I felt like I'm actually doing a job to help them promote their blogs... But anyway, do read their experiences if you have time, especially before the interview though:
  1. Cheng Shyong (Chemistry at ANU)
  2. Chong Hui Wen (Biology at Manchester University). She mentioned something about Matrik students applying overseas, do check it out.
  3. Farhan Layali II His post is more relevant to those applying for local universities.
  4. Tey Wei Hao (Math at Manchester University)
  5. Ideen Rahmad
  6. Wan Faiz
  7. Nazrah Athirah
  8. Nur Aqilah Zahirah (Chemistry at University of Glasgow)
  9. K E K W A bongsu
  10. Wan Syafiqa (Biomedical Science at University of Adelaide)
  11. Zhang
  12. Noor Farzana
Ask your question at Student Malaysia forum: Skim Biasiswa MyBrainSc Scholarships 2016
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