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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Choose Form Six Not STPM

Choose Form 6 Not STPM

by Jaclyn Sam (Share your thought-provoking opinions with 50,000+ students in Malaysia!)

Most of us would think that both are the same. Well, Form 6 is a program and STPM is an examination after you complete Form 6. To those who already have your fancy plans to study in some expensive colleges and set your mind to study abroad, you might want to think twice. As the following will tell you the difference between Form 6 and STPM.

Form Six 6 / STPM

Like most of us, I used to think Form 6 is a tougher passport to degree. Well, could you tell me which pre-university isn’t? Let’s lay downs the stereotypes of Form 6: difficult, wasting time and pressure. Am I right? In fact, what I have mentioned is STPM and not Form 6. Form 6 the exact opposite of what I mentioned.

What is Form 6 actually then? Form 6 is fun, is about time management skills and easy. Yes, EASY. Unlike most people, I took Form 6 out of convenience not because my parents ask me to or I really want to enter local public university but because I could not decide. Being the second youngest among my cousins, I have seen the way my cousin studied for STPM, sleeping at 2.00a.m to understand Krebs cycle or to master probability. I told myself, I AM NEVER GOING DOWN THAT PATH. Here I am done with it, and actually did not regret a moment of it.

See the thing with STPM is that all the studying and no fun and that is just a part of it. But in Form 6, everything is much easier for you, trust me! In Form 6, priorities are given to Form 6 students. Most likely, teachers offer you club president, at least board of directors of the club to help us. We needed more than they do anyway, for university applications, scholarships and whatnot. Teachers help you as in they are willing to spend couple of hours after school to tutor you. Who would do that, say, in A-Level? In A-level, every minute lecturer spend is money unlike teachers in school who understands what you are facing.

In Form 6, classes are small; I had 14 classmates in my class, the smaller the class, the closer we are. You will meet people of different backgrounds and speaking different languages. Yes, different languages! Having a group of friends who speaks English only, I had to adapt to mandarin speaking classmates in Form 6. Though I am Chinese but I am not well-verse in mandarin. That was difficult. As time passed, you learned to adapt and learn something new from others.

Form 6 is about adapting and accepting changes. Form 6 establishes a strong foundation for you to find out who you really are! You must be wondering in 18 months, did I become a different person? As exaggerating as it sounds, Yes, I did.

The magical thing in Form 6, it brings students together, you make instant friends and friends you never thought you would be friends with.  Neither is 18 months short nor is it long, but it definitely gives ample time to grow and be mature. You value time more than you are in form 5. When I was in form 5 than I took 10 subjects while Form 6 I took 4 subjects and I made the most out of every day. You are motivated to study because STPM is tough.

And where do you get less than RM3.50 lunch every day, if not school? You tend to save so much more while in school than in colleges because once in college, people treat you like adult, no more subsidies.

I asked most of my friends, what changes most in them after taking Form 6? Majority said they become more mature than most of their friends who are in college. Those 18 months changes the way you see things, instead of reacting to words, you try to understand the situation. In the 18 months, you would know what you want. Believe me or not? Yes, it does.

In Form 6, school doesn’t separate you between the smart kids and average kids; you choose what major you want to be in. Say, all this while you have been in the first few classes, in Form 6 you will be mixed with everyone whether you are a smart kid from the first class or the average kid from the fourth class. The thing is, people tend to have stereotypes towards who and who from so and so class but in Form 6, stereotypes do not exist you mix with everyone. Seeing people out of your comfort zone makes you a better person and changes your perspective.

So what about STPM? STPM is part of Form 6 but not the entire thing. STPM for me was tough, really tough but Form 6 was easy. Get that right. Taking STPM does not mean you will end up in local public university for those who see it that way, STPM broaden your options from local public university to private university or abroad.

Why not spend 18 months in school and experience all these? Because once you are in university, you will be glad you did it whether you choose to go local public or private. Is not wasting time, what’s the rush? You have the whole lifetime ahead and did you know most of us spend more than 50 years working? What is another 18 months in school?

One more thing, why spend a hefty on private pre-university when you can spend less than RM 100 for pre-university? Go figure, guys!

Jaclyn Sam, 24, had completed STPM in 2011 and graduated from UNIMAS. She pursued Social Science, major in International Studies. She did biology in STPM and found out that it was not her cup of tea. Found her passion in social science while working in Borders. She enjoys reading fictional books as well as National Geography. She believes knowledge is power. With knowledge, she believes we can make the world a better place. She aspires to work with United Nations and to teach as well.


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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Malaysia top 10 basic credit cards suitable for university students with low income

Saving money as a student on your credit card bills

Guest post by Sabrina Warmerdam (Share your tips with 50,000+ Malaysian students)

All of us know that students don’t have all the financial resources they would like to have as they have to finance their studies. Also, as student are usually not big spenders it's more beneficial for them to have a credit card which they don’t have to swipe a numerous amount of time each year to get an annual fee waived.

Malaysia Top 10 Basic Credit Cards for Students with Low Income

Students try in every way to save some money, so why not while using a credit card? A credit card has several features on which you can save some money.
  1. Pay attention on the annual fee rate, some credit cards have an annual fee (which can be either waived or not) and some credit cards have no annual fee at all. 
  2. Make your decision after you checked the interest rate of the credit card. Some credit cards have a lower interest rate compared to other credit cards.
  3. Check all the benefits and features of the credit card and make up your mind from which features you want to benefit. Credit cards do often have benefits for spending on petrol, retail and overseas. You can earn Air Miles with some credit cards and some of them have the benefit of a travel insurance. It’s important to all check these and to make up your mind whether you want to benefit from them or not. 
Only 6% of all credit cards available in Malaysia can be considered as basic credit cards. Therefore, it is very hard to find these cards. A basic credit card has the following criteria:
  1. Has no annual fee / or annual fee waiver
  2. Requires RM 2,500 monthly income at most
  3. Is available to anyone
So, of all the cards which met the criteria above, we made a top 10 list of basic credit cards and some helpful information.

Malaysia Top 10 Basic Credit Cards

1. BSN Classic Card-i


BSN’s Classic Card-i is one of the basic cards with a relatively low interest rate of only 13.5%. To be eligible for this credit card, your minimum income should be at least RM 2,000. So next to the fact that the card has no annual fee and is eligible to anyone, you can also benefit by earnings points. For each Ringgit spent on retail and petrol, you earn one point and for each Ringgit spent overseas you earn 2 points.

2. Maybank 2 Gold Card


Maybank’s 2 Gold Card has the lowest interest rate among the basic credit cards, only 8.88%. One downside of this credit card is that you should at least earn RM 2,500 each month in order to be eligible for this card. However, on the other hand you will also benefit from the fact that you can earn points while using this credit card. For every Ringgit spent on retail and overseas you’ll earn 5 points, for every Ringgit spent on petrol and flight purchases you will earn 1 point. Also, these points can be exchanged for Air Miles, namely, 4.77 points can be converted into 1 Enrich Mile, 1 KrisFlyer Mile or 1 Asia Mile.

3. CIMB Islamic Platinum


CIMB’s Islamic Platinum card is one of the several basic credit cards with an interest rate of 15%. Furthermore, you are eligible for this credit card when you have a monthly income of at least RM 2,000. Next to this, you can save some money by earning points while using your credit card. For each Ringgit spent on retail and petrol, you’ll earn 1 point. For each Ringgit spent overseas, you’ll earn 2 points. These points can be exchanged for Air Miles, 6 points can be converted into 1 Enrich Mile.

4. BSN Classic Card


BSN’s Classic Card has, compared to the other basic credit cards, a relatively low interest rate of only 13.5%. Furthermore, if your monthly income exceeds RM 2,000, you are eligible for this credit card. Next to these facts, it is always nice to save some more money by earning points while using your credit card. For each Ringgit spent on retail and petrol, you’ll earn 1 point. For each Ringgit spent overseas, you’ll earn 2 points. These points can be converted into Air Miles, 5.5 points can be exchanged to 1 Enrich Mile.

5. Maybank Ikhwan Gold Card


Maybank’s Ikhwan Gold Card has, just like a lot of other basic credit cards, an interest rate of 15%. To be eligible for this credit card, you should at least earn a monthly income of RM 2,000. Furthermore, with this credit card you can also earn points in order to save some more money. If you spend one Ringgit on retail, petrol and overseas, you’ll earn 1 point. Also, you’ll get 5% cashback on spending in selected grocery outlets.

6. AmBank Gold Card


AmBank’s Gold Card is also a basic credit card as it has no annual fee and is available to anyone. Furthermore, it has an interest rate of 15% and a minimum monthly required income of RM 2,000. You can save some more money with this credit card by earning points while using it. For each Ringgit spent on retail and overseas, you’ll earn 1 point. These points can be exchanged into Air Miles, 10 points can be converted into 1 Enrich Mile or 1 BIG Point. Next to the points and Air Miles, you can also benefit from a travel insurance of up to RM 500,000.

7. OCBC Titanium Blue/Pink


OCBC’s Titanium Blue / Pink credit card has a 15% interest rate, and a minimum monthly required income of RM 2,000. Furthermore, you can earn 0.1% cashback on retail and petrol spending and 1% cashback on spending overseas and online tranasactions.

8. CitiBank Choice Card


CitiBank’s Choice Card is also one of the basic credit cards. You are eligible for this credit card if your monthly income exceeds RM 2,000. Moreover, the credit card has an interest rate of 15%. Also, Citi Bank offers a few benefits while using this credit card. For each Ringgit spend on petrol and retail, you’ll earn 1 point. These earned points can be converted into Air Miles. 6.5 points can be exchanged for 1 Asia Mile, 7 points can be exchanged for 1 KrisFlyer Mile, and 8.5 points can be exchanged for 1 Enrich Mile.

9. Public Bank – Petron Gold Card


Public Bank’s Petron Gold Card is also part of the 6% basic credit cards. It has an interest rate of 15% and you are eligible for this credit card when your monthly income exceeds RM 2,000. Furthermore, with this card you get a 0.5% cashback on retail, petrol and overseas spending.

10. Hong Leong – I’m Card


The I’m Card of Hong Leong has an interest rate of 15%. Furthermore, you are eligible for this credit card if you have a monthly income of RM 2,000.

Choosing a credit card can be a difficult task as there are hundreds of credit cards available in the Malaysian market. However, narrowing your choice down to a basic credit card can make your search a lot easier and besides save you a little money too.

Sabrina Warmerdam is a data analyst intern at CompareHero.my, an online comparison website for credit cards, personal loans, and broadband. Next to comparisons, we regularly publish blog articles with insights about financial topics, e.g. Best Travel Credit Cards and Saving Money on Broadband.


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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Gap Year Is Part of a Growing and Expensive Trend

Editor's note: Some Malaysian students take Gap Year before enrolling into formal tertiary education. Read our previous posts on gap year experiences here:

Malia Obama’s ‘Gap Year’ Is Part of a Growing (and Expensive) Trend

By MIKE McPHATE, first published at The New York Times

 The White House announced that Malia Obama, 17, would be delaying her college start date. It didn’t say how she would spend her year. (Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
It sounds awfully nice: A yearlong postponement of schoolwork.

The White House announced on Sunday that Malia Obama, the president’s older daughter, would be among the thousands of students to take a so-called gap year between high school and college.

The hiatus from classrooms, textbooks and tests has become an increasingly popular choice. The idea is that university-bound students go on an adventure, do something meaningful and, if all goes to plan, arrive at campus a year later more mature, focused and attuned to their goals.

Still, despite growing acceptance of the gap year, or bridge year, by university administrators — and its ready adoption in other parts of the world — many Americans continue to view it with trepidation.

Why are gap years becoming more popular?


Some parents worry that their children could veer off track academically and never recover, but higher education experts argue that the opposite appears to be true. Studies have shown that not only do the students go on to perform better than their non-gap-year classmates, they also tend to end up in more satisfying careers. (Although, researchers note that self-selection could play a part as gap-year students tend to be more affluent).

“For some reason there’s some concern around — ‘Does it contribute to academic atrophy?’ What we’re finding is absolutely not,” said Ethan Knight, founder of American Gap Association, an accreditation organization. “If anything, it connects the theory that they’ve been exposed to over their many years of education to the reality of what’s going on in the real world.”

A growing number of colleges and universities, including all eight institutions in the Ivy League system, have been signing on to the idea as a constructive choice for incoming freshmen. Harvard University, where Malia plans to start in the fall of 2017, has for decades been urging members of its incoming class to consider it.

And the case has only grown stronger with the rising intensity of competition to get into elite colleges, according to an essay written by William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions, and two other school officials.

“Faced with the fast pace of growing up today, some students are clearly distressed, engaging in binge drinking and other self-destructive behaviors,” the authors wrote.

One remedy, they suggest, is to take time out. For the scores of incoming Harvard students who heed the advice each year, the authors added, “The results have been uniformly positive.”

Are gap years expensive?


In the reaction to Malia’s decision on social media, some people have pointed out, occasionally with a note of contempt, that the financial barriers to embarking on a gap year can be too much for some families. A yearlong, immersive, international program, for example, can run about $35,000.

But university administrators also note that gap-year plans come in a variety of forms, some of them at no cost. AmeriCorps’ City Year, for example, pays students stipends to teach. Another popular program, Global Citizen Year, provides financial support — more than $6 million since 2010 — for students to pursue experiential learning.

But those programs can be highly competitive. City Year, for example, says it selects only about one in four applicants.

“It’s hard to do it if you don’t have the resources,” said Chris Yager, the founder of Where There Be Dragons, which leads international programs.

But, he added, organizations that target gap-year students often tend to be driven by a sense of mission rather than profit, and many programs, including his, offer at least some level of financial assistance. “People who are doing the gap-year programming, right now at least, they’re all really principled people,” he said.

Then there are those gap-year plans created by students who possess rare initiative. Robert Clagett, the director of college counseling at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, Tex., recalled one who spent the first third of her year tending llamas at a monastery in North Dakota. The next third, she worked for a judge in Oklahoma City, and, finally, she volunteered at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

“It’s not unusual for students to spend maybe half their gap year with a job,” Mr. Clagett said, “maybe living at home, or an internship where they make some money, and then spending the second half of the year traveling or having whatever kinds of experiences they’re hoping for.”

Which schools offer gap-year programs?


More universities have begun formal gap-year programs that take varying approaches to enrollment and the providing of aid, including Princeton, Tufts, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Elon University.

At Princeton and North Carolina, for example, freshman-year enrollment is deferred and at least some financial help is provided, while Elon considers participants enrolled and charges its regular tuition. Another program offered by the New School in New York City also treats students as enrolled and offers up to a full year of academic credit.

Florida State University is among the latest campuses to start offering scholarships to gap-year students. Late last year, the public institution said applicants could get up to $5,000, and sent an email to the entire incoming freshmen class urging them to consider deferring their freshman year.

“We wanted to spearhead this effort in higher education and to be a leader, and to showcase gap years as an important part of the educational system,” said Joe O’Shea, the university’s director of undergraduate research and academic engagement.

“We’ve had a really strong response so far,” Mr. O’Shea added. “It’s been really exciting.”

O.K., but what do students say?


There is growing evidence that as more students discover that postponing their freshmen year is an option, many take the opportunity.

The exact number of young people who take gap years is not known, but the American Gap Association said its surveys indicate that it has been on a sharp rise for at least a decade. At the same time, attendance at the national circuit of USA Gap Year Fairs has seen explosive growth in recent years, organizers say.

This is all great news, said Mr. Clagett, the St. Stephen’s administrator, who is a longtime proponent of the gap-year movement.

Asked if there is any downside to gap years, he paused. In about 40 years of working in higher education, he said, “I have yet to work with a student who has regretted taking a gap year.”

In a letter to The New York Times, Aaron Schwartz, a Princeton student, said his gap year in Urubamba, Peru, was “the best decision of my life.” Returning volunteers are not only enriched academically, he said, but they are imbued with a new sense of civic responsibility.

“So my advice? Do something different. Go on an adventure. Learn a new language. You won’t regret it.”


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