Today I made a tough but obvious decision: I gave up waiting for my scholarship applications.
I graduated from polytechnic with a Diploma in Landscape Architecture 3 years ago. My grades were really quite bad. Ever since then, I’ve tried applying to whatever universities that had bachelor courses directly or vaguely related to my diploma, whilst working as an architectural/landscape architectural draftsperson. Locally, the only universities that I really had my sights on are the National University of Singapore (NUS) for their Architecture programme, and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) for their unique curriculum structure and ultimately their Architecture and Sustainable Design pillar. I also tried applying to other local and overseas universities for courses that I had some interest in.
The initial silver lining
After two years of applications, only one university got back to me with a positive response. It was Lincoln University in New Zealand, for a Bachelor in Landscape Architecture programme. I was overjoyed; it was my first time being offered a place in a university, and it was a course I so coveted. They were willing to take me in despite my poor diploma grades because they saw my 2 years of relevant working experience, and I was so thankful for it. But instantly the raw problem hit me: Finances. If it had been any of the local universities, I could’ve easily gotten government subsidy and a loan from the local support groups. Overseas studies meant I had to bear the full cost myself, no subsidies, not to mention that being a non-local I would be charged higher fees than the local students. Then there’s the living cost, which amounted to almost as much as the study fees per year. My family is, frankly speaking, in the middle-income range, which meant I don’t qualify as a needy student to get some government help. My parents have never thought to send any of their children for overseas studies, and they’re of retirement age already, so even if they could afford it I wouldn’t ask them for a single cent because they would really need all their money for their quickly-approaching golden years. And I only had 5 months before the course begins.
Getting a loan
I went around all the banks in Singapore to see whether I could get a study loan, and all but two banks offered overseas study loans. The two banks were not even Singaporean banks. I got them to calculate the costs and it seemed manageable to pay off. The only (and very serious) problem was getting a guarantor. For the sum I was borrowing, I would need someone who earned quite a sum, and I know no one who does. The people I suspected who might be earning such a sum, like some of my friends’ parents, weren’t too willing to put their name in for me.
My only other step was to apply for scholarships. So few offered to cover for a course such as mine, and even fewer offered to cover studies in New Zealand. The worst part was the application period; most scholarship providers had their applications open only after GCE ‘A’ Level results are out (which is in end-February), but my studies at Lincoln were due to begin in mid-February 2013. All in all I was only eligible to apply for four scholarships. Of the 4, only 1 had come back with a response so far, and it was a “Not Shortlisted”.
I had actually been putting off getting a job in hopes of landing a scholarship and flying off to NZ to study. Now there’s only 1.5 months before the school term begins, and there’s still no sight of financial support. No visa done, no accommodation settled because all these hung on the scholarship. And today, by giving up on waiting for that elusive scholarship, I’m also giving up on that opportunity to further my studies, at least for this year.
Another time, maybe
I have been waiting for the day to relieve me of this mindless waiting, but I wasn’t hoping it would be this way. I was always, always hoping that scholarship would be granted, or that a kind (and rich) soul would be willing to be my loan guarantor. It is with such a heavy heart that I’m giving up my dream to further my studies in the only university that was willing to take me in. I could defer a year, but that would mean a whole reset of my applications and the fees will be different. What relevant job could I do in that one year of (again, mindless) waiting? I can’t afford to lose touch with my skills, but there are barely any landscape-firm employers here who would hire someone with only drafting experience and very poor school results, for a job that’s as good as temporary. Everyone’s hiring people with a minimum 3-years experience if they were to not consider school grades, and they’re hiring for a 2-year contract.
It looks to me that I’ll have to just keep trying for local universities. My best chance would be to work in the industry for another 2 years so that I could use my 4 years of working experience to apply as a mature applicant in NUS. I would be 26-years-old by then, a good 6 years older than fresh diploma graduates. I wonder what that would be like.