Hanoi student wins scholarships to top Singapore universities

By Binh Minh   May 10, 2024 | 10:31 pm PT
A Hanoi 12th grader has won a scholarship to the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with an essay about his passion for debating.

Hoang Anh Minh, a 12th-grade student at Hanoi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted, just received the news of winning the ASEAN scholarship to the Business Analytics major at both prestigious institutions.

This scholarship, provided by the Singapore government, includes tuition, a living allowance of SGD5,800 (US$4,284), housing support of SGD3,000 per semester, and SGD1,750 for a computer.

"I chose NUS because it's my dream school," he said.

NUS is the Asian university with the highest rank on this year’s global ranking by U.K.-based education organization Quacquarelli Symonds. It stood in the 8th place in the QS World University Rankings 2024.

Hoang Anh Minh. Photo courtesy of Minh

Hoang Anh Minh. Photo courtesy of Minh

The major Minh pursues combines technology and data science to solve business problems.

He believes the major has great prospects in terms of human resource solutions like establishing salary levels.

Minh said Singaporean universities emphasize academic scores and awards, but he has not won any national or international awards. The highest prize he ever received was third prize at Hanoi’s city-level excellent student selection exam for Physics.

Therefore, to make his application stand out, Minh focused on standardized certificates like SAT, IELTS, essays, and extracurricular activities related to his major. In 11th grade, Minh scored 1540/1600 on the SAT and 8.0 on the IELTS.

NUS requires five essays, ranging from 550 to 1,100 words.

Of the five prompts, Minh found the most challenging to be the one about achievements he's most proud of. In the essay he had to link his achievements to NUS’ core values of innovation, resilience, excellence, respect, and integrity. This was also the longest essay, which comprised about 10 sentences.

"This essay was tough because I had to reflect on my entire learning journey and make choices. Eventually, I wrote about my passion for debating," Minh shared.

Minh fell in love with debating while preparing for his first competition in 8th grade.

He has won championships and runner-up titles in several tournaments, such as the Hanoi Debate Tournament, National Schools Debating Championship, Vietnam BP Championship, and others. He's also the president of the school's debating club.

Minh is also head of the organizing board of the 2023 Hanoi Debate Tournament, which attracted 400 participants, and was joined by international judges.

He has even judged many debating tournaments himself.

In his essay, Minh wrote that his passion for debating had helped him broaden his knowledge, skills, and social relationships. Pursuing debating for many years also demonstrated his perseverance, integration, and dedication.

Minh and homeroom teacher Le Manh Cuong. Photo courtesy of Minh

Hoang Anh Minh and his homeroom teacher Le Manh Cuong at Hanoi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted. Photo courtesy of Hoang Anh Minh

Minh said debating was also the inspiration for him to apply for the Business Analytics major at NUS. At the 2023 Hanoi Debate Tournament, as the organizer, he had to learn project management, human resources, and how to fund such events. It was during this time that Minh and his team had to build plans to bring in international experts to the competition within a limited budget.

A month after receiving the acceptance email, Minh was invited to the scholarship interview round at NUS and NTU. He said the interviews at both universities lasted for 20 minutes each, and included the participation of professors and admissions representatives.

Thanks to his debating experience, good English skills, and preparation, Minh had no trouble answering questions about why he chose his major, how he prepared for the course, and what projects he had previously completed.

"I was confident in my interview, just a bit regretful that I could not use some great vocabulary," he said.

Le Manh Cuong, Minh's homeroom teacher at the Hanoi-Amsterdam High School, described the boy as intelligent, strong in English, Math, and Physics. His academic performance has always averaged 9.7 or higher in class.

"Minh's solid foundation in Math and Physics will help him approach technology majors more easily," said Cuong.

Cuong also shared that Minh had previously won the ASTAR scholarship (a Singapore government scholarship at the secondary level) but couldn't go due to health reasons. This time, besides the ASEAN scholarship, he was also accepted into several top universities in Australia and Finland.

Minh will study in Singapore starting in late July. After graduation, he will stay and work for Singaporean companies for three years, as required by the scholarship.

Based on his experience, Minh believes that applicants should find their interests and passions and develop them. Furthermore, to increase the competitiveness of their application, candidates need to balance academic achievements with extracurricular activities.

"You need to have a roadmap and a backup plan. If you don't have awards, you should strive for the highest possible scores," Minh said.

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