By:  Leong Fei Ying

The Malaysian Certificate of Education or Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) exams are coming to an end soon where students will see a long vacation awaiting them. As SPM leavers, what can you do during this period to make the most of your youth without letting time slip away? As for those who plan to further their studies, what are the things you should seize the moment to act quickly?

Indeed, SPM 2020 students have had a hard time making through the year full of uncertainties. While you can finally breathe a sigh of relief now, it is time to take a good rest as well as planning your next move.

Although it is not too much to give yourself a little break while waiting for SPM results, there is something more urgent that needs to be dealt with without delay. For instance, if you intend to apply for a scholarship, it is now time to do so. You must grasp the opportunity as it may never come back again once you miss it.

In the past when things were still “normal”, many students would go traveling after the final exam, but due to the ongoing pandemic and travel restrictions, people cannot travel around as freely as they like. Nonetheless, do not let the pandemic disruptions turn you off. Since there are many ways to live your life, you can still make your holidays meaningful.

Here is something you can do before SPM results are out:

●Planning for further studies

Over the next month or two, many colleges will hold their campus open days or virtual education fairs, and some will even open up their trial classes to students. If you plan to further your studies, taking the opportunity to look for the right course and college is exactly what you should do now. 

It is worth noting that SPM qualification alone is not enough for you to enroll in a Bachelor’s degree programme at university. However it allows students to study:

◎Pre-university programmes

For example, Malaysian Higher School Certificate or Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM), Malaysian Matriculation Programme or Program Matrikulasi Malaysia, UK Advanced Level qualifications (A Levels), Australian Matriculation (AUSMAT) , South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE International), Canadian International Matriculation Programme (CIMP) , and International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). 

◎ Foundation programmes

A Foundation programme generally takes a year to complete where the entry requirements would be passing SPM with a minimum of five credits. Its graduates are able to progress into the first year of a Bachelor’s degree.

◎ Diploma courses

Most of the Diploma courses can be completed in two years. You will need a minimum of three credits in SPM to meet the entry requirements. After graduation, you can choose to enter the workplace or continue your studies. Students will usually get direct admission into the second year of an undergraduate course.

◎ Certificate courses

The entry requirements for Certificate courses are often not that high. Students can apply to enroll in a Diploma course or get employment straight after completing the Certificate course.

●Applying for scholarships

Some scholarships are now open for SPM leavers to apply, whereas most of the scholarships will be open to applicants only after the release of SPM results.

If you have the intention of applying for scholarships, you may find the best time to take action is now. Do not wait until the results are out to start your preparation, because many scholarships will set a deadline of one or two weeks from the day SPM results are released. It is likely to be hurry-scurry if you wait until then to act.

What you can do now:

1. Keep an eye on scholarship application deadlines.

2. Understand the nature and eligibility requirements of the scholarships. There are various types of scholarships awarded to students and not every scholarship is right for you. So it is better to do some homework and understand which scholarships you might stand a good chance of getting, rather than making random attempts without a strategy.

3. Prepare the necessary documents. Basically students are required to submit all kinds of relevant documents when applying for scholarships, such as copies of transcripts, graduation certificates as well as certificates of merit. You may get other documents ready in advance although SPM results have not yet been announced so that nothing will be left out by the time you make the application.

● Continuous learning

When the final exam is over, it is human nature to let one’s hair down and relax. However, you should never stop learning and always keep curiosity alive even if you are on vacation.  

The so-called learning does not necessarily mean you have to study something in relation to academics or obtain a diploma. You can enroll in some short courses. For example, if you want to be an internet celebrity, you may consider taking a video production course where you will learn how to shoot and edit as well as create special effects for your videos. Or if you like to watch Korean dramas and wish to have a better understanding of the Korean culture, a Korean language course may be something worth thinking about. Nowadays with the convenience of online learning, why not take advantage of this holiday to regain your lost interests that the schoolwork has been holding you back from?

In short, you do not have to take the learning process too seriously or stress yourself out for it. As long as you are able to put what you have learned into practice and find pleasure in learning, then it will not be a wasted holiday.

●Working part-time

In addition to earning some pocket money, students can also gain social experiences and explore their interests by working part-time during the vacation.

In Western countries, many high school graduates will apply for an internship at the companies or organizations of their choice before entering universities. They will still go for it even if it is an unpaid internship as to whom this is deemed a trial to determine whether they are truly interested in the relevant field, so as to make the right decision in choosing the university course.

Of course, you do not have to be ambitious to work part-time. It could be just working as a convenience store cashier or a restaurant waiter. It is believed that working part-time can enhance your life experience and help you discover your life goals no matter what the nature of the job is. 

●Being a volunteer

If you wish to contribute to the society amidst the pandemic by helping the many needy people out there, being a volunteer would be the most direct way to achieve it.

Many top universities and scholarship providers place a high value on whether an applicant has any experience in community service. If you want to make your resume stand out from the rest, a good means will be throwing yourself into volunteer work. Not only do you help people, but you also experience the joy of extending a helping hand to those in need.

●Taking a gap year

Taking a gap year is very common in Western countries. Many teenagers will give themselves a year off to serve as a transitional period to engage in self-exploration before pursuing their tertiary education or joining the workforce.

Many students used to travel abroad during the gap year. Unfortunately due to the current pandemic, travelling overseas seems impossible at the moment, while people can only travel locally at most. There are certainly a lot of things you can do alongside travelling, such as the aforementioned working part-time, volunteering and studying short courses.

A gap year will revitalize your mind and body if you make the most of it. However, if your gap year is all about eating and sleeping around the clock, it is just a year’s time wasted for nothing. A year-long break is not something that suits everyone. There are certain factors that need to be taken into account. In a word, do not use the gap year as an excuse to escape from reality.