Failure can get a student down, but if the right lessons are learned, failure can be transformed into success. After many rejections, a successful UGRAD applicant attributed his breakthrough not only to his record of volunteering, transcripts and work experience, but also to the lessons he learned from failure.
Chhuon Madinay, 19, is in his third year of an International Studies degree at the Institute of Foreign Languages. He started his educational journey with one semester at the University of Utah in the United States after being selected as a UGRAD finalist.
After graduating from high school with a C average, he strove to pass his college entrance exams. Strongly devoted to volunteer work “I started volunteering in Grade 11, and have done social work, internships and other projects,” he said.
Mr Madinay embarked on volunteering with accredited international and national organisations including the United Nations Development Bank, OXFAM, Transparency International Cambodia and World Vision in order to gain professional experience associated with his major as an International Relations student.
He encouraged others to do social work, but urged them to ensure it is relevant to their studies and skills, or there will be no professional gain. He added: “Volunteering alone won’t help your application. You should do internships and projects that have an impact on society.”
UGRAD was his first successful application after being rejected by schools in South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. Despite repeated failures and setbacks, he never gave up.
The application process takes approximately one to two months. It was a long process requiring supporting documents and two essays. He often got discouraged.
But despite the competitiveness and the series of failures, he learned from each. “All four applications had areas that were lacking; I used it to learn and develop for the next submission. I applied to many programs, and I failed many times, but I learned from my mistakes.”
As for tips for his fellow applicants, he suggested doing intensive research on the program in question in order to understand its objectives, as well as processing the application early. “Do not procrastinate!” he said. Make sure your strengths match the requirements and that you develop your writing abilities, he said. Most importantly, seek out a mentor to vigorously scan through the application – it’s highly recommended.
“This kind of program is a life changing opportunity that opens your mind to many things,” Mr Madinay said. It also allowed him to experience life in the US.
Mr Madinay encourages other youth to apply for this programme even if they have a low GPA or English capacity. “You do not really need a great GPA or perfect English to apply for this programme. You can still be selected on account of your strong volunteer record or professional experiences.” The programme selectors also give weight to your participation in social activities and other extracurricular activities, the young scholar advised.