“I love Malaysia, and I feel proud to be a Malaysian. But I hope to love it in a state where I am recognized for my own abilities and achievements.
My experience represents a glaring example of educational inequality when applying to local universities. I acknowledge my fortunate position, having alternative pathways even after being rejected by matrikulasi (Pre-university).
However, there are many more deserving individuals who deserve this opportunity, and one rejection can significantly impact their future life choices.
This is the educational inequality that I see. May there come a day when all children, regardless of socioeconomic background, gender, and race, can receive quality education they deserve based on their merits.”
Ho Shu Xin, a brilliant 19-year-old student born and bred in Ipoh, Perak, is standing on the brink of a world full of opportunities.
Having recently completed her A levels at Kolej Yayasan UEM, she has received acceptance letters from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Harvard University, and also University College London (UCL).
However, prior to this, she applied for Matrikulasi (A pre-university program to enter a public university) but was rejected.
Shocked & disappointed
To some, getting into Matriks is crucial as this is one of the few ways you can get into a public university.
I was confident back then, and I was very disappointed when I was rejected,” she told WeirdKaya in an exclusive interview.
This, she felt, was a blow to her confidence, especially when she believed she had a solid chance based on her SPM results.
However, this setback did not deter her.
For Shu Xin, she was lucky as she subsequently enrolled in another scholarship to continue her A-level studies and ultimately got accepted to the world’s most prestigious universities.
It fueled her aspirations to study in a US university, where she felt that learning extended beyond just textbooks and traditional classrooms.
Shu Xin also highlighted the lack of transparency in local selection processes as a significant issue.
I think the most important thing is the opaque standard, where only some factors are taken into consideration. This is very unlike UK and US universities, where you can apply to read your own admission files to know why you are admitted. It’s very transparent,” she said.
She felt that the local education system was marred by inequality on multiple levels, from opaque policies to the socioeconomic divide determining access to resources.
Getting into Harvard
Shu Xin’s disbelief was palpable when she first saw the acceptance notifications from these prestigious institutions.
At that moment, it was hard to believe. I refreshed the page, saw the banners, an autoplay video and then I was doubtful. I was only sure after I got in.
Her application had been based on predicted grades of A levels and academic results from Form 3 onwards, a method which was filled with uncertainty but ultimately proved to be effective.
Shu Xin also shared that she previously was unaware of the existence of these prestigious universities and had no knowledge that Malaysians had the opportunity to be enrolled there.
It wasn’t until Form 5 that she came across a news story about a Malaysian student being admitted to Harvard University.
Despite the low acceptance rate,I decided to take a chance and give it a try,” she added.
According to Shu Xin, the secret to her successful applications was a deep-seated passion for a specific field.
She expressed that the shared characteristic among those who were admitted to Harvard is their intense dedication to a specific field.
It goes beyond mere interest, as we have conducted extensive research, engaged in NGO work, pursued extracurricular activities, internships, and demonstrated a thirst for knowledge.
How she made it
After her SPM, she interned at ‘Teach For Malaysia’. This was her first official venture into the educational sector, opening doors to numerous opportunities.
This was her first official venture into the educational sector where she interacted with numerous teachers, NGO representatives, and startup founders.
She also participated in ‘Project 30,000 Hours‘ where she realized the shortcomings of Malaysian education, which often overly emphasizes academics at the expense of other essential skills.
While waiting for my SPM results, I interned at Teach for Malaysia, stepping into the field of education and getting to know many teachers, NGOs, and startup founders.
“Later on, my friends and I established Project 30,000 Hours, a student-led project which aims to address the post-pandemic learning loss by developing students’ self leadership skills. Additionally, I also ventured into low-cost housing areas in KL to educate children on mental health care.”
Learning beyond classrooms
Achieving top scores in SPM was a combination of enjoying learning beyond the classroom and applying effective study strategies.
I prefer learning outside the classroom, my academic performance is moderate, reading skills, doing past year topics in SPM/A level, making notes in my own way,” she explained.
She also told WeirdKaya that the biggest difficulty was the transition to A levels.
“In SPM, if you memorize the textbook, you can definitely score. But for A levels, particularly economics, it requires critical thinking,” she added.
Throughout her application, Shu Xin received significant support from friends, family, and teachers. She credits them for guiding her through the application process, coping with uncertainty and stress, and supporting her ambitions.
Being rejected to matrikulasi is not the end of the world
When asked about the key message she wanted to convey, she expressed to WeirdKaya that she wanted to emphasize that being rejected from matrikulasi is not the end of the world.
For many, after being rejected by matriks, they may feel despair and believe that their lives are ruined. However, what I want to say is that there are still plenty of opportunities in life. So even if you face rejection, you should not easily give up or reject yourself.”
Source : Weird Kaya