Choosing Between Two Major Scholarships

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Scholarship offers and admissions letters. Photo by author.

An education abroad can be very costly, and thus, scholarships play a major role in deciding where you can pursue your education. The more scholarships you apply to, the more options you have. However, what is the best way to decide between multiple scholarship offers? In this article, columnist Steffen Hadi shares some advice on how to choose between scholarship offers.

Many would agree that education is an investment. It labels you nicely and brings you countless opportunities in life. Unfortunately, education is not free—at least not in our system. The quality of an education system is often reflected in the price to obtain it. Though a few people have the fortune to afford it, many others do not. This is where scholarships come into play. Unfortunately, scholarships are like the golden snitch in a Quidditch game. They are hard to find and even harder to get.  

The battle to obtain scholarship is fierce. It requires a combination of personal quality and luck, and it does not wait for you. Then, out of the blue, two scholarships lie there waiting for you. Do you have what it takes to handle it?

Let me share my experience in choosing between two scholarships.

Endeavour Scholarship

Endeavour Scholarship is a scholarship provided by the Australian government, which includes everything you need for studying in Australia. It includes full coverage of education tuition, monthly allowance, insurances, and other facilities. In short, Endeavour is a prestigious and full-fledged scholarship comparable with the Chevening for the UK or StuNed for the Netherlands.

Although prestigious, Endeavour might sound unfamiliar for scholarship hunters in Indonesia. It is because Endeavour’s popularity is eclipsed by its sibling AAS (Australia Award Scholarship). Both are pretty similar actually; the difference lies only in a few factors such as target awardee, requirements, and amount of scholarships.

I applied to Endeavour in around June 2014, right after I got unconditional acceptance from The University of Sydney Law School. The scholarship requires me to submit some papers related to leadership and future projects, along with other usual administrative documents.

The good news that I was chosen as the awardee came in January 2015. For the coursework scholarship, only two people from Indonesia were chosen from thousands of applicants.  That was indeed good news for me, except for the fact that I already received a scholarship offer prior to that, thus I had to make a very difficult choice.

Accepting an offer to Endeavour includes invites to a lot of highly prestigious activities, ranging from meeting with the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, fancy dinners at the Australian Embassy, certificates, as well as other cool souvenirs. By receiving this scholarship, you would be the agent of everlasting cooperation between Indonesia and Australia. This means that you would be on the radar of both governments in any event involving matters relating to the relationship between the two countries.

Did I accept the scholarship offer from Endeavour? Let’s discuss the other scholarship first.

Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP)

Who does not know LPDP? Every scholarship hunter in Indonesia probably knows this already. LPDP is like a drop of water in the middle of a barren scholarship ground—a long-awaited answer for scholarship hunters.

Due to the transparency in the selections, clarity for the fund allocation, and generous scholarship amounts, right after its birth, LPDP invited enormous applicants.

LPDP is unique because it requires its awardees to undertake leadership training for at least a week. The purpose is to shape the future leaders of the country. It is also unique because it provides facilities for dependents as well. The structure of the scholarship is also similar to the other scholarships; it provides full coverage of tuition, monthly allowance, even incentives for being accepted into the top 20 world universities.

Leadership training for LPDP. Photo provided by author.
Leadership training for LPDP. Photo provided by author.

I applied to both LPDP and Endeavour at around the same time. Different with Endeavour, LPDP requires several in-person rounds of selection process. At that time, I was working in Singapore, and I had to return to Jakarta back and forth to attend the selection process, such as the interview and forum group discussion. In July, I received the good news about the LPDP scholarship. Then in October, I had to participate in the leadership training for around a week. In total, I had to take around ten round flights between Jakarta and Singapore to complete all matters relating to LPDP.  

Choosing between LPDP and Endeavour

Well, here comes the worst part. I had to choose. The result for Endeavour was published in January 2015, after I completed all the processes and requirements for LPDP. Getting the Endeavour scholarship was such an honor for me. I was so happy and began to imagine all the fancy inauguration that I would have with the Australian Ambassador. The monthly allowance provided by Endeavour was also much bigger than LPDP at that time. All is good except one part: Endeavour does not provide scholarships to study in the US. For me, this was a deal breaker. I really wanted to study in the US and to be like the lawyer that I’d seen on TV, yet at that time, I had not received any acceptance from the law schools in the US that I applied to. For context, announcements for acceptance into American law schools is around spring (March-May).

Then, to prolong the time for me to decide, I deferred accepting the Endeavour scholarship by saying that I wanted to change the university from the University of Sydney to the University of Melbourne. However, the deferral only gave me an additional one month to decide. Eventually, I had to gamble. I refused the Endeavour scholarship, throwing away the golden opportunity in order to stick to my dream—studying in the US.

Finally, acceptance from four American law schools came in March and April. The gamble was successful, and LPDP was chosen.

Choosing between two golden opportunities is not an easy task. You cannot take all, and you need to sacrifice one while knowing that each scholarship is the result of a seemingly endless effort. Finally, your ultimate dream shall prevail. You have one dream and along the way, there will be many temptations that you need to face. To refuse the temptation and to stick to your dream requires bravery, and at the end of the line, the result will not disappoint you.

Now, to help you face a difficult choice, let me give you some test questions in a sample case when you have to choose between StuNed for studying at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and Endeavour for studying at The University of Melbourne in Australia.

  1. What is your dream job? Let say, being a judge in an international court.
  2. What would be the most helpful in achieving your dream? Getting a position in an international court.
  3. Is money important to achieve your dream? Not really.
  4. Is degree important? Yes, it is.
  5. If the degree is not important, what is more important? The degree is important but the experience is absolutely more important.

Well, both StuNed and Endeavour are prestigious scholarships, so your decision-making process is very important. In this situation, you want to be a judge in an international court. Then you would know that the Netherlands is the center of international courts, as it hosts at least two major international courts namely International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Criminal Court (ICC). From this point of view, your choice would lean toward StuNed.

But hold on, let us finish the process of thinking first because other factors might be important.

Now, let’s see the money factor. The difference in the amount of scholarship between StuNed and Endeavour might be comparable to the price of a property in Indonesia. Endeavour provides you with a much bigger allowance each month. Now you need to weigh: money or career. For me, career comes first because I believe once you get your dream job, money will come by itself. In this way of thinking, it means that we need to sacrifice the money factor. Don’t worry, it’s entirely normal.

Now, let us consider the degree prestige. Ranking wise, Australia offers you more prestigious law schools, namely University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney. Arguably, they are ranked above the Dutch Universities such as Leiden University, Utrecht University, or the University of Groningen. Ok, now let us weigh the prestige and opportunity. Taking Endeavour might place you in a more prestigious law school. However, both the Netherlands and Australia offer us well-known universities. The global community will not bother to research the university ranking when they read our CV. Instead, they will look into our track record. Most of the case, our track record is reflected by where we have worked. Now, our goal is to become a judge in an international court. It would be most helpful if we have internship experiences at international courts, let’s say as a clerk. From this point of view, taking StuNed would give us an advantage as Dutch law schools will offer their students many internship opportunities at the international courts.

In this scenario, using the above consideration would lead you to choose StuNed over Endeavour. Note that the choice would be different for every person. This example is merely to give you a picture of how to process such an important decision in your mind.

Again, your dream shall prevail. It is the ultimate answer to every doubt in choosing between several scholarships offers.

All in all, start drawing your dream job. Believe me, it might be the answer to many dilemmas.

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Steffen Hadi
Steffen Hadi studied LL.M. in University of Pennsylvania Law School and Wharton Business and Law Certificate of the Wharton School at the same university. He was the Class President of Penn Law LL.M. Class 2016, Penn Law Students Representative in University of Pennsylvania’s council, and international associate editor in Penn Law Journal of International Law. Steffen also interned at a prominent international law firm in Philadelphia. Aside from LL.M. Steffen also holds a Sarjana Hukum (LL.B. equivalent) from Parahyangan Catholic University. Steffen has been practicing law as a corporate lawyer in Jakarta and Singapore. Presently, he is a senior associate in a prominent law firm in Indonesia and independently assisting few legal issues for start-ups. In his spare time, Steffen is a movie freak, loyal runner, and outdoor trekker.