IF you’re a student athlete, you may be wondering how your athletic involvement and accomplishments may be considered when you apply to a tertiary institution.
Sometimes, standout athletes can be given preferential treatment in the university application process. They may be accepted by universities and offered athletic scholarships due to their sports accomplishments.
In the United States, it is quite common for students, who excel in sports such as basketball, swimming and football, to get sports scholarships to further their studies at a university or college.
They will be able to earn their degrees and represent the university or national team at varsity, local and international tournaments.
In Malaysia, several private universities and colleges offer sports scholarships to students who excel in sports.
Sunway University and Sunway Education Group senior executive director Dr Elizabeth Lee said opportunities are increasing for students who wish to hone their sporting talents while continuing their further education.
She said the university’s academic teams are supportive of student athletes.
“At Sunway, we offer student athletes — especially those in the national team — flexible academic schedules tailored to their training schedules or when they represent the country at international sports tournaments,” said Lee.
“Even though there are no credit exemptions, the supportive academic system allows them to fulfil their sports obligations and still keep up with the academic syllabus.”
Sunway University Sports Scholarships offer a 50 per cent scholarship for state athletes; and a 75 to 100 per cent scholarship for national athletes.
“While certain athletes are much sought after, we also welcome applications from those in niche sports such as fencing and golf.”
The university believes sports and extra-curricular activities are an important part of a holistic education as they help nurture students into well-rounded individuals.
“We provide student athletes with various incentives such as sports jerseys, meals, and transportation and accommodation allowance when they represent Sunway at institutional sporting competitions.
“We also honour exceptional individuals with the Sunway Extra-Curricular Activities Achievers and Sports Awards where recognition is given to those with outstanding accomplishments.
“For student athletes who perform exceptionally well at international tournaments such as the Southeast Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympics, the Sports Scholarship will be upgraded.”
Generally, athletic ability is not a prerequisite for admission to tertiary institutions.
“But in the current fast paced and competitive society where academic achievement is not the be all and end all, sports indeed play a very significant role when we are awarding scholarships.
“In other types of scholarships that we offer, we do evaluate candidates on sporting skills.
“Excelling in both academics and sports demonstrate the students’ ability to manage time effectively. It also reflects on their high value of discipline and belief in hard work.
“Student athletes with such qualities will stand out from the crowd.
“The Sunway Sports Scholarships play an important role in our admission process.”
SPORTS AND STUDIES
Talent enrichment manager Ahmad PG Abdullah at Universiti Teknologi Petronas’ Centre for Students’ Development said student athletes are welcomed at UTP.
“We have two elements of sports — sports for excellence and sports for fun. We actively organise sports events at national levels and participate in tournaments at higher learning institutions in the country and abroad,” said Ahmad.
“Students, who actively participate in tournaments either as a participant or organising committee member, can redeem one hour credit for the co-curriculum sports subject which they have to sign-up for four semesters.
“To be eligible for the sports scholarships, student athletes must be actively competing at the national and international levels, and have good Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) results — at least 8As.
“Two of our students — a rugby and table tennis player — have received the sports scholarship from the Ministry of Higher Education.
“Most admission units at public universities feel that prominent student athletes boost enrolment.”
The UTP Sports Team provides support in terms of finance, training and technical aid and facilities. “We identify talents by organising sports events on campus and recruit them to join the sports team.
“With each intake, we update the student sports data by distributing questionnaires or conducting surveys. It is compulsory for UTP students to sign up for the co-curriculum sports subject. The coaches of this sports subject will identify talent.”
UTP’s annual Varsity Star Award recognises the best sports team or club, which will be given grants to organise sports events.
“We also award the best sports team (male and female) and best sportsman and sportswoman. And we offer the student, who excels in major tournaments locally and internationally, a victory cash incentive.”
Monash University Malaysia sports scholarships are designed to support talented students who represent it and the country in sports.
The scholarship is available only for Malaysian citizens who are national athletes, with a verification letter from the National Sports Council of Malaysia.
Those without a verification letter will be subject to review by the Scholarship Committee.
Students must meet the minimum admission requirements for a course, for commencing or continuing undergraduate students enrolled at Monash University Malaysia, except for honours degree programmes.
They will also get RM5,000 per semester, subject to maintaining satisfactory academic progress and sporting performance, as determined by the university.
Meanwhile, the American Athletics Scholarships (AAS) have conducted numerous scholarship awareness sessions at schools in both group and individual sessions in Malaysia.
AAS co-founder Noel Greeves said opportunities exist for student athletes with a good track record in the classroom and are competitive in their chosen sport to obtain scholarships to study and compete in the US college system.
“Last year, AAS and Alice Smith School held an informative presentation on initial eligibility conducted for teachers, counsellors, parents and students.
“We also held a series of presentations at various sporting associations in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
“From Australia, we have provided no-obligation telephone and video calls to parents and students in Malaysia as well Academic Eligibility and Assessment Services to two Malaysian soccer players and their families,” said Greeves.
“We guide every student athlete and their family through a personalised approach.
“Combined with our vast network of coaches, knowledge of the university and compliance system, we are able to maximise opportunities for each and every person,” said Greeves.
Vincent Phuah Cheng Wei, 23, picked up badminton when he was nine, thanks to the influence of the nation’s former World No.1 professional badminton player, Wong Choong Hann.
After watching Wong play a world championship final, Phuah asked his dad to send him for formal training.
Phuah joined the Perak state team the following year and still competes in local and international competitions.
“But I wanted to further my studies at university and play badminton at the same time. So I researched into sports scholarships at universities.
“A senior player at the Badminton Association of Malaysia introduced me to the manager of sports and recreation centres at Taylor’s University.
“After discussions with him, I realised that furthering my studies is important and I got a place under Taylor’s University Sports Scholarship,” said Phuah, who is in the third year of an accounting and finance course.
He added that it was important for him to choose a university which can accommodate his passion for badminton as he needed to be away for competitions.
“The university has world-class facilities and the lecturers offer support for me to pursue my studies and be a national athlete at the same time.
“I am given exemption from classes during competitions and can get in touch with the tutors for studies.”
Another student athlete, national bowler Sin Li Jane, 26, said while her interest in sport started at a very young age, she also knew that she wanted to earn a degree too.
As an elite player in the national team since she was 17, the Ministry of Higher Education sports scholar is pursuing the American Degree Transfer Programme (majoring in Business Administration) at Sunway University.
“It is also convenient as my training centre is at Sunway Pyramid,” said Sin.
“Whether it is sports or studies, just go for it and do your best without any regrets. Make full use of your potential and make your family and country proud.”
Both Phuah and Sin were crowned Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Malaysian Institut Pengajian Tinggi Swasta Sports Council at the recent Fifth MASISWA Sports Award ceremony at UNITAR International University.
Ahmad, who is also MASISWA council member for special function, said in rectifying challenges that can cause school athletes to be left out from furthering their studies, the athletes can apply for sports scholarships at the ministry.
“Both the universities and athletes should complement each other, for example offer lecture exemptions and extend the academic period for the sportsman to focus on training and participating in tournaments.
“The university should also work with the national and state sports bodies such as National Sports Council of Malaysia and State Sports Council for access to better training facilities,” he said.
The National Sports Council is divided into seven zones (Northern, East, South, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak).
“We believe all private higher learning institutions in the country can participate in sports and talent can be identified. We also organise coaching and referee courses to upgrade the capabilities of sports officers in private higher learning institutions to help them hone athletes,” he added.
MASISWA is active in developing the swimming, badminton, rugby, volleyball and basketball teams. It is also looking into potential sports such as athletics, futsal and bowling.
MASISWA president Professor Dr Mohd Zamri Yusof said cooperation between MASISWA and private universities and colleges need to be expanded and the sports development programmes should be designed and executed by MASISWA.
“Private universities and colleges need to search for new talents especially SPM school-leavers who can be moulded at the institutions. It will help both parties in upholding the greatness of sports, not only at the university level but also locally and internationally.”