“Read about what our alumni have been up to since leaving HIS. Click on their photo to read more.”
I’m currently doing 3rd year Design Engineering MEng at Imperial College London (ICL).
When I first joined HIS back in Year 7, I was always attached to my favorite subject DT! After IGCSE I knew I wanted to work somewhere in the field of design, but also wanted to apply my academics from maths / engineering. So I combined those two keywords together online and found the perfect match for Design Engineering!
A lot of it needed a lot of planning and time management, but when I procrastinated even doing the planning itself, things definitely got overwhelming. What got me through and my best advice is to constantly proactively seek support from your peers, teachers and anyone that can help you.
Remember the jump from IGCSE to A-Level, where you had to start doing more independent study and self-pacing your homework deadlines? Well the jump to university is quite the same but a much further leap! Much of your learning would become self-organised, supplemented by lectures and uni work.
I mentioned my interning and teaching experiences with HIS! Working with HELP’s MarComm staff taught me a lot about marketing and being in an office environment; while starting an App Development CCA and being a teaching assistant for new A-Level DT students gave me a lot of insight into education and communication with people!
Without any experience or interest beforehand, I ended up joining the Lion Dance team under ICL’s Malaysian Society. I had so much fun learning different stunts and interacting with fellow Malaysians that I performed as the head of a lion in our society’s annual Malaysian Night! It was an unforgettable experience and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to become Captain of this year’s Lion Dance team.
I am currently a 2nd year student reading Economics, politics and international studies at the University of Warwick, UK.
Honestly speaking, it was very difficult managing university applications and being on top of my studies initially. However, I feel once you have an end goal in sight in regards to knowing what you want to do, you are thus willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that.
I think the workload in university is a bit more hefty and independent. Being on top of your assignments are essential to ensure you don’t fall behind and get a good degree classification whereas in A-Levels, doing badly in one or two CAs doesn’t mean you’d thus do badly in the final exams.
I think it is heavily dependent on the type of scholarship involved. Personally, I feel that for any scholarship from a big corporation, it is important to get your point across that you want to work for the company after. Other than that, confidence and charisma is key to the interviews and group assessments. Lots of knowledge of the field isn’t being looked for but they’re more interested in yourself as an individual.
I was always interested in the economics bit of my degree as I wanted to go into finance. However, I felt it was cliché of me to do a pure economics degree so I combined it with politics which I felt was a lot more unique, especially in Asia.
My favourite memory at HIS was going out every Friday for lunch with friends after school.
I’m currently majoring in Biological Sciences at Seoul National University.
My teachers always valued knowledge beyond the textbook because the current trend shows that exam boards tend to show an increasing preference for application of knowledge over basic theory. Although being grilled in class about things that did not seem so obvious in the textbook was a cause of anxiety, it helped me become an assertive learner. The teachers at HIS encouraged self-directed learning by offering a wide range of resources without spoon-feeding the answers. I think pursuing my interest independently on a deeper level also helped me build a more original résumé that appealed to the university admissions officers
In university, no one is there to guide you along your progress. Lecturers may teach only the basics and expect students to complete assignments of a completely different level of difficulty. Your learning is really up to you, yourself. Being an independent learner has helped me throughout A-levels into my university. Other than study habits, opportunities such as IPQ taught me citation skills and familiarised me with dissertations and research papers. Writing reports is a common task in university, and these skills certainly do help a lot.
What sets A-Levels apart is the focus on depth of knowledge over a breadth of knowledge. If you are generally certain about what subject areas pique your interest, then I would say A-Levels is a more suitable choice. Since A-Levels is an exam-oriented course that does not require coursework, students are given a lot of time to explore other interests like leading a student-led organisation, a club, or a study group. Extracurriculars are an important factor for university admissions, and taking A-Levels has allowed me to strengthen my portfolio from an extracurricular perspective without having to stress about balancing my academic responsibilities.
To be completely honest, my Year 13 was cut short due to the Coronavirus. However, my A-Levels batch was very tight-knit, which I think was possible because of the bonding activities we had. The joint A-Levels Ignite Camp, which I luckily had the opportunity of going to in Year 12, allowed me to grow close to a lot of my peers and seniors.
I have loved fish since I was 3. When I was around 5, I met Dr Bruce Mate of Oregon University at Mid Valley when he came to Malaysia. He was the director of the Marine Mammal Institute from 2006 to 2019 and was the person that solidified my passion for anything to do with marine/aquatics. I followed my passion and now I am pursuing a degree in Marine Biotechnology so I can have a career in aquaculture.
During semester breaks I would indulge myself in projects or activities I love that are too time-consuming during study times. For example, applying the knowledge I acquired from academics in activities like fishing, white-water rafting, and aquaponics. I like reading to gain extra knowledge and be inspired too. So during the weekends I would read or watch YouTube videos to obtain the knowledge I don’t get in school/uni as well as to stay inspired and motivated. I also like photography. So whenever I can squeeze out time during the weekends I would walk around my neighbourhood to take photographs, which has improved my imagination and creativity.
The HIS community of making me comfortable in having conversations and working with different people has made my life in university much more flexible. This is because I can work with more people and have more friends.
Xiamen University Malaysia is extremely academic, the only requirement for the application of its scholarships is meeting the required number of A’s for Foundation and achieving the required CGPA in Foundation (or equivalent) for scholarships in degree. The scholarships in degree must be renewed every year, hence it is compulsory to maintain a specific academic ranking to renew the scholarship. No interviews are required for any of the scholarship applications. The only tip I can give based on my experience is to work hard and set appropriate goals to meet the requirements of the scholarship.
All the compulsory group projects, presentations, and public speaking opportunities are not a nuisance, but rather a blessing in disguise. Work hard to acquire all these soft skills, you will not regret it.
Project Purpose was a milestone achievement for me given the conditions I was put into, it really helped me grow and prosper greatly as an individual. Despite the pandemic lockdown and the many internal issues that my team faced, we managed to adapt and move forward, and getting the best impact award makes me feel proud of my extreme efforts and time dedicated to making this project a success with my team.
Applying for UK was a bit of a hassle as I had to juggle studies and constantly keep track of the progress of my uni application. The biggest part of applying to UK universities was the Personal Statement. I treated writing the personal statement as a getaway from academics so personally, it wasn’t as stressful for me and instead became a period to destress. Hence I would say having a different perspective (treating it as time away from studies) to uni application helped me manage my ‘stress’. Also, having an agent who oversees your university application really helps alleviate the stress of missing out or forgetting something.
The very supportive teachers, they are the kindest and most caring teachers I have known till today. Without them, I don’t think I would have shaped out to be the person I am today and I can confidently say that they have made my journey in HIS an extremely memorable one which I’m eternally grateful for.
I think an achievement I am proud of is when I auditioned for MPYO and prepared for my diploma violin exam at the same time (I managed to get into the orchestra and also get distinction for my exam).
I luckily did not have to apply for university when i was doing my A-Levels, so I can’t say too much about managing my time there.
Having a regular social environment.
I’m now enrolled in Seoul National University, undertaking Bachelor of Food & Biotechnology.
To be honest, I always wanted to be in a school rather than a college as I thought that I would work better in a controlled environment. Also, not only do schools focus on academics, but also give importance to physical education and extracurricular activities. I chose the HIS A- Levels programme because I heard many good comments about the teachers in HIS and the large range of ECAs that they provide.
I am not going to lie, the first half of the first year was definitely a challenge due to many factors such as making new friendships and forming bonds with teachers, and also learning more advanced and difficult concepts! Most of my classmates in HIS were existing students and I was worried about blending in. Nevertheless, I met many friendly people. I really want to thank my friends who were with me throughout the two years, I wouldn’t have done it without them
Actually, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now without all my teachers’ help. Preparing for our A-Level exams, teachers gave us the greatest exposure by setting our CAs a little different from the past year’s papers, taking questions from other boards, and still relating the question to our syllabus. I think this trained us mentally to prepare for non-familiar questions and their style of asking questions. My university counsellor really helped me a lot with the documents I needed for university – Korean universities are very particular about documents and thankfully, she was extremely patient and heartfully cared for me. She also wrote my recommendation letter together with other teachers to help me succeed. I really do not know how to thank all my teachers enough for guiding me through the two years.
Both my mum and I looked at each other and screamed – I could not believe that I got into the top university in Korea! The course is exactly what I wanted; food technology and biotechnology. This was when I knew that tears of joy actually exist!
Going from sixth form to university definitely brought along a lot of changes. Moving to a different country alone amidst the Covid-19 pandemic was both exciting and daunting, and really pushed me to be more independent and learn to take initiative.
During my A-levels, I was involved in Chinese Orchestra and Eco-Schools. Being part of the Chinese Orchestra in particular allowed me to explore my interest in music through learning a new instrument and performing with my peers.
I would say to choose a course you find interesting and think you will enjoy. Do not be afraid to explore topics surrounding the course you are interested in to get a feel of it, even if those topics are in areas you have never encountered before.
My friends and I tried to go stargazing one day at the start of Spring, but the weather ended up being cloudy. Within an hour, we were shivering from the cold and we went indoors and watched a movie instead.
I would tell her she’s doing well — that despite any of the difficulties or failures she may be facing, everything will turn out okay.
I am currently in the UK doing my final year, BSc Media and Communications.
Year 11 at HIS has shaped me to be the person I am today, and was one of the best experiences of my life. Studying at HIS made me realise that with hard work, anything is possible. The people you surround yourself with are significantly important too.
One thing I regret not pursuing more of, are the CCAs at school. HIS offers a wide range of CCA options, and I know if I were a student again, I’d join as many as I could.
Being an extrovert, it made me realise that I am particularly interested in interacting with people from all walks of life. I believe media is extremely relevant to today’s society as applications like TikTok and Instagram are widely popular.
Whilst listening to your parents is important, it is also worthwhile to listen to what you actually want. It will be valuable to apply to a course you are actually passionate about.
I would tell my younger self: Having fun is great, but working hard is equally great too. It’s imperative that you maintain a good balance in your high school life.
I’m a freshman at Marquette University and I intend to major in Economics.
The Sixth Form team’s dedicated university counsellor was a huge help in guiding me through the application process for universities in the US and in Canada, especially in terms of the general application requirements for each country.
The A-Level subjects themselves gave me a good academic foundation for university life, especially Maths and Economics, which I found were similar to what I did at my first semester at Marquette. English Literature–my third A-Level subject–helped me develop analytical skills and gave me a better appreciation of different forms of literature, something I hope to build on while in university.
I took on a position as member of the HIS Student Council while in A-Levels, and it taught me a lot of things about leadership and interaction with peers, lessons that I brought with me to university and hope to apply in the future.
Outside of my main A-Level subjects, I took on a “super-curriculum” activity called the Independent Project Qualification (IPQ). The IPQ requires students to pick a topic of their interest (for as long as that topic isn’t covered in their subjects’ curriculum) and write a research report based on that topic. I chose to write about Philippine Democracy, a topic I was highly interested in and wanted to learn more about. Doing IPQ helped me learn more about my topic, develop my research and report writing skills, and even allowed me the opportunity to share my findings with my supervisor and some peers.
I also remained an active member of the HIS Sinfonietta throughout A-Levels, which helped me keep in touch with my interest in piano and music in general. I had a small role in performances both inside and outside of school. I always appreciated this role of mine, because it gave me a reason to continue playing piano throughout a period of my academic journey where I found it difficult to do other things besides studying for my exams.
Before writing out their personal statements, I’d tell the current Sixth Formers to really do some self-reflection and try to discern what is important to them, and what they care deeply about. Sixth Formers might need to write their personal statement based off of their intended course–especially if they’re applying to universities in the UK–but it is important nonetheless for them to dig deeper into what has led them to take that specific course. Only then can they write an effective personal statement.
Sixth Formers, don’t lie on your personal statement. It’s as simple as that. There may be moments where you’re tempted to present yourself in a different light that so that you might get into your university of choice, but it’s always best to be yourself and trust that all the work you’ve put into your university applications is enough to get you into a good university.
A recent conversation with another HIS A-Level friend, and some personal reflection on the whole period of A-Levels, made me realise that A-Levels was a period of genuine and meaningful personal development for me in several aspects. It gave me a better glimpse of university life, the challenges of leadership, and the complexities of friendships.
One thing I would tell my younger self is that everything that happened in A-Levels was meant to happen and that the lessons learnt from those moments do have value. Because if not for those lessons, there would have been no growth for me as an individual. I would also tell him that there’ll be a time in the future where he’s simply able to look back fondly at those challenges and simply laugh.
One of the main things that stimulated my interest in Economics was the fact that I decided to take IGCSE Economics back in Year 10. I had always been interested in politics and global affairs, but I had never thought about economics as a specific field of interest until I took it as an IGCSE subject. It was only as I progressed through Year 10 and 11 that I realized how integral economics was to politics and global affairs. Given that I didn’t want to enter politics specifically; I came to the realisation that economics was a good alternative that still allowed me to explore my interest in global affairs.
I am enrolled to start my Bachelors in Biomedical Sciences in Monash University Melbourne in February 2023.
A-Levels was a coming of age experience for me — in both developing academically and maturing as a person. Not only was the jump in academic level an effective induction to preparing for university level studying; but the professional habits and relationships I built when interacting with teachers and peers were immensely transferrable to navigating university life, building bridges, entering the workforce, etc. Overall, I entered sixth form doubtful and confused, but emerged a wiser, stronger person.
CCAs were the most available opportunity for me to explore other interests. I participated in the student orchestra and was the vice president of the HIS Chinese Orchestra. During a few of my break times and free periods, I also accompanied my friend to the art studio and tried my hand at watercolour under the guidance of her lecturer. My A-Levels syllabus also consisted of a Project Purpose curriculum, where groups of students were given the opportunity to execute projects dedicated to one of the 16 Sustainable Development Goals. This initiative allowed me to organise a tree planting event, where my group and a few volunteers supplied and planted trees in a community garden for children with disabilities.
“AIM FOR PROGRESS, NOT FOR PERFECTION.” Oftentimes, personal statements, university hunting and applications can be overwhelming. I found it incredibly tempting to put tasks off, out of fear that I may mess things up if approaching them without ‘adequate’ knowledge or planning. This however, very easily leads to a downward spiral of procrastinating, resulting in little to no work done at all. By reminding myself that imperfect progress is still more beneficial than no progress at all, I was able to push myself to slowly complete my (multiple) personal statements and uni applications one step at a time.
Growing up is never easy. It can be discouraging when you feel like you are the only one among your peers struggling to find your footing, and there will be times when life throws multiple hurdles at you at a time — but just like a muscle, a little bit of tearing is necessary for you to grow stronger than before. It is okay to take things slow and fall down from time to time; for when you one day look back at where you have been, you will eventually realise that you are no longer the person you once was.
I always had a passion for biological sciences, but was extremely reluctant when it came to picking a course to aim for. I was finally inspired to take biomedical sciences after an afternoon out with my biology teacher / research report supervisor / Project Purpose supervisor, whom I had built a close relationship with. From our meeting, I learnt that before teaching, she was a biomedical student and cancer researcher — and more importantly — that one is not stuck in one job for the rest of one’s life. This revelation dispelled a lot of my fears of regret, as I realised that there are always other available pathways, should I decide that my career is no longer suitable for me.
I’m in my 3rd year, Sports Science and Sports Management at the University of Otago, New Zealand
Year 11 has prepared me to get onto assignments as soon as possible and made me realise that balancing daily activities along with study is the most important thing.
I regret not taking PE while I was doing my IGCSE exams as it would have given me a head start on pursuing my University Course. Being involved in sports is a passion and hobby for me. I have regretted not taking any leadership roles while I was in school however I have made up for it at the University of Otago.
Being the sports captain in school and being able to participate in multiple events ranging from swimming gala to sports day made me realise that I wanted to pursue a career in sports. Always trying to keep updated with different sports such as tennis, football and rugby has expanded my horizons and I realise that there are so many options when it comes to sports as it is becoming a major industry.
My advice would be to choose what you love to study because at the end of the day you have to make yourself happy. Do some research on what University suits you best depending on your course before you make a decision. Get onto it early so that your decision making is a lot easier.
My favourite memory would be the friendships I made during school and the lovely teachers that made everything possible. Being able to socialise with different year groups and competing in different sports made my school days very competitive.