Education is one of the essentials that every human being should be entitled to. Without education, it makes it harder for one to get a job and earn a living.
However, education doesn’t come cheap. This is why many students turn to education loans or scholarships for financial aid to further their education.
Let’s zoom in a little closer on scholarships.
There are many kinds of scholarships available out there, but they are all based on various criteria that usually reflect the values and purposes of individual colleges and universities, private organisations or government bodies offering the award.
One of the most common scholarships is merit-based, which honours students for their academic, artistic or athletic achievements, at the same time factoring in the applicant’s extracurricular activities and community service efforts as well.
On Wednesday, local institution Taylor’s University came under the spotlight with their new scholarship offerings, particularly for undergraduate studies.
According to the official website, the institution is awarding 100 full scholarships to outstanding students based on academic excellence, arts or sports talent, extra-curricular involvement and leadership skills.
This scholarship is divided into two categories: Merit Scholarship and Talent Scholarship.
The Merit Scholarship
is quite straightforward, in which applicants can submit their results from standardised exams like SPM, IGCSE, STPM or UEC, or entry-level exams like A-Levels, Foundation, Diploma, etc.
Now, let’s talk about the Talent Scholarship
that is being offered on the table.
This scholarship is further split into two categories: ‘Sports Talent Category’ aimed at students who have “won any state level competition and above” and ‘Other Talents Category’ for those who are a “social influencer
” or have “any other special talent that shall be performed/proved in front of the judges”.
Besides that, another criteria included is that “achievement in e-sports and positions held in any club/society/institution/event will be an added advantage”.
The 'controversial' scholarship
Unlike the Merit Scholarship, the academic results required under the Talent Scholarship are not as strict, which is not unusual considering that there are scholarships that are specific to different criteria.
Here’s the thing, the newly introduced Talent Scholarship got a lot of heat in the last couple of days because of one criteria.
You guessed it, the part about being a social influencer.
Many people, including students, took it to social media to rant about this requirement that was almost unheard of five years ago.
The general perception about social influencers is that they are famous on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, and they have a huge following just on these platforms.
The harsher misconception about this group of people is that they are only popular because they are ‘good-looking’ but they have ‘no talent’.
So you can imagine the reaction that followed on social media.
Some felt that with this type of requirement, the university is encouraging young people to chase fame and popularity on the internet. Others thought that a person’s social influence should not be on par with someone that actually has sports or artistic talents.
Not only that, many expressed their disappointment that Taylor’s University is using students as a marketing strategy because these scholars' social media numbers would surely boost the institution’s popularity and reputation.
On the other hand, there are certain people who felt that we shouldn’t judge social influencers because they may have creative talent, such as creating content and making videos, and may need that extra financial push to help them further develop their skills in these areas.
In fact, a number of netizens defended the institution by saying that a social influencer should not be mistaken for a social media
influencer, so we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
From the horse's mouth
To shine a better light in this issue, we reached out to Taylor’s University and here’s what they have to say
“A social influencer in this context is not social media influencer, like most people thought, but rather those who champion social objectives and have the power to influence others to join in them in their cause”, the university said in a statement.
“But that’s not all, they must also perform well academically.”
According to Taylor’s University, the Talent Scholarship was launched in December last year to recognise exceptional talents in various areas like music, drama, sports among others, as well as social influencers.
In other words, they are not awarding this scholarship only
to social influencers.
The scholarship also requires applicants to present their achievements in front of a panel of judges. This particular recipient shared that it wasn't exactly about number of followers you have on Instagram.
At the moment, Taylor’s University confirmed that they only have one scholarship recipient who qualify as a social influencer so far, Daniel Devan.
“Daniel started a social initiative called ‘Where Holistic Experiences Empower’ (WHEE) in 2013. Aside from being a passionate individual who constantly works to make a difference in the lives of others, he has a strong academic record,” the university added.
Due to his academic and extra-curricular accomplishments, Daniel recently received a full scholarship to continue his studies in Medicine from Taylor’s University.
“We would like to have more students who are passionate about helping the community in our university, just like Daniel.”
Having said that, we really hope that all educational institutions out there would actually put a student's education first, and continue their mission to help young minds develop their talents and hone their skills.
Taylor's University has released an official statement
saying that they will change the term 'social influencer' to 'social advocate' instead to avoid further confusion.
They welcome candidates who demonstrate excellence in their studies and contribute meaningful change to society.