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How to Recieve a Tuition Scholarship for Australian International School

To “just have a go” is a very Australian way of encouraging a person to put forth their best effort and try something new. Ben Armstrong, the secondary school principal at Australian International School (AIS), used the phrase numerous times when Saigoneer met with him earlier this month to discuss the school’s scholarship programs.

“I realized the Vietnamese curriculum isn’t what I was suited for when I was studying in a public school. I really want to study abroad and the IB program is a very attractive program for my goals,” explained Khánh Toàn Huỳnh, a current Year 12 student and full-tuition scholarship recipient who enrolled at AIS last year. 

Khánh Toàn Huỳnh, scholarship recipient and Year 12 student.

Toàn says that if it were not for the scholarship, he would be struggling to find a realistic way to pursue his dream of pursuing biochemistry at an American university. But now the self-proclaimed “tinkerer” who taught himself English primarily via YouTube videos is thriving in his coursework and working on an International Baccalaureate (IB) CAS project that involves designing a cooking class. Upon graduation, he will therefore have the academic background and leadership experiences and soft skills to not only get into but excel at a university abroad. He thus exemplifies a primary goal of the scholarship program: “giving students that might not be able to afford a full international education that pathway to get overseas,” Armstrong explained. 



Ben Armstrong, Australian International School's Secondary School Principal.

Each year AIS offers scholarships of up to 100% tuition for as many as seven years to students who exhibit academic and extracurricular potential. Despite such a life-changing opportunity, we were surprised to learn that only 20 to 30 students apply every year. The school believes that the number remains low because potential recipients worry they cannot pass the application process. To this, Armstrong says, “be prepared, sell yourself and just have a go.”

The first step in the application process involves submitting basic personal and academic information as well as any materials related to extracurricular activities. Armstrong stressed that they are “looking to see potential more than accomplishments.” Therefore, students can submit videos of themselves playing an instrument they may have learned informally from a family member, as Toàn did. Or they can showcase their interest in art and design by creating a custom CV. AIS believes that creativity is a core part of the Australian spirit and thus students should try and offer application elements that reveal who they are as a person and what they are passionate about beyond grades and test scores.

Applicants that pass the general aptitude and English language testing round are invited for an interview with the school’s Executive Principal or Deputy Executive Principal. When Toàn reached this stage, he remembers asking his friends to help him with mock interviews to practice being calm, confident and ultimately comfortable to let his personality shine through. There are no right or wrong answers to be given in the interview; instead, it is an opportunity to for the institution to find out “what you believe in,” Armstrong said.

From art and academic clubs to volunteer organizations to sports teams, AIS offers a variety of opportunities to students to explore their interests outside of the classroom. Toàn, for example, shared with Saigoneer that while he enjoys contributing to the natural sciences club he hopes to also start a biochemistry club at the school. The extracurriculars rely on the self-motivated collaboration of students and thus function best when members can work together effectively. Therefore, Armstrong said that when he interviews applicants he is assessing if the AIS community is the right environment for the students and if they will be able to contribute positively to the community, be it in the classroom, art room or sports field. Simply, he wants to see if they are “not solely in it for themselves.”

“I don’t want to be boastful,” Toàn immediately responded when asked why he believes he was offered a full scholarship. This humility and desire to avoid self-congratulations are likely the very personality traits that make him a good fit for the school in the first place. But one can be too humble, especially when it comes to the scholarship application, Armstrong admitted. While it can be difficult, he said “don’t be shy, sell yourself.” 

AIS’s excellence is easily discerned via a quick perusal of the impressive university and career opportunities graduates enjoy. And anyone who has visited the school for a tour or attended an open house has witnessed the school’s emphasis on developing globally-minded and responsible young leaders. But to anyone that is unsure about their ability to fit in or pass the selection process, consider how there is nothing to lose and so much to gain, so “just have a go.”

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