Meet Jing Min!

We’ve all met Sin Seanne, Adelyn and Jung Kian from the core committee. Now it’s time to meet the facilitators that run the show! First up we have Jing Min who is a rising senior at Sarah Lawrence.

Jing Min!

Introduction: Hey all, I’m Jing Min, a true-bred Penang-nite! I currently attend Sarah Lawrence College, studying Economics and International Relations and graduating in May 2013 (eeps!). For Pre-U, I did the International Baccalaureate Diploma program at Uplands International School in Penang. Before that, it was Penang Chinese Girls High School for me! I’m in my third year with USAPPS and it’s been fabulous.

What do you like to do for fun/outside USAPPS?
I love everything about food and reading. Wandering about cities and towns on your own is also fun. I also love having great and epic conversations with people. And talking about (U.S.) education. Come talk to me!

What did you do in high school?
Sports (Badminton, Track and Football), debate and Board of Prefects. And watched a LOT of TV. =)

Do you remember much about your college application experience? Tell us a little about it!
It was quite ridiculous. I don’t think I knew much about the U.S. system initially and was definitely stuck on my applications essays. I was never (and still not) very good at selling my personality on paper, so that was tough. There was a lot of confused moments, especially since I had terrible SPM scores and had to find ways to prove that those scores did not define me. But ultimately it was really fun, because some of the essay questions were just fun! Word of advice: Always do your research. And don’t over-do your college admissions process.

How do you think you stand out?
I’m the kid that sits in the corner quietly but once I get talking I can’t really stop. So I suppose its the shock factor. But I also really enjoy talking to different people, and building bridges across different fields and minds. I also have a very unpredictable iPod songlist.

Why did you choose to apply to the US?
The intellectual versatility was a big draw. I wanted an education where grades was not the central focus. My high school experience pretty much proved that I was not suited to grade-intensive systems. I also wanted an education system where I could bring in different subjects and disciplines without being boxed into one field or the other. I wanted to be able to learn everything and do everything! So I guess I’ll sleep when I die.

What colleges did you apply to?
Smith, Bates, American University, Hofstra, Cornell, Sarah Lawrence College.

Give three areas you feel you’ll be able to give advice on:
Liberal Arts College, Undergraduate Research, IB. And how to survive bad high school (SPM) grades.

Jing Min with her brother, Jing Yong - another facilitator.

Tell us about your favourite application essay:
One of the LACs I was accepted to wanted an essay on an ethical dilemma. My essay was rather depressing as I wrote about watching someone die. It was neither a personal event nor a particularly melancholic one. Instead, the essay made me think about why people around me reacted the way they did, and how it affected their (in)actions. Somewhere in all that impersonality I managed to tie in my experience of being a high school prefect, which was extremely personal to me at that time. I suppose it was the old-new, personal-impersonal contrast that drew me to the essay.

Best thing about your college?
The professors and classes. If the professors think you’re ready/you request, they will give you really advance material and are more than happy to help you work through it. I’ve never been pushed so hard academically and professionally in my short life.

Did you take the SAT or ACT?
SAT. And I only achieved slightly above average. So an average SAT score is not the end of the world.

Why did you decide to be a part of USAPPS?
I have the great privilege of having a great education, why shouldn’t I share it? With a few workshops a year and motley crew of Malaysian students, USAPPS continuously inspired and pushed students to achieve their greatest potential (and more). Being part of USAPPS gives me comfort that I’m doing my small part in building Malaysia. Plus, everyone here is awesome!

Tell us about your favourite college class?
So many to choose from! In my second year, I took a class on International Development and Human Geography. It was meant to be an intermediate – advance class and the professor tried his very best to scare everyone away. At first we all thought he was insane, but when I was faced with graduate level material and work, I finally understood why he did that. That class has made me a better researcher, student, listener and person, I think. The professor was so enthusiastic, he could capture our attention for over 4 hours. One of the best things I took away from the class (and utilise on a daily basis) was the ability to read landscapes and situations. Now, when I see a building or a city, I don’t see just a city, but a whole network of people, things, materials, histories, cultures, laws etc. My research for the class wasn’t the best I’ve done, but it never ceases to blow my mind how much I learnt from that class. The professor was Dr. Joshua Muldavin.

Favorite country? Favorite Malaysian food? Favorite bands/music/books?
Favourite country would be a tie between England and Iceland. Both countries are so full of contradictions and quirks. I have to be true to my Penang roots – Char Koay Teow! I’m a big fan of A Fine Frenzy, but will listen to everything from classical instrumentals to dub-step. Favourite book has got to be Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”.

Jing Min with friends during Thanksgiving.

“Flexible curriculum…allows you ample opportunities to explore different fields, and not be stuck in something you don’t enjoy doing!”

An MIT Experience: Coyin is a rising junior at MIT and is pursuing Biological Engineering. This summer, she is doing an internship at the Center of Cellular and Molecular Platforms in Bangalore, India. In MIT, Coyin is most likely to be found in a basement lab playing with fly larvae to get them to digest organic waste matter. This fly larvae project ‘Esperanza en Vuelo’ which means ‘Hope in Flight” is an organic waste management project based in Nicaragua. Both her internship and project are fully funded by MIT.  Apart from geeking out in the basement lab, Coyin also plays the keyboard in a Hip Hop/R&B band.                                                                                                           Here’s why Coyin chose to study in the US! =)

Why should students choose to study in the US, especially when alternatives may cost less, take less time, and offer more familiar styles of education?

I don’t have a “why-should” answer, but below are some reasons for my choice:
– Flexible curriculum: Since most US schools only require you to declare a major at the end of your first or second year, this allows you ample opportunities to explore different fields, and not be stuck in something you don’t enjoy doing!
– MIT (and many US schools) offer a tremendous number of opportunities in undergraduate research, and research was something I wanted to try when I was applying to colleges.
– Many people say the US system is not in-depth enough for the fields of sciences/engineering. While this may be a disadvantage twenty years ago, the world is changing so fast now that whatever technical knowledge you learn in college may not help you at all in your workplace! The way of thinking and learning new things that best suits you is probably the most valuable skill you will ever get out of a college education.

A critical piece of advice you would offer a student looking to further his/her studies abroad…
Instead of waiting for things to happen to you, make things happen!


“…the gifts of my education – a unique combination of language proficiencies, proven ability to think independently and willingness to take risks…”


Meet Pui Shen! She recently graduated from a top liberal arts college – Middlebury College – situated in Vermont (the land of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream). She read International Politics and Economics and is fluent in Portuguese. Pui Shen is also currently working on establishing a social protection monitoring system in Yemen as a consultant with the UNDP. Check out what she has to say about her liberal arts college education experience in Middlebury!

As a graduate, how has your US education benefitted you?

An American liberal arts college education can take you in the most unexpected of directions. Picking up Portuguese ‘for fun’ in my freshman year, I went to Brazil twice to conduct independent research for my senior thesis in International Politics and Economics, fully funded by the college. Unlike some institutions where senior work is just a means to an end, my professors pushed me further, challenging me to make a valuable academic contribution. Today, the gifts of my education – a unique combination of language proficiencies, proven ability to think independently and willingness to take risks – have directly impacted my career path. I am currently a consultant at the United Nations’ Development Programme in Brasilia and will be transitioning to a Princeton in Latin America fellowship in São Paulo this October. My Middlebury education gave me the freedom and the courage to dream differently, and the tools to achieve those dreams.

“…the US system provides students a conducive, participatory learning platform…”

Hey guys! We are here to introduce to you another exciting new segment in our blog! We will be introducing you to current students and alumni from US colleges and universities in this segment. Hear their insights on US Education, exciting and fun experiences in their college days and the amazing things they are doing right now.

We hope that this segment will provide you with a glimpse of what US education has to offer from various perspectives and that you enjoy learning from them.

To kick-start this wonderful segment, here’s Andrew Loh. Andrew was a facilitator for USAPPS for 3 years and this year, he was a guest speaker at our Klang Valley Half-Day Workshop. Read below for what Andrew has to say about US education.

As a graduate, how has your US education benefited you in your post-graduate endeavours, be it work, graduate studies or anything else under the sun? (if possible, specifically benefits of a US education)

First of all, I think a liberal arts education pushes one to think beyond narrow academic specializations. The exposure I received in college has allowed me to be quite versatile in what I do at work. I graduated with a major in Political Science and a minor in Islamic Studies, but I took classes in many other subjects while at Swarthmore. Most recently, my work has centered around lots of economic research and analysis (stuff about numbers). I have been asked, on multiple occasions, whether I studied law, statistics, or linguistics (but never political science, hah).

Second, I think that a US education changes the way one approaches issues / problems / work. To a certain extent (but definitely not true in all cases), US graduates are more likely to challenge received wisdom / question authority / be more outspoken. Are these statistics real? Why are we doing this project? Is it worth it? Can’t we do this a different way? What why who what how? There is something about how higher education is structured in the States that encourages original input from students: many classes emphasize and induce student participation; students can, and are encouraged, to think for themselves and critique the opinions of “experts” and “professors.””

And many US graduates bring this attitude / approach home with them. Some call it outspokenness; some call it rudeness; I call it balls. In the words of my boss: “Wah you all US graduates all got such strong opinions one!” For me, the US system provides students a conducive, participatory learning platform — comfortable and welcoming enough for students to participate honestly in, and the critical thinking with which to back their thoughts up.

Why should students choose to study in the US, especially when alternatives may cost less, take less time, and offer more familiar styles of education?

I think Malaysians should at least consider tertiary education in the United States because the rich and powerful are sending their kids there. I think this means something. *wink

Non-exhaustive proof of the global shift of power:

(1) Dato’ Sri Najib Razak (Nottingham University, UK)

  • Nor Ashman (Georgetown University, USA)
  • Nooryana Najwa (Georgetown University, USA)

(2) Lee Kuan Yew (Cambridge, UK)

  • Lee Hsien Loong (Cambridge, UK)
    • Li Hongyi (MIT, USA)
    • Li Haoyi (MIT, USA)

Meet Adelyn!

You’ve met Sin Seanne from the core committee. Now it’s time to meet, Adelyn! Like Sin Seanne, she, too attends Mount Holyoke College. Previously she was a facilitator for the 2011 workshop in Penang and a participant for the 2010 workshop in Klang Valley. Get to know her from the interview below!

Enjoying Spring… sort of anyway.

Introduce yourself.
I’m Adelyn and I’m a born and bred Penangite! I am a rising sophomore at Mount Holyoke College where I intend to pursue a double major in International Relations and Mathematics. Previously, I was at St. Andrew’s Junior College, Singapore where I did the Singapore-Cambridge A levels and prior to that I was a student in Methodist Girls’ School, Penang. This is my third year being involved with USAPPS.

What do you like to do for fun, outside USAPPS?
I read, write, blog and hunt for good music.

What did you do in high school?
While in Penang, I played the violin in various orchestras. When I got to Singapore however, I joined the field hockey team- probably one of the craziest things I decided to do to date!

Do you remember much about your college application experience? Tell us a little about it!
I guess I had always known that I wanted to go to the US, even before attending USAPPS. I was fortunate that I have had lots of guidance from my family members when it came to education. But when it came to the crunch, I still found it pretty overwhelming. It is easy to tell people to start early but sometimes there are things that we can’t control, things that happen at the very last minute. For me it was an academic crash during my final year of school, which made me feel jittery and nervous about applications in general.

Why did you choose to apply to the US?
I’ve always wanted to go to the US. I’ve always liked the idea of being able to try out a few disciplines before firmly deciding on something.


What colleges did you apply to?
Bates, Bowdoin, Colgate, Reed, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Oberlin, Hamilton, Whitman, Brown, Yale, Columbia.

Give three areas you feel you’ll be able to give advice on:
Liberal arts education, essays, arts supplement.

Tell us about your favourite application essay:
Personally, my favourite application essay is sort of weird. I wrote about my decision to leave debate to join field hockey. When I was in Singapore, the school I was at was a sports powerhouse. This meant that more attention was given to the sports and not to academic clubs like debate. I couldn’t help but feel the apparent ‘neglect’, if you could call it that while I was there. I’m used to being very active and it was just really difficult for me to work at something and feel like results were not being reaped. So I decided to join something that my school cared about – field hockey. I think one thing that I underestimated was what joining a competitive sport did to your body. Considering that I joined the team only in my final year of school and I have never done a rigorous sport, it was quite risky because I didn’t really know how to handle the effect of intensive training while studying. In short, I felt completely burnt out and it was heavily reflected in my grades. For the first time in my life, I was failing classes. Bottom 5% of the cohort, I’m not even kidding. To be really honest, this was a story that I was advised not to write because it would have potentially sounded quite whine-y. But I could not help but write it anyway because it felt like it put a lot of context to my academics. This essay, however, was written for a school supplement. I got accepted at that very school.

How did you feel when you received your application results?
I felt relief more than anything else, to be really honest. I really, really, really wanted to get out of Singapore. I didn’t like the system and, in fact, I dreaded the idea of being in a place where I feel like a misfit. Note that I am not trying to be disparaging towards the Singapore system – for what it’s worth, I think the quality of education in Singapore is very high – but the problem is me!!! (Haha lame cliché) I just don’t fit in!

Did you submit an arts supplement/ sports etc.?
Yes, I submitted an arts supplement. I play the violin and made a recording for this.

Why do you think USAPPS2012 is special?
Well besides the obvious fact that we try to give a more personal touch towards the application process, the 2012 series of workshops is different from the previous workshops because we are trying to increase facilitator-participant interaction, particularly during the two-day workshop (which is on the 28 and 29 of July). During my time as a participant, I think the biggest thing that I got out of it wasn’t really information. To be really honest, I think the thing that really set USAPPS apart is the connections you make with current students and alumni. Being able to talk to a wide range of people from various backgrounds really helps you understand what US education and the application process like. But the thing is, I realize that sometimes people are shy to approach facilitators. So this year, we are really trying to make it a point to increase that interaction. Let the facilitators play a more active role in getting to know participants.


Meet Sin Seanne!

We are launching a spanking new section in our blog! Let us help you get to know the facilitators better, and hopefully that will convince you to attend the workshops!

To kick-start this segment, we have Sin Seanne who is a part of the 2012 core committee. Previously she was a facilitator for the 2010 and 2011 workshop. Get to know her from the interview below!

Meet Sin Seanne!

Hi Sin Seanne, please introduce yourself!
Hello! I’m Sin Seanne and I’m from PJ, Selangor. Currently in Mount Holyoke College pursuing Economics and Environmental Studies. I did the IB in Mahindra United World College of India and before that I went to SMK Damansara Jaya.

What do you like to do outside USAPPS?
I love having dinners and hanging out with friends. I love cooking for my friends and family too. I also look outside my bedroom window for some birdwatching – a new hobby of mine that I picked up from Costa Rica.

What did you do in high school?
ALL I DID WAS SWIM SWIM SWIM SWIM! Never did any of my schools ECAs.

Do you remember much about your college application experience? Tell us a little about it!
YES I DO! I remember that I still had all my application essays including supplementary essays to write and it was already winter break – I had plans to travel across Southern India. My train ride was 25 hours along and I wrote some of them on the train with the help of my 2 classmates. I remember finishing my personal statement itself on New Year’s Eve in a little shack while I was at the beach in Goa with a bottle of inspiration on the table.


Why did you choose to apply to the US?
I love the flexibility of the academic system. It allows us to experiment in different subject areas in the first two years rather than going straight in to a definite major and realizing in the end that this is now what I want to do.

What colleges did you apply to?
Middlebury College, Colby College, Grinnell College, Connecticut College, Bryn Mawr College, Luther College, Earlham College

Sin Seanne in action

Give three areas you feel you’ll be able to give advice on:
IB, Liberal Arts Colleges and Financial Aid and even choosing your colleges =)

Tell us about your favorite application essay:
My application essay was a very very personal one. I wrote about me shaving my head bald. It was probably one of my hardest things that I have done thus far. I wrote my personal and emotional significance behind the reason why I shaved my head. The essay writing process made me dig deep and I learnt and understood so much about myself from the day I shaved to me putting down the thoughts and emotions on paper.

How did you feel when you received your application results?
Very very nervous. I knew for a fact that I would not get into some schools but even though I knew, the rejection letters do hurt. On a more positive note, when I got my first acceptance letter (even though it wasn’t my dream school), it was a huge sense of relief and joy. I knew that I was set and that I was going to the US regardless. But the cherry on the top was when I was took off the wait list for my top school. It was just a fusion of feelings of excitement, OMG, I-can’t-believe-it-I-got-in and more. It was a very very reach school for me but I am now currently waiting to start my third year at this very school.

What are the best and worst things about your college?
Best thing would be my swim team and friends =) and the oh so beautiful and breathtaking campus. And the worst thing would be having no boys on site… =( Oh well, sacrifices need to be made if you want to go to a great college, no?

Did you submit an arts supplement/ sports etc.?
Yes, I submitted a sports supplement for swimming. And yes I am on the varsity team in college!

Why do you think USAPPS2012 is special?
It is a place that brings very special people together whom you share a common experience with, thus, creating a family. We all know that by going abroad, we always want a source of comfort. The people you meet at USAPPS are going to be one of your sources of comfort when you step foot in the majestic land of The US of A. Now, you have a reason to travel across the country or even jumping borders through a two hour bus ride.

Sin Seanne with Andrew Loh


Welcome to our new website for USAPPS. We will be using this website for information regarding 2012 and future workshops. This website is getting updated periodically and will include information regarding all aspects of application. To keep tabs on USAPPS, you can like us on Facebook!