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Tan Tai Lon – Recipient of the Freeman Asian Scholarship

Tan Tai Lon joined MCKL’s Cambridge A-Level Programme in 2018. He received 2A*2A in his examinations and was the CAL Student Union President. He is the fourth MCKL student to receive the prestigious Wesleyan Freeman Asian Scholarship.

We had a quick chat with him.


Can you share more about the scholarship that you will be receiving from Wesleyan University USA?

Sure! I was offered the Wesleyan Freeman Asian Scholarship- a 100% tuition scholarship that provides expenses for a four-year course of study leading to a bachelor’s degree. Each year, one student is selected from each of eleven countries in Asia, with Malaysia being one of them. It was founded in 1994 by the late Mansfield Freeman and is aimed at deepening the understanding between the US and the countries of East Asia.

What do you think made you stand out in your scholarship application?

I believe that two central factors spearheaded my application. Firstly, Wesleyan was simply a good fit for me, and vice versa. I applied not just because it was a full scholarship to the States, but rather because the university’s core principles and ideologies lined up perfectly with my own- and I made sure that it showed. Subsequently, I supported that with a consistent track record of leadership positions and achievements that ensured that I would be vocal and engaged in the international community.

What course will you be pursuing at Wesleyan University?

Wesleyan has a unique academic structure. Students are encouraged to explore a broad array of courses before ultimately selecting a field of specialization. I am eager to fully traverse the spectrum, but I plan on majoring in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry.

Why did you choose this course?

I chose MBB because it encompasses the academic interests I developed here at MCKL. It is an inherently interdisciplinary field that involves all three of the sciences I took here, yet concentrates on the central dogma- a concept very much drilled into me by my Biology lecturer Miss Mei. It also places a heavy emphasis on genetics, which I have always been fascinated in.

Can you share some of your memorable experiences when you were at MCKL?

A kaleidoscope of fond memories come to mind whenever I look back on my time here. From the daily walks towards NU Sentral to closing out the library for weeks on end during finals, I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by a diverse group of friends who made every moment magical. I especially recall the night of the Christmas Festival, held on the last day of the semester, where we witnessed the student community coming together as one in celebration.

Why did you choose to study at MCKL?

Early in middle school, I had already set my sights on the Freeman Scholarship. From then on, it was only a matter of making the right decisions to put myself at a competitive advantage. MCKL has the distinguished reputation of already nurturing three past Freeman Scholars, so when the A-Levels Program was listed under the Star Newspaper Scholarship, it was an easy decision for me to make.

How in some ways has MCKL nurtured you to be who you are today?

Apart from bridging the gap between my secondary and tertiary education, MCKL is also where I got to experience firsthand the intricacies of leadership and democracy. As part of the CAL Student Union, it was taxing yet fully rewarding to moderate the relationships between the Student Council, the college faculty and the student body.

What advice can you give your juniors?

The best advice I can give is to not stress out. It’s very easy to be paralyzed by the magnitude with which a single action or grade can affect your future, especially during the pre-university period. You already know how hard you need to study, but just remember that regardless of whatever happens, even if it’s a dissatisfying AS exam grade, all you need to do is move on. Because, and I mean this in the most non-clichéd way possible; if you truly want something hard enough, life eventually gives it to you.

In what ways did your parents help you in your education journey?

My father passed away from pancreatic cancer when I was at a very young age. Since then, my mother has taken all her responsibilities in stride; breadwinner, educator, friend- all without skipping a beat. She is a model of unfaltering resolve, and has always been my drive. Academically and beyond, she has always provided me with endless support and freedom (and only occasionally nudges me towards becoming a doctor). Nothing motivates me more than wanting to give her the life she deserves.