Fulbright University Vietnam is honored to announce Vietcombank – Fulbright Scholarship for incoming students of the undergraduate Class of 2026. Established though the generosity and commitment of the Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam – Thu Thiem Branch (Vietcombank Thu Thiem), the scholarship is created specifically for students who have excellent academic achievements and financial difficulties in order to recognize their efforts, encourage community involvements and provide financial assistance to support them in two years.

The scholarship awards 60,000,000 VND (Sixty million Vietnam dong) to three (03) Class of 2026 students. Every scholarship awardee will receive 30,000,000 VND each academic year in the first two year at Fulbright to cover the stipend.

As one criterion of Vietcombank – Fulbright scholarship is for students with financial difficulties, the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid will evaluate applicants’ financial circumstances and send the link to apply the scholarship to eligible students via email.

Final decision will be based on the evaluation of admissions & financial aid application and the supplemental essay. The Office of Admissions & Financial Aid will announce the scholarship result on the same day as the recruitment result of the Spring Cycle.

Throughout the past years, the Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank) has been a generous donor and supported Fulbright students through many scholarship opportunities.

🔎 Applicants in the Spring Cycle can read more about Vietcombank – Fulbright Scholarship and other scholarships at: https://admissions.fulbright.edu.vn/vn/hoc-bong-va-ho-tro-tai-chinh/hoc-bong/
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✔️ The admissions application for the Spring Cycle of Class of 2026 can be created at: https://apply.fulbright.edu.vn.

✔️ The deadline of Spring Cycle application is 14:00 on Monday, April 25, 2022.

Mr. Nguyễn Phương Lam, the donor of Nguyễn-Phương Family Scholarship, has confirmed the opportunity for Fulbright University Vietnam’s Class of 2026 Spring Cycle applicants to apply for this scholarship if the Selection Committee finds a suitable candidate. The Committee will award one (01) more full tuition scholarship to incoming Class of 2026 students.

Upon this confirmation, Fulbright University Vietnam and VietSeeds Foundation are honored to announce Nguyễn-Phương Family (NP Family Scholarship) opportunity for Class of 2026 Spring Cycle applicants. The university has awarded NP Family scholarship to one (01) admitted student from Priority Cycle and will expand the opportunity to one (01) student from Spring Cycle.

The NP Family Scholarship will award one or two scholarships covering full annual tuition fee in maximum four (04) years to one or two incoming student who exemplifies the change-maker spirit. More details on the Scholarship, Criteria and Renewal could be found HERE.

Throughout the NP Family scholarship interviews on March 1st, 6 candidates from Priority Cycle have impressed the Selection Committee with excellent performance and mature thoughts. Mr. Nguyễn Phương Lam (the philanthropist/ Selection Committee member) excitedly shared after the interviews: “Our family is thrilled to observe that Fulbright Vietnam University continue attracting students with compassion, strong motivation, and leadership potentials. Building a young generation of empathetic leaders and training them with pay-it-forward spirit is the best way to spread positive impacts in Vietnam’s society.”

The spirit of the scholarship is to help form generations of Vietnamese leaders/changemakers (in all fields of society) for a more humane, kinder world – a world built on solidarity instead of competition; a world focusing on broad human development and social sustainability instead of just economic and material development; a world based on the principle that the meaning of human life is in the being, and not in the having.

The scholarship recipient will receive full tuition fee support for maximum four years at Fulbright from Nguyễn-Phương Family Scholarship’s funds. Housing expense and stipend support will be considered based on their family’s financial circumstances and will be funded by Fulbright University Vietnam or VietSeeds Foundation (if any). In this case, students will be required to complete another application as regulated by VietSeeds.

Spring Cycle applicants can read more about scholarships at Part 6.1 – Scholarships in the admissions application at https://apply.fulbright.edu.vn/.

The deadline for scholarship applications in Spring Cycle is 14:00 Sunday, May 15, 2022.

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The admissions application for the Spring Cycle of Class of 2026 can be created at: https://apply.fulbright.edu.vn.

The deadline of Spring application is 14:00 Monday, April 25, 2022.

“Today it’s just me and Yến. Tomorrow there will be more and I believe that in the future, every student with a disability will feel supported and confident,” Trần Việt Hoàng, one of two recipients of the Wheel Cards Scholarship, expressed at the Award Ceremony on March 1st 2022. It reflects the vision of the scholarship to not only enable students with disabilities to pursue their dream and contribute to their communities, but it also ignites social conversations about inclusion and diversity and sets a precedent to other Vietnamese and regional universities to dedicate more resources for students with disabilities.

Trần Việt Hoàng in his flute performance welcoming guests to the Wheel Cards Scholarship Awards Ceremony

Being the first award at Fulbright University Vietnam for students with physical disabilities or mental health issues, the Wheel Cards Scholarship is established through the generosity and commitment of Wheel Cards – a world’s first wheelchair/ disabilities-related NFT project. “An inclusive world-class education is a resource-intensive process, requiring the top faculty, great programming, accessible resources, and students collaborating, learning from one another, and actively finding ways to lift each other up, bridge the opportunity gap and empower the underprivileged. Thanks to like-minded donors and partners, Fulbright can do that,”  Ms. Nora Taylor, Fulbright University Vietnam’s Interim Provost, delivered her opening remarks to welcome Mr. Kunho Kim – founder of Wheel Cards,  the guest speakers and scholarship recipients Tran Viet Hoang (Roh Wheel Cards Fellow) and Dong Thi Hai Yen (Mainstreet Park Wheel Cards Fellow).

Ms. Nora Taylor delivers her opening remarks.

A bottom-up approach that creates lasting impacts

Deeply caring about the life of marginalized communities, Kunho Kim traced his giving activities back to 10 years ago. As a high schooler, he started a nonprofit to donate wheelchairs to patients in Vietnam. Continuing his contribution with a more sustainable solution in helping the underprivileged, he chose to give a scholarship at Fulbright University Vietnam.

“Creating an equitable world is a bottom-up approach. We need to create a system where it can foster more impacts by itself. Students who received the scholarships will succeed both in and out of Fulbright University and without a doubt, be excellent scholars throughout their lives. I am 100% positive that these scholars throughout their lives will create lasting impacts on so many other people around them. Doing a one-off charitable event would not create such a lasting impact. I am confident that this scholarship fund will have a positive spiral effect.”

Mr. Kunho Kim delivers his speech virtually.

Besides tuition support, Wheel Cards Scholarship also gives scholars generous annual opportunity funds to pursue independent research, projects, studies, or self-development opportunities of students’ choice.

“My biggest goal is to help visually-impaired people access the professional working environment,” Đồng Thị Hải Yến stated. In the pursuit of her life-time goal, a foreseeable plan is to expand her home spa business in District 10 to establish a sustainable career development for the visually-impaired people, and also to self-finance her future project, together with the opportunity fund from Wheel Cards. The project’s idea emerged from the unemployment situation of her visually-impaired friends who are her former classmates in Psychology at a public university. She wishes to initiate a platform to support psychology graduates like her to join the workforce as professional online counselors.

Đồng Thị Hải Yến inspires others with her personal stories and life-time goals.

For Trần Việt Hoàng, the opportunity fund allows him to approach technological tools such as the Math player, Audio graphing calculator, Orion TI-30XS calculator in studying Economics and Computer Science. The proficiencies in using different kinds of tools will enable him to further develop the programming courses exclusively for visually-impaired learners. “I also plan to study a master program in a developed country, and discover the career development of visually-impaired communities there, in order to contribute to my community when I’m back in Vietnam. I want to understand deeply then break the limitations of visually-impaired people.”

Trần Việt Hoàng shares his study plan supported by the opportunity fund.

Inclusive conversations started from education

“I believe that education is one of the most important aspects of propelling people to start any kind of conversation. So I’m very happy to talk about disability issues and also support students with disabilities, and hope that Hoang and Yen can start many conversations in Vietnam, encouraging other people to talk more about inclusion and diversity, as well as people with disabilities,” affirmed Mr. Kunho Kim.

The importance of conversation initiation in schools was also emphasized in the advocacy story of Ms. Jordan Berger – Skadden Fellow at National Center for Law and Economic Justice; JD, New York University School of Law, the special guest speaker at the Ceremony.  The barriers to access to education became pronounced when she started law school. Through social media, she formed a coalition to connect with disabled law students across the United States. The student-led coalition soon became a formal not-for-profit as National Disabled Law Students Association and has been in regular communication and partnership with various stakeholders across the legal profession.“I hope this scholarship is just the start of your university thinking critically about the importance of fully including students with disabilities. It is not enough for us to be admitted or even given scholarships, accessing inclusion must be a core commitment of every member of the administration and faculty.”

An equitable society creates favorable conditions for people with disabilities to achieve full capabilities to enter a normal life in every daily aspect. “They want to live like people without disabilities, to be mobile and able to deal with their day-to-day life without outside assistance,” Mr. Marko Walde, Chief Representative of German Industry and Commerce Vietnam, the ceremony’s distinguished guest speaker, asserted. The progression of disability mainstreaming starts from promoting the full inclusion and active participation of people with disabilities in educational and early-work environments.

We welcome students with disabilities, especially from Fulbright, to take internships in our German companies located in Vietnam or elsewhere in the world to experience the professional environment, and vice versa, the companies can learn how to include disabled people in their daily businesses,” he promised.

Mr. Marko Walde asserts his support for graduates with disabilities to join the workforce.

As Ms. Nora Taylor concluded, the scholarship is just a beginning of our join-hand effort in giving equal access to all students in education and reaching an equitable and inclusive society, especially for people with disabilities.

Despite the limitation of the hybrid format, all the participants experienced a heart-warming ceremony and were excited for the journey ahead.

An Bình

This fall, a select few Fulbright students with physical disability and/or mental disorders will be able to receive financial aid from Wheel Cards Scholarship. This scholarship is established through the generosity and commitment of Wheel Cards to support college students with disabilities in Vietnam.

As the world’s first wheelchair/ disabilities-related NFT project, Wheel Cards has garnered much interest from people around the globe. Recently, the project was featured on Binance’s NFT platform along with Maye Musk, the mother of Elon Musk. Featuring pixelated characters in wheelchairs, Wheel Cards were sold out in mere seconds for the past 13 days.

Wheel Cards was founded with a mission to raise awareness about wheelchairs and disabilities in the Web 3.0 Metaverse space. The founder, Kunho Kim, spent his youth in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam before attending Harvard in 2012. While at Saigon South International School, Kunho learned of the difficulties Vietnamese people with disabilities face daily. Kunho founded one of the first student-initiated non-profit organizations to donate wheelchairs to paraplegic patients in Vietnam.

With the mission to create a more disability-friendly world, the Wheel Cards team decided to create a scholarship specifically to financially aid students with disabilities at Fulbright University Vietnam. Nam Tran, who is the director of development and strategic initiatives, hopes that “The Wheel Cards scholarship can help raise awareness about disabilities in Vietnam and become a catalyst to create a more equitable world for students with disabilities. We at Fulbright University are excited to work with Wheel Cards team to embrace new technology including blockchain, and the possibility of a more inclusive future that Wheel Cards is envisioning.” 

Kunho Kim (right) donating wheelchairs to patients in Vietnam when he was in high school

Being the world’s first NFT project to create a scholarship program, Kunho hopes that the Wheel Cards scholarship can leave a positive impact. “This was my childhood dream to give back to a society where everyone helped me become who I am right after I had a ski accident in Montana, USA eleven years ago. I hope with this scholarship students with disabilities could advance into any area they want to without much financial burden while studying at Fulbright University. Our team is very grateful to a community of supporters who made this possible and hopes to continue supporting more students with disabilities in the future with our Wheel Cards community members.”

About Fulbright University Vietnam:

In May 2016, during his official visit to Viet Nam, President Barack Obama announced the establishment of Fulbright University Vietnam, Vietnam’s first independent, not-for-profit, liberal arts university. We are an expanding international team of educational innovators, with deep roots in Vietnam, strong political and financial backing, and connections to educational institutions around the world. 

We believe in the power of collaboration, transdisciplinary thinking, and risk-taking, and we understand that effective education requires putting students at its center. Globally integrated but deeply embedded in Vietnamese society, Fulbright is dedicated to providing a world-class education, utilizing the latest advancements in institutional design, teaching, learning, technology and other fields to create an institution that is both innovative and globally relevant. Importantly, Fulbright is committed to serving Vietnamese society through rigorous research and responsible civic engagement.

About Wheel Cards:

Wheel Cards is Door Labs’ first NFT collectibles project. Door Labs’ mission is to create an inclusive metaverse in which all abilities, colors, and genders are represented and celebrated. As part of the mission, Door Labs created Wheel Cards, the World’s first wheelchair/ disability-related NFT collectibles project, and aimed to raise awareness about disabilities, and wheelchairs in Web 3.0 metaverse space. Moreover, Door Labs recently partnered with the Korea Paralympic Committee to create Kaard, the World’s first Paralympic NFTs.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam– With alignment in the mission to grow Vietnamese talents to become future change-makers, Fulbright and VietSeeds Foundation are honored to announce the creation of the Nguyễn-Phương Family Scholarship, (“NP Family Scholarship) which will award one (01) full tuition scholarship to incoming students for every academic year, starting Fall 2021.

This endowed scholarship is funded by the family of Mr. Nguyễn Phương Lam, a distinguished philanthropist in Asia. Mr. Nguyễn Phương Lam was the first Vietnamese student to attend the Stanford Graduate School of Business and has built a successful career in finance and investment. His philanthropic activities, which center on education and poverty alleviation, span throughout organizations in Asia and the world such as Acumen, Ashoka, Endeavor, and VietSeeds Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to bringing equal access to college education for all students across Vietnam.

Mr. Lam’s family creates this scholarship as a part of their long-term commitment to support our mission of nurturing generations of Vietnamese change-makers for a better and more humane world.

The spirit of the scholarship is to help form generations of Vietnamese leaders/changemakers (in all fields of society) for a more humane, kinder world – a world built on solidarity instead of competition; a world focusing on broad human development and social sustainability instead of just economic and material development; a world based on the principle that the meaning of human life is in the being, and not in the having.

In addition to the financial reward, the recipient of the NP Family Scholarship will have access to special mentorship and career development opportunities offered by the Nguyen-Phuong family.

To apply, students need to demonstrate exemplary traits of future change-makers by having these following characteristics: Curiosity and Creativity, Courage and Resilience, Adaptability and Open Mind, Leadership and Co-leadership. Newly admitted students may find more information on selection criteria and application process in an official email sent by Fulbright University Vietnam.

Fulbright University Vietnam (Fulbright) is delighted to announce two new scholarship programs that will broaden Fulbright’s mission to support our current student’s development toward being independent scholars. The scholarships, effective immediately, will be funded by TPBank and Temasek International. They will be awarded to selected students as grants to support projects demonstrating a high level of academic excellence and/or community impact. These grants do not have any effect on existing financial aid packages.

The launch of these two new scholarship programs is a major step toward broadening the Fulbright portfolio of ways to support our students,” says Professor Jay Siegel, Provost of Fulbright University Vietnam. “The generosity of partners and donors like TPBank and Temasek create opportunities that will propel our students to reach new heights in their study and create a positive impact in their society.

 Specifically, TPBank will fund the TPBank STEM Scholarship. Five Junior and Senior undergraduate students majoring in STEM disciplines including Engineering, Computer Science, or Integrated Science will be awarded grants for research projects in their discipline. Temasek is the inaugural donor for the Community Change-Maker Scholarship.  In 2021, four grants will be available to both undergraduate students and students from the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management to pursue projects contributing to the betterment of the broader community.

Expert panels will screen and evaluate scholarship applications according to pre-defined criteria and make a recommendation to the Fulbright University Executive Council. Prospective applicants can find more information on the TPBank STEM Scholarship here, and on the Community Change-Maker Scholarship here .

Professor Siegel added, “Fulbright University Vietnam will continue to work with our partners to expand the number and type of scholarships that will enable high performing students to create positive change in their field and the wider community.

CIMB ASEAN Scholarship is a prestigious scholarship for students from Southeast Asian countries, sponsored by CIMB Group. This year, Le Khanh Ha completely won the judges over with their unique personality, talent, and sincerity, earning for themselves a full ride scholarship for the remaining three years of study at Fulbright University Vietnam worth over $70,000.

Always be yourself

CIMB scholarships are awarded to students with outstanding achievements in both academics, extracurricular activities, and personal qualities, with special focus on problem solving skills and community-oriented initiatives. Out of nearly 10,000 applications this year, only 16 candidates were selected by CIMB Group, with Le Khanh Ha receiving the only scholarship awarded in Vietnam. When asked about “tips and tricks” to win scholarships, Ha humbly shared:

 “People often say that the winner writes the truth, but I don’t believe it. I don’t think there’s a recipe for everyone, because each of us will have our own ways of success. In the final round, when standing in front of the judges, I was really nervous. Sometimes, those carefully crafted answers could sound scripted and do not portray you in the best light, so instead, trust your gut and answer with your intuition.”

The impression that any who have met Khanh Ha, or Kha as their friends usually call them, would get is their friendliness and warmth. No need for rhetoric or flashy appearance, Ha makes others feel good with their kind, considerate, and humble attitude. Khanh Ha confessed that after the trauma they’ve been through, they always try to pay attention to emotions and put themselves in the shoes of those around them.

However, one of Ha’s biggest weaknesses is being too strict with themselves. Ha said, there are times when they were being too harsh on themselves with self-pressure, self-criticism, inflicting stress on themselves. Like people their age, Khanh Ha also went through some rough moments, struggling with uncertainties and finds it hard to express themselves.

I am quite introverted and reserved, as opposed to other Fulbrighters who are more sociable and have strong personalities. There were times when I was so shy that I kept my guard up and didn’t dare to speak my opinion. But then I realized that, being untalkative doesn’t mean that I have nothing to say. When I don’t feel safe enough to speak up, I often reserve myself, question and brood for a long time. After a process of reflecting and organizing my thoughts, I will be ready to share my ideas with the world,” Khanh Ha said.

Ha impressed us not only by their outstanding academic achievements and extracurricular activities, but what makes Ha stand out amongst the pool of candidates is their personality and sincerity, ” said CIMB Bank Vietnam representative Le Hien Trang. “Ha knows what their weaknesses are and always tries their best to find ways to improve themselves. That’s what really convinced us.

Changes come from the smallest things

One of the criteria that CIMB looks for in candidates is the factor that creates change – a changemaker. According to Ha, it is not really that complicated.

To me, ‘changemaker’ simply means giving the best efforts to do one’s job. For example, as a student, the most important thing is to perform well in school, that in itself already is helping others. Such small impacts can add up and bring positive changes to the community,” Ha expressed. Khanh Ha is currently a content collaborator for the X Schooling Project – a project aimed at reducing inequality in education by helping the Co Tu ethnic minority in Quang Nam. They also recently completed an internship at PeaceTrees Vietnam, an organization dedicated to clearing explosive remnants and healing post-war traumas.

Khanh Ha on a trip to Quang Tri with PeaceTrees Vietnam

Khanh Ha represents a new generation of young people who are gradually becoming more aware of their social responsibility and actively participating in solving the shared challenges of their community. However, the unpredictable changes of the modern world require new and multi-dimensional problem-solving approaches and thinking.

“I think, considering the current situation and the pace at which our world is developing, everything becomes so interconnected that the borders between different fields are getting blurry. That is why we need to ‘think without the box’, which means we cannot limit ourselves to any one field or skill,”  Ha said.

Khanh Ha shares that the academic environment at Fulbright has helped them practice their interdisciplinary thinking as well as their teamwork skills. In order to get the scholarship, Ha had to go through five rounds, of which, the fourth round required groups of contestants from all over Southeast Asia to think together to solve a difficult situation in three hours. Thanks to their teamwork experience with friends from very different backgrounds, personalities and strengths at Fulbright, Ha easily passed this round.

Constantly moving forward

CIMB ASEAN Scholarship is an effort of the CIMB Banking Group to cultivate young talents in the region, increase knowledge in Southeast Asian communities and contribute to the sustainable development of the community. In addition to covering for all study costs, CIMB is also committed to supporting career orientation, building a global network, and improving comprehensive skills for scholarship recipients.

After graduation, Khanh Ha will have the opportunity to work at CIMB’s branches all over Asia, but for the time being, they still have three years of study at Fulbright with countless plans and ambitions. With Ha, the most important part of the journey is to keep a spirit of optimism and perseverance so as not to give up when faced with difficulties.

“When I encounter obstacles, my motivation to continue forward is the belief that every problem has a solution. When I’m overwhelmed by emotions, I often write down my thoughts so that I can calmly rearrange and find a way out of the problems I’m facing. Constantly moving forward, this is my principle that I think is also what CIMB is looking for.

Moving forward is not as simple as getting up and brushing off all the burdens on your shoulders. To me, it means living everyday with all of my strength. Rhetorically speaking, if I am in a dark room, as long as I believe there is a door somewhere and I keep trying, eventually I will be able to open the door and let sunlight into the room,” Khanh Ha confided.

About CIMB Bank Vietnam

CIMB Bank Vietnam Limited (CIMB Vietnam) belongs to CIMB Group – the leading international banking group in Southeast Asia with over 90 years of expertise and experience, and a network of more than 37,000 employees in 15 countries around the world. In Vietnam, CIMB Bank is headquartered in Hanoi, providing a wide range of banking products and services for individuals and businesses.

Website: https://www.cimbbank.com.vn/

About Fulbright University Vietnam:

Fulbright University Vietnam is Vietnam’s first independent, not-for-profit, liberal arts university. We are an expanding international team of educational innovators, with deep roots in Vietnam, strong political and financial backing, and connections to educational institutions around the world. We believe in the power of collaboration, transdisciplinary thinking, and risk-taking, and we understand that effective education requires putting students at its center.  Globally integrated but deeply embedded in Vietnamese society, Fulbright is dedicated to providing a world-class education, utilizing the latest advancements in institutional design, teaching, learning, technology and other fields to create an institution that is both innovative and globally relevant. Importantly, Fulbright is committed to serving Vietnamese society through rigorous research and responsible civic engagement.

 

Anh Thư

On Equality of Educational Opportunity

In many developing countries around the world, school fees and related education costs pose a significant barrier to children’s education, and are often linked to non-attendance, dropout, and the entry of children into child labor. In Vietnam, the situation is not that much of a difference.

According to Circular number 86/2015/ND-CP issued by the government, the school fees for a child to go from pre-school to university in the public-school system is, on average, VND112,550,000 (USD4,826.33). This means that, for one child, an average Vietnamese family needs to pay roughly VND75,000 ~ VND155,000 (USD3.22 ~ USD6.65) per month for K-12 education and VND2,200,000 (USD94.34) per month if their child makes it to university.

It may not look a lot but for such a developing country as Vietnam, that number can be a fortune for many families. On average, the Vietnam GDP per capita is USD2,566. In other words, for a nuclear family with two children, the school fees alone can cost up to 25-45 percent of the total household income. In addition to school fees, costs associated with uniforms, shoes, books, transportation fees and extra classes are obstacles to education for children.

To exacerbate the problem, according to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, economic inequality is worsening in Vietnam. In 2014, the top 20% make 9.7 times more than the bottom 20%. This increased to 10 times in 2018, said Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue. The growing economic inequality means that the educational achievement gap between the children of the wealthiest and the children of everyone else is widened even further.

Many poor families pull their children out of primary school because they cannot afford the cost of the school fees and education materials, or because they need the child to work in the fields or to earn money. Those who are lucky enough to stay in school may find it hard to catch up with their classmates from wealthy families because they cannot afford to go to extra classes or language classes. Those who complete high school are less likely to attend college than students from higher-income families. For some children, the effects of poverty on education present unique challenges in breaking the cycle of generational poverty and reduce their chances of leading rewarding, productive lives.

This widening educational achievement gap may threaten Vietnam’s economic growth. With only a select few individuals receiving the best education and enrichment, Vietnam cannot effectively develop the economic potential of its future workforce. To grow the economy, there exists a need to provide educational and enrichment opportunities for children across the income spectrum, rather than only a select few at the top. The important question is how.

Scholarships

There are ample proposals and rich debate on how to combat educational achievement gap and ensure more low-income students can get access to proper education. One of those proposals is scholarships, especially scholarships for higher education. Scholarship supporters argue that by offering scholarships to low-income students, schools and universities can target specific audience, widen opportunities and improve outcomes. However, most scholarships in Vietnam are merit-based, meaning students with high academic achievements have higher chance of getting a scholarship.

This brings us back to the discussion on academic opportunities. Wealthy families can more likely afford a variety of positive adolescent activities, such as prep-school, language classes, sports participation, school leadership, extracurricular activities and volunteer work, for their children. These activities broaden their experience and academic achievements, make them more well-rounded and place them at the top of the merit-based scholarship recipient list.

Moreover, low-income students, especially those from the provinces, do not have much access to the scholarships available to them. Due to this information gap, high-achieving low-income students do not even apply to the scholarships for which they are qualified. Thus, some may argue that scholarships, instead of solving the problem of inequality, only worsen it if they are not properly designed and implemented.

Affirmative action

In Vietnam, to ensure specific aims of equity of and access to tertiary education can be met, some key policies have been created and implemented. For example, students from special groups will enjoy extra points for their National High School Exam. These groups include: students from remote and mountainous areas (namely Region 1), from rural area (namely Region 2-NT), and students whose parents are ethnic minorities or veterans with disabilities.

Another example is the University Entrance Nomination policy, in which every year a number of students from disadvantaged provinces may be nominated to enter the assigned public universities without participating in any university entrance exams. The number of students is proposed by the provincial governments based on their socio-economic development level. These students, however, are still required to pass the national upper secondary exams as well as pursue an intensive one-year education before entering normal university courses. Ethnic minority students are given preference when the provincial governments make their selections.

While affirmative action such as these policies may improve diversity in the university, Professor Michael Sandel, the author of the famous book Justice, argues that it brings two problems – one practical, the other principled. The principled objection reasons that affirmative action causes unfair in admissions and violates the rights of applicants who are qualified but belonged to the majority group. These students may have higher academic achievements than the affirmative-action students but are put at a competitive disadvantage through no fault of their own.

The practical objection claims that affirmative action may “damage the self-esteem of minority students, increase racial consciousness on all sides, heighten racial tensions, and provoke resentment” among the majority group. This view is also shared by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of David and Goliath. According to Gladwell, students benefited from affirmative action may not really benefit from it. Being among peers who are more academically equipped, these students may feel insecure, left-out, and unsuccessful. It may even result in drop-out for some.

Free education

In Justice, Professor Sandel mentions that to bridge the inequality gap, “a politics of the common good would take as one of its primary goals the reconstruction of the infrastructure of civic life.” This includes investing in top-quality, free public schools to which rich and poor alike would want to send their children.

In a perfect world, free education can help to reduce the financial burden from the students and encouraging them to get enrolled into higher education more actively. However, the world is not perfect and there are limitations to this solution.

It is undeniable that, managing higher education without taking any tuition fees is difficult for the schools. These schools have to get support from the government to maintain their academic and infrastructural costs. Such substantial public financing results in higher tax and cannot be easy to come by in the near future.

Thomas Piketty in his book Capital in the 21stCentury argues that free education leads to “spending more public money on students from more advantaged social backgrounds, while less money is spent on university students who come from the modest background.” One of the reasons for this outcome is that free education does not include free cost of living. Most universities are located in big, urban cities where the cost of living can pose as a barrier for low-income students. Since tuition isn’t the only driver of college affordability, simply eliminating tuition expenses would still leave low-income students with unmet need for living expenses—the real cost of higher education for the majority of students.

So what can be done to reduce educational inequality and promote access to higher education for poorer households? While free education can be a great policy, it takes time to be implemented, tested and perfected. Educational disadvantage has built up over decades and it will take decades to fix it.

In the meantime, it requires a combination of effort, financing and skills to address the short-term solution: Aid.

Aid

In order to improve diversity and offer more opportunities for low-income students to access to education, schools and universities should consider providing the appropriate form of aid prior to, during, and after admissions. This is also the practice that Fulbright University Vietnam (Fulbright) follows in the hope to fulfill its mission to the Vietnamese society.

To bridge the information gap, Fulbright conducts outreach activities to high schools across the country. The objective of this program is to put Fulbright within the reach of any student no matter how financially unattainable a goal it may seem, by giving them the right information and guidance needed to understand the opportunity and the application process.

Fulbright also provides buses for schools in the provinces to come to its admissions events, which are organized in key cities of Vietnam, and at Fulbright campus. These activities give the students a taste of the life at Fulbright, extra-curricular activities, and demo classes instructed by the University’s undergraduate and graduate faculty.

The Fulbright Admissions team also provide help to interested students who indicated an existing interest in studying at Fulbright but were not sure about acting on that interest due to lack of knowledge or financial resources to attend university and/or not being familiar with the steps involved in applying to Fulbright and for financial aid.

Fulbright’s admission process is inspired by prominent American institutions, but mindful of the Vietnamese cultural, social and educational background. Taking into account the imminent educational achievement gap, Fulbright University has designed an application package that is unique and exciting. It allows every student to demonstrate who they really are. Fulbright’s evaluation process is also designed in a way that every student is considered fairly, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Fulbright is also the first university in Vietnam to offer a need-based financial aid, which is solely awarded based on a family’s financial circumstances and does not take into account a student’s academic merit. This need-based financial aid package covers not only the tuition fees, but also the living expenses to mitigate the barriers for low-income students to attend Fulbright.

Once admitted, Fulbright students also receive many other forms of aid to help them complete their four-year journey at Fulbright without feeling insecure about their capabilities. For those seeking added language support prior to starting the undergraduate program, Fulbright has a seven-week Bridge Program that runs the summer prior to the start of classes. Throughout the four-year, should a student feel struggle with his or her academic work or personal issues, the Learning Support team and the Wellness Center will provide them with appropriate aid, either in the form of private counseling sessions or mentorship.

At Fulbright, we believe knowledge is for everyone, and education must be accessible for the students from every status. Every person has the right to acquire knowledge as much as he or she wants. The journey to ensure equality in education is a long one, but it should not deter us to initiate the first step.

Thach Thao

Though I got a scholarship worth a billion of VND, to me, the success is not passing the application or the interview process. Success lies in the journey in which I learned to conquer my fear and to grow up.

About the author

Le Doan Phuong Nhi majored in Literature in 12th grade at the High School for the Gifted in Ho Chi Minh City. She received first prize for the 2016 Diamond Challenge organized by H2Team and is the key writer for Hoa Hoc Tro Magazine with the pen name Phuong Nhi.

Nhi is among the first undergraduate cohort of Fulbright University Vietnam – a university that was officially recognized by President Obama during his State visit to Hanoi in 2016. Nhi received a financial aid of 70% for her four years at Fulbright, including tuition fee and living expenses. In addition to that, Nhi received a Fulbright Founding Scholarship of USD 5,000 every year. In total, Nhi’s scholarship and financial aid are worth approximately USD 72,000 (approximately VND 1.7 billion).

Conquering my fear

There was this one time I went to a cafe with my friends. Looking at me menu in English, I confidently asked the waitress: “I’d like to order a glass of passionate juice,” – instead of passion fruit, of course. Just as I finished my sentence, everyone – my friends, the waitress – bursted out laughing. From then on, I became afraid of English. Me in high school was a girl who couldn’t even write a Facebook update or present in English. I was afraid that everyone would laugh at my pronunciation or incorrect use of grammar.

Thus, when I applied to Fulbright and learned that I had to write and speak in English, I panicked: “How on earth can I pull this off?”; English was my greatest fear. Yet, I calmed myself down and kept telling myself that it’s the first step that counts. I started working on my essay and a video on my favorite subject (all in English).

While I was struggling with vocabularies and grammar, I saw the description in the application. It said: “Don’t worry, your vocabulary and grammar errors will not affect the evaluation process. What matters most is what you have experienced and what you have learned.”

I suddenly realized that no one would fail me for not pronouncing or using a word correctly. Language is only a tool for communication and connecting people instead of picking each other apart. That was the moment I overcame the fear of using English; and I thought: “Everyone who reads my application will try to understand my story and my experience instead of finding fault. Thus, I don’t have to be afraid.”

Know who I am, what I need and what I want!

In the past, I always had doubts about my own ability especially when everyone around me has their own unique strength. Then I received the email from Fulbright notifying me that I was chosen to proceed to the Group Interview round. There was this one line in the email that made me think: “Relax, sleep, eat and be yourself.”

That was the moment I realized that the highest GPA, the international awards, or the most meaningful social activities could only mean so much.

What helps us to be prepared for anything is to always be our brightest, truest and most unique self.

From then on, I began my quest to find my own passions. I listed out three areas that I was interested in and would like to pursue further: Environment – Children – Communication. Thus, at the Group Interview day, when asked what was the achievement I was most proud of, I did not hesitate to talk about my article on carbon footprint, on the environment, and how we could protect the earth together.

The article was published on Hoa Hoc Tro Magazine no. 1176.

In addition, on Group Interview day, we got to participate in a demo class; and just my luck, my assigned subject was Chemistry, my arch enemy. To my surprise, the professor started the class with a multiple choice question for a chemical equation. The choices were: A. This is a chemical equation; B. I don’t understand why I’m here; and C. Something seems wrong. And us students were encouraged to voice our thoughts.

Funny enough, there was no right or wrong answer. Some of us chose option B and then shared our reason why. By the end of the class, the professor told us: “These demo classes are not only for Fulbright to choose our future students, but also for you to have the chance to see if Fulbright and the program are the right choice for you.” So I believe that as long as you know who you are, what you need, and what you want, you will make the right decision for you.

The more you take on new challenge, the more you grow

For me, my bold decision to apply to Fulbright University Vietnam led to an invaluable experience, which is worth more than the scholarship I received. It taught me how to overcome my fear of using and learning English, and how to accept my flaws so that I could perfect them. It was also a chance for me to appreciate who I am, my values, and my true worth.

Achieving success is similar to climbing a mountain.

To reach to the top, we have to go through days or months conquering different hardships and challenges. But everytime you fall, you learn a new lesson. Believe me, you need to take on new challenges to fail; and only then can you learn how to stand up again, fight the battle and stay on top.

By ZAA HUY

(Hoa Hoc Tro Magazine, October 2018)

40 Fulbright Everest Launchpad (FEL) students just had an eventful “city tour” around Saigon. With the motto “playing is learning”, the students had a memorable day full of laughters and, of course, cute “selfies”.

One of the most important stops during this tour is Vietnam’s first McDonald’s restaurant, owned by a member of Fulbright University Vietnam’s Board of Trustees, Henry Nguyen. Here, the students had a chance to listen to no other than Henry Nguyen, and were inspired by his start-up story a nd university experience.

The 4-week scholarship in Ho Chi Minh City is coming to an end. It is, however, still full of tears. These are no longer the tears of homesickness, but tears of the thought of having to say goodbye when the time comes.