The Ultimate Guide To The DSTA Scholarship

DSTA Scholarship Review

Are you passionate about the tech sector? Thinking of ways to relieve your financial burden during your studies?

For some of you, attaining a scholarship seems like the best bet. You’ll be sponsored to study your field of interest, and perhaps even get some allowance.

Currently, in Singapore, government organisations like DSTA are offering sponsorships to potential tech talents to further boost innovations and the economy. In this post, we will be covering the details of the scholarships offered by DSTA.

Just a gentle note: The content is written purely based on personal experiences and research.

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What is DSTA and the DSTA Scholarship?

Here’s a brief background on DSTA (Defence Science and Technology Agency). It’s an organisation under the Ministry of Defence of the Singapore Government (MINDEF). They are responsible for strengthening Singapore’s defence, and security systems against potential threats. Some examples of such responsibilities would include:

  • Implementing defence technology plans
  • Acquiring defence material, and 
  • Developing defence infrastructure

I feel that Singapore, despite our small size and population, needs the ability to protect itself from external threats. Furthermore, with the world shifting towards the digital edge, having physical protection is no longer enough, we need to protect ourselves from online attacks as well.

Therefore, if you are interested in DSTA’s vision and want to play a part in helping to keep Singapore safe, then you can consider joining them. Being under the DSTA scholarship could also provide more opportunities for you to pursue your field of interest.

Types & Benefits of DSTA Scholarships

Here, there are 5 types of DSTA Scholarships:

  • DSTA JC Scholarship
  • DSTA Polytechnic Scholarships
  • DSTA Scholarship, and 
  • DSTA Merit Scholarship
  • DSTA Merit Cyber Scholarship

With that, let’s dive into each scholarship in detail.

DSTA JC Scholarship (Bond-Free)

The DSTA JC Scholarship is open to first-year Junior College students in the science stream, and each scholarship is worth up to S$2000. The cash payout that you’ll receive from this scholarship include:

  • Obtaining the first S$1000 in your first year, and 
  • the other S$1000 in your second year — if your promotional results meet DSTA’s criteria

Here are the eligibility criteria for the DSTA JC Scholarship.

Eligibility Criteria
Singapore Citizen
Good CCA track records
First-year Junior College students
Have excellent GCE ‘O’ Levels results with an
aggregate of not more than 8 points for first
language and five relevant subjects

Other than the monetary value, DSTA also offers other kinds of benefits as well, like:

  • Job Shadowing program for a week (for scholars to get a sneak peek of working in DSTA)
  • Exclusive DSTA events, and 
  • Special project-visit invites

In exchange, you would just need to undertake a project/activity with DSTA/DSO in your first year.

I’d say that the experiences being offered by this scholarship are rather unique, and there doesn’t seem to be much for scholars to do in return.

You are mainly required to undertake a DSTA project/activity in your first year of JC and meet the DSTA promotional results criteria to get the other S$1000. 

So long as you continue to study hard, you should have no problem with earning this cash payout!

Plus, the best part is that you wouldn’t need to serve a bond after graduating! 

DSTA Polytechnic Scholarships

According to the write-ups on the official website for the DSTA Polytechnic Scholarships, it seems that you can only apply for this scholarship if you’re a current student of a local polytechnic

This means that if you have not received their acceptance into the polytechnic courses, you might have to hold off their applications until you do.

Additionally, the scholarship comprises 2 different types of scholarships:

  • DSTA Polytechnic Digital Scholarship, and 
  • DSTA Polytechnic Engineering Scholarship

Here’s what it will look like when we look at them more closely.

DSTA Polytechnic Digital Scholarship (Bond-Free)

The DSTA Polytechnic Digital Scholarship is more focused on the digital aspect of technology. If you’re interested in these few suggested fields, you can consider applying for the scholarship:

  • Data analytics
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Cybersecurity, and 
  • Internet of Things (IoT)

Here are the eligibility criteria that you would need to fulfil before applying for the scholarship.

Eligibility Criteria
Singapore Citizen
Good academic results
Pursuing a full-time diploma in Infocomm-related fields
(eg. Information Technology, Infocomm Security
Management) in a local polytechnic
Passionate about science and technology

DSTA Polytechnic Engineering Scholarship (Bond-Free)

While the DSTA Polytechnic Engineering Scholarship is tuned towards individuals who are interested in engineering, leaning more towards the hardware aspects of technology.

This scholarship could be more valuable if you happen to be interested in these suggested fields:

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Biochemical Engineering
  • Automobile Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
Eligibility Criteria
Singapore Citizen
Good academic results
Pursuing a full-time diploma in Engineering-related fields (eg. Electrical & Electronic Engineering, Engineering Science) in a local polytechnic
Passionate about science and technology

The scholarship benefits for both are the same. Both of them cover:

  • Polytechnic’s tuition fees
  • Offers annual allowance,
  • laptop allowance, 
  • internship opportunities, and 
  • exclusive invitations to DSTA events

I’m not exactly sure why DSTA separated the polytechnic scholarships into software and hardware fields. However, I’m guessing that the opportunities that are offered to the 2 different tracks are more specialized

Here are some benefits that may be specific to each scholarship:

Digital ScholarshipEngineering Scholarship
Get invited to events that focus
more on the digital world
Get invited to events
surrounding technical innovations

From my experience, obtaining a scholarship that doesn’t require a bond is a great opportunity to go for. You’ll be exposed to an environment with a group of others pursuing the same interest as yourself. 

Furthermore, the internship opportunity offered is not as easily obtainable by the public. 

The no-bond obligation also gives you the freedom to head off and further explore your interests without holding you back.

DSTA Scholarship (Not Bond-Free)

The DSTA Scholarship, on the other hand, is more suitable if you’re an undergraduate who is pursuing a science/engineering related-course in local or overseas universities. If you’d like to view the list of courses, you can head to the DSTA official website.

Additionally, the DSTA scholarship offers a unique benefit that I can’t find in other scholarships. They will further sponsor your Master’s Degree if you’re interested to do so.

As such, it is an added benefit, on top of everything else that they are offering!

Here are the criteria that you’d need to meet before applying for the scholarship,

Eligibility Criteria
Singapore Citizen
Excellent GCE ‘A’ Level results or equivalent qualifications
(e.g. International Baccalaureate, NUS High School Diploma) or polytechnic diploma
Outstanding CCA track records
Passionate about science and technology
(eg. Electrical Engineering, Naval Architecture, and Computer Science to Biomedical Engineering)

If you’re able to obtain the scholarship, you will be able to obtain career opportunities during your bond to work in 

Which organization that you’d end up in, depends on your field of specialization.

Also, some other benefits that are covered under the scholarship include:

  • Tuition and compulsory fees,
  • Annual and other allowances (e.g. Books, computer)
  • Sponsorship for Overseas Student Exchange Programme
  • Sponsorship for students, inclusive of Master’s if applicable
  • Internship opportunities
  • Global Internship Programme

This scholarship just about covers everything that you’d need for your undergraduate studies. Personally, I think that if you manage your funds well, you could even manage to save some for the future.

The Global Internship Programme is a unique opportunity that I’ll strongly encourage you to go for. It can aid you in learning and working alongside professionals in their respective fields. 

This is especially true if the internship is overseas, as understanding another country’s culture and learning to live independently are experiences that I would never trade away.

Local Universities VS Overseas Universities

An additional difference if you are a student studying in a local or an overseas university, is the number of years scholars are required to serve after graduation

Local ScholarsOverseas Scholars
Bond of 4 yearsBond of 5 years for universities
in Non-English speaking countries

Bond of 6 years
in English speaking countries

On top of that, only if you are studying in overseas universities, would you be able to claim return economy airfare back to Singapore.

DSTA Merit Scholarship (Not Bond-Free)

The DSTA Merit Scholarship is for you if you’re a university undergraduate currently pursuing a science/ engineering-related course.

Here are the eligibility criteria that you’d need to meet before applying for the scholarship.

Eligibility Criteria
Singapore Citizen
Excellent academic results
Undergraduate pursuing a degree in Engineering or Infocomm technology-related field
(e.g. Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Information Systems,
Information Security, Artificial Intelligence)

This DSTA Merit Scholarship offers an annual lump-sum grant (S$~9000).

You are able to use this lump sum to pay for your school fees!

With regards to the bond that is required to be served, you would have to give back 1 year for every year of sponsorship, capped at a maximum of 2 years. 

This means that if you are sponsored for 3 years of your undergraduate studies, you’d just have to serve a 2-year bond.

DSTA Merit Cyber Scholarship (Not Bond-Free)

Lastly, the DSTA Merit Cyber Scholarship is dedicated to undergraduates who are pursuing a degree in Engineering, Computing, Information, Digital Technologies, Mathematics or Science.

The eligibility criteria for this scholarship are as follows.

Eligibility Criteria
Singapore Citizen
Good academic results & CCA track records
Undergraduate pursuing a degree in Engineering, Computing, Information,
Digital Technologies, Mathematics or Science

This scholarship is recently released, therefore there isn’t a lot of content and information on it so far.

Their benefits include sponsorship for your local undergraduate studies and even tops it up with an annual allowance. They also offer sponsorship for overseas exchange programmes which I strongly encourage everyone to go for. Additionally, they also provide exciting DSTA internship opportunities.

However, DSTA would require you to be bonded for the number of years that you are sponsored for. It’s like a pay-for-what-you get scheme, but with additional experiences during your undergraduate journey!

What’s the difference between the DSTA Scholarship and the DSTA Merit Scholarship?

Both scholarships are offered to only undergraduates pursuing/passionate in the engineering or Infocomm technology-related field. However, in terms of the value of the scholarships, the DSTA Scholarship offers much more value as compared to the DSTA Merit Scholarship. 

DSTA Merit ScholarshipDSTA Scholarship
Offers the scholars an annual lump-sum grant,
that sponsors up to 3 years of undergraduate studies
Covers all undergraduate tuition fees and
probably even till Master’s
(No exclusive benefits)Inclusive of other benefits mentioned in
the DSTA Merit section above

What’s the difference between the DSTA Scholarship and the DSTA Merit Cyber Scholarship?

The DSTA Merit Cyber Scholarship focuses on the security of our cyberspace. I assume that this scholarship has a more targeted niche, and DSTA is looking for those who are passionate about this specific industry. On the other hand, the DSTA Scholarship is open to accepting students who have an interest in a more general technology/engineering field.

However, in terms of benefits, I believe that the DSTA Scholarship still trumps the newly released DSTA Merit Cyber Scholarship. This is mainly because of the additional Global Internship Programme that is offered.

DSTA Merit Cyber Scholarship BenefitsDSTA Scholarship (Local) Benefits
Sponsorship of
local undergraduate studies
Tuition and compulsory fees
Annual allowanceAnnual and other allowances
(e.g. books, computer)
Sponsorship for
Overseas Student Exchange programme
Sponsorship for
Overseas Student Exchange programme
Enriching internship experiencesInternship opportunity
Global Internship Programme
One year bond for every year of sponsorshipFour years of service commitment.

What is the application process like for DSTA Scholarships?

There are different application periods (and perhaps different application processes) for the 5 different scholarships, you can head here to see the next available application period and apply if you’re interested. I applied for the DSTA Scholarship in 2020, and here are some tips and advice on the process.

Before starting my application for any scholarship, it helps to do a little research on the organisation/company. In order to better understand the type of demographics that they are looking for. This would help to better shape our application and allow us to highlight certain experiences that are relevant and could help us to stand out more. 

A great example would be the following Welcome Address done by the Chief Executive of DSTA, Prod Su Guaning on the DSTA scholarship.

Back in 2001, Prof Su Guaning mentioned that there were 2 kinds of qualities that DSTA was looking for.

  1. We are looking for scholars who would be groomed for future tech, those who have a broad-based foundation in order to adapt quickly to future changes in technology.
  2. And they are also on the lookout for scholars who have strong leadership qualities that could one day assume top management positions.

So if you do have any of these above-mentioned qualities, it wouldn’t hurt to emphasise them during the application process!

DSTA Scholarship Application Process

Starting with the application form, there wasn’t anything particularly unique about it. The main information that you had to provide are:

  • Personal details
  • Family information
  • Academic transcripts
  • Certification & Achievements
  • Working Experiences

Additionally, I remember them requiring declaration on other ongoing scholarship applications.

After submitting the application form, it took about 2-3 weeks before I received an email inviting me to participate in a game activity as part of the scholarship selection. 

I had to download a mobile application for this process and had a 60-minute time limit to complete the game before a given deadline.

Within the next 3 days of completing the game, I received another email to inform me that I was shortlisted for the next round. This required me to attend an interview

The interview was quite casual, and they focused on wanting to know me as a person and my thought process when making decisions

I’d recommend preparing a paragraph about how you got interested in IT/Engineering because they would want to know more about:

  • your interest in these fields, and 
  • your future plans on your career path

About a week after attending the interview, I received another email informing me to look for character referees. Character referees are a little different from academic referees, as they are people who know me personally and would be able to provide descriptions of my work ethics, personality and character.

For me, I asked a close friend and a long-term mentor to be my character referees. They were people that I’d known for quite a few years and had trusted to vouch for my personality traits.

At around the same time, I was also informed that there was:

  • A psychometric test that I had to go for, and 
  • An essay prompt I had to complete

I’ll spare the details because most of them are confidential, and they aren’t things that could be prepared for. In this case, the best thing you can do is to:

  • Be yourself
  • Try your best to articulate your strong feelings for the scholarship
  • Convince them why you think you deserve it

A week after completing the events above, I was invited for the Final Board interview

Since this was around the time the Covid pandemic hit, some changes had to be made and the interview ended up being pushed back all the way to March 2020. As such, the approximate timeline is a little wonky here.

Is the DSTA Scholarship worth it?

In terms of benefits, it seems to offer a lot of support, both financially and for personal growth. So yes, the DSTA scholarship is definitely worth trying to apply for!

Everyone has different priorities and for me, it was to cover my financial costs because I was aiming to head into an overseas university. 

Although the application process required loads of emails being sent back and forth, along with the submission of multiple documents, I’d say that it was an interesting experience to have. 

I wasn’t offered the scholarship in the end, but hey, at least I tried my best and that’s all that we can really do right?

Conclusion

From my experience, there is always something to learn from trying out new things, and if you think that you could benefit from obtaining this scholarship, it really doesn’t hurt to try applying for it. 

However, you may want to consider the drawbacks and if there are any conflicts between your personality and the expectations of the organisation. For example, if you don’t really know what you want to do yet, perhaps try looking for a scholarship that doesn’t require a bond. This is because it can be quite dreadful if you bond to a position that you don’t enjoy.

I hope that some of this advice helped you to get a better grasp of the DSTA scholarship and do head over to DSTA’s official website for the latest updates.

With that, I wish you all the best in your application!


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Melissa

Exploring new things as I go along. And whenever possible, I try to share my learning experiences in an effort to help others. Feel free to ping me for a chat!

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