By KOH HUI THENG
GROWING up, undergraduate Samantha Ong remembers her mother scrimping to put her two siblings and herself through school.
Today, her 54-year-old mother, who is divorced, still takes on bookkeeping jobs at different companies to feed and clothe the family of four.
So when Miss Ong, 20, won the bond-free OCBC Public Undergraduate Scholarship last year, she was elated.
The netball player told my paper: "We're not well-off and getting the scholarship is a way to help lighten my mum's load."
The $9,000 she receives yearly covers her tuition fees at the Singapore Management University until she graduates in 2012.
Not being "tied down to a company that you may or may not like" is also a huge advantage, said Miss Ong.
A check with several banks and organisations showed that they are continuing to hand out bond-free scholarships. Whether times are good or bad, companies are still giving awards to deserving students as part of their long-term community-support programmes.
Over the last three decades, more than 300 undergraduates have received OCBC Bank's bond-free scholarships to pursue further studies at home and abroad.
Last year, the bank gave out 34 awards globally to students in countries such as China and Indonesia, including 17 in Singapore.
Head of OCBC's HR Planning and Employee Communications, Ms Jacinta Low, said: "Youths have their own aspirations... Our scholarships are awarded without any conditions attached so that they are free to pursue any undergraduate discipline."
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) has also helped over 200 students pursue their ambitions at the National University of Singapore, Singapore Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic since 1977.
Non-profit organisations like the Lee Foundation, Loke Cheng Kim Foundation and the Hong Kong-based Jardine Foundation also give out bond-free scholarships to undergraduates.
The Lien Foundation and energy producer Shell have similar funds for postgraduate study.
Students can apply for undergraduate scholarships when the Singapore- Cambridge GCE A-level examination results are out tomorrow.
For more my paper stories click here.