It was a stroke of unbelievable luck. I received news of my scholarship more than a decade ago now: Though the memory of the call is now fuzzy \u2014 what remains clear in my mind is running to my parents\u2019 room to tell my mother, and the sheer joy on her face after.\u00a0 It was at this moment that I felt awash with gratitude, but also stunned with disbelief. I had spent most of the intervening weeks since the interview pushing it to the back of my mind, bracing for disappointment \u2014 but here I was after a one-minute call looking down a path that had not been previously known, or even imagined.\u00a0 It was unbelievable luck.\u00a0 And that's what I would still call it today. Unbelievable luck. Some people have since told me that I should give myself more credit and not discount my own hard work or intelligence when I say that getting the scholarship was a very fortunate or lucky thing to have happened.\u00a0 This seems to imply I was deserving of the award from self-determination and effort alone. But having met people from a diverse range of life experiences who have gone on to make very different decisions throughout their twenties and onwards, I can say with greater certainty now that it was indeed more like a lottery than a test of intelligence.\u00a0 Talent and grit are more common than we\u2019d like to think, while opportunities aren\u2019t.\u00a0 When I met other scholarship students, it made me reconsider my values. In a full circle moment, I\u2019ve had the chance to meet and interview a number of scholarship applicants in recent years.\u00a0 These have always been seismic moments in which I reconsider my values and what it means to be a well-rounded, successful individual. There have been some very impressive interviews with students of age-defying eloquence, quick-wittedness and familiarity with world affairs.\u00a0 These are traits that are in part to the credit of hard work, but they also culminate from a variety of circumstances and legacies outside the individual\u2019s control: Home environment, social circles, location, school or local facilities, mentorship from school alumni, and so on.\u00a0 There is something, however, that careful preparation, elocution and fast-thinking cannot grant: And that is clarity of purpose. Most candidates come in prepared to convince the panel why they\u2019re deserving of the award. But few who walk into the room have thoroughly considered what they want the scholarship for.\u00a0 My friend turned down an offer from Oxbridge. Many years ago, I had a friend who received an Oxbridge conditional offer \u2014 which she eventually met with stellar A Level results.\u00a0 She had previously gotten college sponsorship, and would have needed a university-level scholarship to carry on \u2014 she applied for a few, got rejected by some, and was offered one that had a relatively lengthy bond.\u00a0 As she relayed all this to me at one of our meet-ups, I was in complete awe. I was at this time the sort of student for whom getting accepted to Oxbridge would have represented the pinnacle of academic achievement, maybe even of existence itself. So what came next really just blew me away:\u00a0 \u201cI turned down the offer.\u201d\u00a0 She explained that she thought about it, and thought that she would likely break the bond, so it\u2019s best if it went to someone else. There are some things that she\u2019d like to do later on - maybe an academic, do frontier research, programming - whatever she had in mind wasn\u2019t something she\u2019d get to do during the bond.\u00a0 I note here that she didn\u2019t have the fallbacks, connections or the financial security you\u2019re probably thinking she has. She just had a goal. That goal wasn\u2019t aligned with the path to Oxbridge.\u00a0 And so, as she put it cheerfully then, \u201cJust gotta start all over, find something else. Life always finds a way.\u201d\u00a0 \u201cI want to keep trying. There will always be a way.\u201d\u00a0 Much later, I met a candidate who said almost the exact same thing. She had just found out that she wasn\u2019t selected for the scholarship that she had just been interviewed for.\u00a0 She was distraught, sharing that the group presentations were the most challenging; with everyone so eloquent and assertive, it was hard to get a word in edgewise.\u00a0 We talked for a while, and she shared that she was the first student in her school\u2019s history to have been called for a scholarship interview. With her school\u2019s reputation riding on her success, she\u2019s determined to open the doors that were previously undreamt of before she made it here.\u00a0 \u201cI want to keep trying. I\u2019m sure I\u2019ll get to where I need to be, because there will always be a way.\u201d\u00a0 Both my friend and the candidate have since gone on to do remarkable things with their lives: The former is now with a tech company in the US, having segued into a programming career after obtaining an economics degree with a university-sponsored scholarship. The latter received a state scholarship, and is now well into her biochemistry degree.\u00a0 But these aren\u2019t the achievements that I am in awe of. What I admire most is the largeness of their lives. The intellectual curiosity, vision, and assuredness that underlies each step forwards into the future. Disappointment needs to light a flame in you, not extinguish it. And therein lies my message to the individuals reading this who are thinking about applying for scholarships, or feeling anxious just by the very thought of them: The scholarship is a means to an end, and that end is something you decide on.\u00a0 The scholarship may influence your choices, but at the end of the day it should not, and cannot, define who you are and where you want to go.\u00a0 Seventeen is a good time to cultivate an independence of mind, if you have not already; to reflect on what drives you, what you want from life, and why you want them.\u00a0 What do you hope to be ten years from now? Write it down, and refer to that soon disintegrating piece of paper every now and then - after interviews, exam results, graduations, a hard day at work, other life milestones -\u00a0 Are you still on track to becoming that person? If you are, then nothing else matters - not even the scholarship.\u00a0 For more stories like this, read: 7 Quotes in 7 Days: How I Turned Myself Around With The Power Of Words and What I Learnt About Self-Worth After I Got Laid Off At 30.