I navigated through university with no idea of what I wanted to do in the future. I majored in Economics because I did well in Mathematics and Economics. That’s a simplified approach to decide my major. I attribute the lack of thought in this aspect due to my ignorance.
I did not have a thriving student life, partly by not asking enough questions and thinking harder on how to navigate through university. I didn’t get the coveted FCH either. Thinking about my school life and how it could have been better resulted in this post – How to thrive and have a better experience in school. I hope this is helpful to all incoming undergraduates, in carving out your own path and still succeed.
Do not follow the crowd
This tip is easier said than done. Following the crowd makes one feel more secure as we are not alone. There is a false sense of security when we take the next step with the majority. In the case of education, we have been told from young to study hard, get good grades to get a well-paying job. That’s the way to “succeed” in life so the majority take the traditional route.
There’s so much emphasis on the benefits of receiving more education. The more you receive, the better. This probably fueled the post on Woke Salaryman, about his motivation for doing honors. Education, as a signal to the society of your perceived capability, is pretty alarming. Grades make it easy for society to compare students, because it is easy, simple and straightforward. This efficient process is full of flaws. Looking at a student’s perceived capability, based on his scores is unsophisticated.
If you are thinking of doing an honors, go for it only if it interests you. There’s so many ways to reflect one’s capability now. You can pick up a new skill, self-learn coding or do a project. These credentials will impress your future employers more because it makes us stands out from the rest.
It takes a lot of courage to take the route less travelled but those well-calculated risks will pay off.
Before selecting your modules, read up on module reviews. Many seniors shared their modules picking strategy, difficulty level of class, class participation, experiences, teaching style of the professors and grading breakdown etc on their blogs. Use those knowledge to decide on the modules to take every semester. Blogs covering module reviews for Economics major can be found here, here and here. For some modules, they are covered by different Professors in Semester 1 and 2. The schedule can be found here.
- Take challenging modules: Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. University is probably the last place we could make mistakes before going into the working world. It is much easier to score for a challenging module because the resulting scores will be differentiated (bell curve grading). Make your school fees worth it. Pick up something challenging, make mistakes, toughen up in the process of struggling. Learning how to learn is an important skill.
- Make independent decisions: Choose a module which interests you, instead of following your friends’ choices. It isn’t awkward to take classes alone, you can always make new friends! My closest friends are from my tutorials.
- Pick up a foreign language: NUS Centre of Language Studies offer 13 languages: Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Spanish, Tamil, Thai and Vietnamese. I took Korean level 1 and it was so fun! I spent so much time to memorize vocabulary, understand the grammar and sentence structure and learn how to pronounce etc. But it is very rewarding to master a second language! On a side note, it is expensive to learn a new language from a language school so make full use of your time in school. (#1 Make your school fees worth it) Here’s the link for the top ten reasons to learn languages.
- Explore modules offered by other faculties: Step out of your comfort zone and be open! If you are intrigued by how programming works or want to gauge if it is your cup of tea, take Computer Science modules offered by NUS Computing and read these resources here. Take these modules early so you can switch majors ASAP. There are many people who switch their majors by the end of Year 1.
Going for lectures and tutorials
- Lectures: Since some professors provide webcasts, we don’t necessarily have to be present (hopefully there are no technical errors!). I would prefer to use the webcasts as it is more convenient for me and I can adjust the speed of the video as well.
- Tutorials: Class attendance are usually compulsory. Some tutorials may even require class participation (especially for Business School). The tutor could be the professor or PhD students etc. If you missed your tutorial class, you can arrange for a makeup class at another timing, within the week.
There is so much flexibility in university. You can plan what modules to take and the number of days of school. There are a couple of semesters where I had 3 or 4 days of school only.
Remember to have fun
This is an area which I neglected because I was occupied with part-time jobs. I prefer to earn my pocket money because of the freedom to use the money on my terms.
I highly recommend joining a CCA in school. The annual campus fair has various CCA booths where you can chat with the existing members and ask any questions! Some CCAs which are quite interesting to me are NUS FAT Club and NUS Rovers.
I hope this post has been useful! There are so many things which I wished I have done differently. 4 years of university education is a huge amount of investment (time and money) so make the best out of it. Study hard, but don’t forget to have fun. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.