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There is an increasing trend of Singaporean students choosing to skip university. Why so?
The common reasons we hear young Singaporeans complain about is that university is boring, expensive and ‘not what they want to do’.
While these views do have a point, they come from a very narrow perspective. Yes, it IS possible to survive without a college degree, and some even make it big. This blog post is not to put those with big dreams down. Some people are actually born to achieve amazing things but we admire that. But realistically, is it possible that most people can be as successful as Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerburg? Not many, I would say.
As most Singaporean parents would agree, from a broad view of things university education still has a lot to offer, especially in a maturing Singapore economy where it is becoming more challenging to provide a living for yourself and your loved ones, getting a tertiary degree certainly seems to be worth the money and the time.
The key here is HOW to make the most out of university.
From preparing your finances early to choosing the right course, this blog post will provide several helpful tips that will help the younger generation of aspiring graduates in Singapore to prepare themselves better for their college journey ahead.
1. Know Your Finances and Prepare Early
Many potentially bright students are forced to forgo university due to a lack of funds. For aspiring undergraduates who do not possess an ‘PMS Scholarship’ (Papa-Mama Scholarship), thinking of ways to fund your college education can be the most important thing you should do for yourself right now.
While paying tuition may seem like a hassle that you do not want to deal with, it is a problem that must be addressed in the early going, so that you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your educational needs have been met in advance.
If you start saving a few years early and earn interest in a bank or safe investment portfolio, it will pay off huge dividends when you have to start paying off your university loan once you graduate because you’ll be able to avoid the nasty headache of having to settle for a job quickly in order to pay off the hefty bank interest rates!
(For those in the dark, the Singaporean government has provided a means for all Singaporean undergraduates to obtain a tuition fee loan (TFL) from the major local banks. This TFL loan is 0% interest rate and covers up to 90% of the tuition fees. It will be payable once you graduate.)
If you are really struggling financially, then you need to really study hard and go into one of the major local university such as NUS, NTU or SMU as they are not only significantly cheaper than private universities, but they often offer very good financial assistance schemes such as the MOE Bursary which will certainly lighten the burden on you and your parents.
Additionally, if you do very well in your examinations you can go for scholarships which will without a doubt make university finances a breeze. There are bond-free scholarships that are not “super-duper hard” to get such as Nanyang Scholarship and College Scholarship from NTU. The ones offered by NUS are much harder to get from our knowledge.
2. Choose the Right Degree for Yourself
Okay, so now we got the money problem settled. Another big complaint from local college students is that what they study does not interests them.
So how do you choose the right undergraduate course?
As the saying goes, “begin with the end in mind.”
Even if you’re still in Junior College or Polytechnic, you should start thinking early about what kind of career you would like. Do not pursue a degree because you THINK the topic interests you. Think of where the degree will lead you and whether it leads you to an industry or profession that you’ll enjoy.
Go forth and EXPERIENCE the jobs by working part-time and internships. For instance, if you think you might be interested in accounting, try to find ways to gain first-hand experience. Think of relatives or friends you have who work in the industry and see if you can find ways to work in their companies. Survey them, ask them. Do this before you commit your entire life to a specific degree!
It’s absolutely frightening how many young students choose their degrees blindly.
And it’s even worse when they choose their degrees based on ‘money’ and not ‘passion’.
It takes three to four years and easily 40-grand to graduate with a university degree. That’s why it is so crucial that you choose a tertiary course that you are passionate about. Otherwise, you are spending valuable time and money on tuition payments for what? Boring lectures after boring lectures which you are not interested in! You may say, “So what? I skip most of them anyway”. Sure, you may happily whisk away that 3-4 years of undergraduate life, but imagine working the next 30 years in a field you dislike! Either you drop out, or you will be a very unhappy person.
Therefore, our advice is to always choose passion over money.
3. Embrace the Value of Your College Education
This sounds the most obvious; it is also the most important point. Because if you do not believe in the value of your university education, why would you bother to prepare early and make the most of it? Many Singaporean teenagers go to college because their parents force them to, and they go through those crucial 4-5 years without passion or direction, barely scratching their way out. When they graduate, they find themselves confused on what to do next because they realized that they have wasted their golden years and hold a degree which they are not passionate or good in.
Then they blame their parents for putting them through all this.
The huge underlying problem here is that many young Singaporeans simply do not see the value of a university education. Some even chose to forgo university because they naively believe that it is no longer important.
They feel that they can just go out into the world can create a successful company from scratch, becoming the ‘Singaporean version of a Mark Zuckerburg’.
Nothing is further from the truth!
Tertiary education is a necessary cost in a pragmatic society that does not accept the uneducated in societal decision making roles.
Put yourself in the shoes of the masses. Would you want to do business with or have your decisions made by someone who did not bother to pursue a tertiary education? Having a degree gives you a decided advantage over those who did not decide to pursue further education.
So yes, going to a good school gives you a decided head start in life. Not only do you have a prestigious degree which will help you get good jobs, you’ll have numerous other advantages over your peers who decided to forgo college.
For instance, you’ll have made numerous valuable networks with your professors and other capable graduates who could possibly be your business partners in the future. In fact, many successful entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates found their business partners in their alma mater, even though they dropped out subsequently.
Apart from good networking opportunities, you’ll also have the opportunity to make lifelong friends if you make an effort to take part in campus life. Nothing beats 4-years of studying, eating, playing, and sleeping together with your buddies in NTU Hall 6.
These are friends that will love, care, and support you for the rest of your life. They’ll be there on the day your birthdays, your wedding day, and possibly the ones who will put white flowers on your gravestone when you finally have your big day (Come on, it’s the day we all will eventually face).
Embrace the value of your college education, and remember that there is so much more in life that you have yet to experience.
So listen to your parents and go to university! And follow the tips outlined in this blog post so that you’ll graduate with flying colors, become a useful member of society, and make your parents proud.