So you've made it through the JC education system alive and in one piece. Congrats! This year, you will finally be enrolling into a university.
Going to university can seem equal parts daunting and exciting at the same time.
Now more than ever, students have more choices than before. If this were 10 years ago, most parents would have already shipped their kids off to the US to get into the most "prestigious" courses they qualified for - which means medicine/law. These days, the world of technology, business and god-forbid dropping out of school to become an entrepreneur await.
But before you sign your life away to 3 to 4 years to studying something that could determine your future, here are 3 pieces of advice you should know:
Don't consider only the courses your friends are considering
In the years leading up to your A'Levels, you are lumped together with other students who have scores so painfully close to yours that by the time you're deciding on which university to go to, your options can seem very slim.
For instance, I was in the arts stream in JC. When I graduated, it seemed like the only two options that could lead me on a legitimate career path in future were business or law. Of course that is a silly thought to have. But when you are 18 and all your peers are trying to get into just one or two options, suddenly it's easy to lose sight of your other choices.
By following the crowd and applying for courses that your friends are applying for, you are failing to consider your own career goals and personal dreams. You can't be following your friends when you all graduate from uni and are deciding on what jobs to apply for, right?
You've got months before the A'levels results are released, so use them wisely and start thinking seriously about what you are passionate about. What would you like to do when you grow up? Because you will most likely be doing it 5 days a week, from 9am-6pm, so you might as well be doing something you enjoy and are good at. Go for internships and talk to adults who are leading the kind of lives you admire.
Studying overseas isn't as expensive as you think
Most people do not realise this, but university tuition fees and living costs in another country can add up to roughly the same amount you will be paying if you were to study at a local university!
Even with an MOE tuition grant for Singaporeans, a year at NUS can set you back about $8,000-$10,000 a year (double that if you are in medicine or dentistry). If you're thinking of applying for SMU? That's more than $11,000 a year.
Many European universities charge low fees, or are even free. Especially now that the Euro is down, living costs are not expensive too. An added bonus is the once-in-a-lifetime experience to live and study abroad too. Most student visa can also entitle you to work part-time while you study, and you'll be surprised that salaries for part-time jobs are way higher than in Singapore. Working in F&B in Australia, for example, might net you a cool S$19 per hour! So that's a great way to save some money while you are there.
Study hard, Network smart
In some universities, you might find yourself enrolling into a super competitive course whereby everyone guards their lecture notes jealously and mug until 2am. But before you disappear into your books and rarely emerge again, remember that many people are also using this time to make lots of friends and connections.
Especially with Facebook and Linkedin so accessible nowadays, it's easier to remain connected. In fact, many uni grads I know actually managed to land their first job through someone they knew. Word of mouth still remains one of the best ways to get a job. It helps to have someone vouch for you.
University is a great time to get to know more new people, and more importantly, to improve your social skills. A good way to test this is after your first month in university and your social circle still only consist of friends from your primary and secondary school, it's time to move out of your comfort zone and make more friends.
Remember, you've got the chance to decide your future. So whether it's course, location, or future career, make sure you're the one doing the deciding!