How can I fund my overseas studies?


One of the common reasons I hear as to why a student will decline offers from very renowned Universities is related to COST. Such circumstances are unfortunate, but we have to be open to the fact the an international education can be a heavy investment thus parents and students alike are required to know how much they are bound to spend should one pursue education overseas.

In this topic, I will explore some means of lowering your costs and funding your studies.

1) Scholarships/ Bursaries
If you are a high-achieving student, there may be scholarships you can apply for to lower your tuition fees. It can range from 10% – 50% and in some rare instances, a 100% scholarship. For example, Griffith University is awarding polytechnic students from Singapore a 10% scholarship for their upcoming intakes, as long as the student meets the minimum entry requirements to enter. They even have the Griffith Remarkable Scholarship that will finance 50% of successful students’ tuition fees. Curtin University is also awarding students with 25% scholarships if they have meet a certain GPA. Nottingham University is awarding high achieving IB Diploma students with scholarships of £2,500 to £15,000 towards your tuition fees.

Bursaries are one-time off “discounts” given to applicant to lighten their financial load enable them to study in the Institution. UK Universities such as Queens University Belfast and Glasgow University are awarding £2500 – £5000.

2) Bank loans
If you do not have enough funds for your tuition fees, you might want to consider taking up an education or tuition fee loan. Of course, I never encourage an application to take up the full tuition fee as a loan; you might have difficulty paying back after graduation! The interest rate ranges from 4.35% to 4.88% depending on the amount of loan you are planning to take up and you would have to find guarantors to co-sign the credit agreement (guarantors are persons who agree to repay the borrower’s debt should the borrower default on agreed repayments). No longer are loans limited to just domestic education. Banks such as Frank by OCBC, RHB Bank and Maybank have options for students to take up loans to fund their studies overseas.

My recommendation is to limit the loan amount to half your tuition fees and make sure you also have enough fundings for your cost of living!

3) Part-time employment
Try to fund your cost of living by working the additional hours you have on hand!

Australia – 40 hours fortnightly and full-time during the holidays. According to Fairwork Australia, the minimum wage is AUD$18.29 per hour.
New Zealand – 20 hours a week and full-time during the holidays. According to New Zealand Government, the minimum wage is NZ$16.50 an hour if you are 16 years or over
United Kingdom – 20 hours a week and full-time during the holidays. According to the United States Department of Labor, the minimum wage is dependent on the state but the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Find out how to find yourself a job by reading my article on How do I get a part-time job while studying overseas?

Need to know more specific information about funding your studies overseas? Feel free to hit me up with a message!


When would be the best time to start preparing for University studies?

One phrase: It is never too early. 

Some parents start as early as Secondary One for their children, while some would wait till the final results of the A levels have been released. There are no right or wrong answers but depending on the destination and course you are planning your child to enter, there are some timings that would ease your stress.

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Secondary Three:

When your child reaches this stage, it is essential for them to explore subjects that they are interested in and brush up on those they are not particularly strong in. Most students tend to pursue subjects they feel they can excel in and miss out on the learning journey for the rest. For example, most female students feel they would excel more in Humanities such as Literature and History and feel that they should not pursue “hard” subjects such as Additional Maths and Physics. However, it is essential to note that the latter are hard not because they are tough to learn, but because not enough time and emphasis are given to these subjects. “Hard” subjects are usually better pre-requisites for majority of University programs thus it is good to have them in the list of chosen subjects for O levels to establish a good base. Parents can give additional support in finding techniques and methods to make learning more enjoyable.

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Secondary Four:

The O levels (equivalent to Year 10) is a crucial moment for most Singaporean students (and parents likewise) as it would determine if a student would pursue Singapore GCE A levels or the Tertiary Diploma. Students who already know they would be going overseas to pursue a University program can use this O levels to apply for the UK A levels or Foundation programs available in most countries like the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The A levels (both SG or UK A levels) pathway is a MUST take if one is planning to pursue professional courses such as Medicine and Dentistry. The Tertiary Diploma is a great pathway if students already know what they plan to pursue. These students who already know what they want to do should explore doing a Foundation program, which is a bridging program of typically 8 months – 1.5 years (depending on student’s grades) that will lead to a University degree. It will be a shorter duration instead of doing the full 3 years in a typical Polytechnic here in Singapore. Parents, do take note of this opportunity cost.

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Junior College Year 1:

This is a good gauge if your child is coping well in the A levels program. If they are not doing so well, it could be a sign for you to explore either the UK A levels (which is only 3 main subjects) or the Foundation programs.

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Junior College Year 2 (mid year or prelims):

The A levels results will be out usually in late February or early March the next year after the exams. With this in mind, students and parents should have some contingency plans and start applying to the UK, Australia or New Zealand using the mid-year or prelims results which are usually out in August and October respectively. Do not wait till the last minute, otherwise you would realise that you would need to rush Universities for offers! Attend University fairs, start going for webinars, check on alternative pathways and googling on Universities you may be interested in attending if you do not get to local ones.  

Still confused what the different programs are? Speak to me about your options!



From a T to a Pi: A lesson on learning and career development


Photo courtesy of Coursera Mindshift

Recently, I took up a free MOOC Class called Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential by Barb Oakley and Terry Sejnowski, professors from by McMaster University in Coursera. If you are unfamiliar to the term, a MOOC is short for Massive Open Online Course, a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people. I started on Week 3 class, and there is this particular lesson that made such an impact on my realisation.

It is the approach/concept of categorising individuals
as a T-shaped individual or Pi-shaped invididual

I have no idea of who came up with this concept and my search on the net seems to be futile. It seems as well that there are many other shapes to categorise individuals such as the comb-shape, but this two are the one that connects with me the most.

Let me elaborate on these two shapes further:

Photo courtesy of Tom Wessel, 2013: 
The Life of Pi: Moving Beyond T-Shaped Skills for Agile Teams 

A T-shaped individual is a person who has deep knowledge and skills in a particular area of specialization (represented by the horizontal line and marked specialist) with enough general, superficial knowledge and skills of other things to complement your specialisation (represented by the vertical line and marked generalist/ broad knowledge). Barb put herself as an example, by mentioning that she learnt to speak extremely fluent Russian since Linguistics was her interest. She then took up a smattering of other skills like driving a truck and learning how to type. This of course allowed her to be a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers up in the Bering Sea, but after which, she found herself in a challenging position of not having enough opportunities when she wanted to move on. This relates to many of us in many ways, especially since most of us are taught to niched yourself in a certain area, like computer science, or linguistics. 

What then can we do to maximise our opportunities and enhance our development journey? 

pi.pngPhoto courtesy of Tom Wessel, 2013: 
The Life of Pi: Moving Beyond T-Shaped Skills for Agile Teams 

Apparently an approach popularised by our very own Patrick Tay, an elected member of Singapore’s Parliament, we should aim to be a Pi-shaped individual. The concept is to second-skill oneself in another field that may be directly related or may be quite different from the first. Why have a second skill? As Barb puts it: 

“Much as I love the Russian language, I had put my focus on developing one single skill without thinking about how much that skill was really needed in the working world and without thinking about whether other skills might complement and enhance my ability to get the kinds of jobs I wanted to have.”

Having a second skill gives one a little more balance. An individual can bring a second skill into his or her work because this is a passion, or simply because it complements one’s first specialisation. One does not have to choose on just one niche. In fact, this choice of pursuing a passion/ second skill can greatly enhance one’s creative ability in the other skill. 

What then I would encourage is for students out there to choose a program that would allow you pursue both a myriad of programs. In Australia, there are Universities that will encourage you to pick up two majors in a course. In Universities such as the University of Western Australia, they have generalised their Undergraduate degree that allows you to explore outside your expertise by taking a major in a different faculty. Needless to say, there are options to do a double degree (such as ANU Flexible Double Degree, University of Sydney Bachelor of Commerce/Science/Visual Arts etc and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies) that would strengthen your journey towards becoming a Pi-shaped individual.

In the UK, there are options to do a Joint/ Combined Honours degree. University of Leeds for example offers a Bachelor of Science in Philosophy and Physics. University of Exeter offers a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science Flexible Combined Honours. Other notable Universities would be University of Durham, University of Southampton, Newcastle University, and the list can go on. 

Ultimately, the aim is to enrich and enhance your learning and career journey by looking at the real world and work to both follow and broaden your passions. 

Good luck!

Should I take Physiotherapy or Occupational Therapy? What is the difference?

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During my time as an education counsellor, I came across numerous students looking to study Physiotherapy, as it would be an occupation in demand to meet the needs of the ageing population in Singapore. Strangely though, there are students who believe that if they do not meet the entry requirements of the Physiotherapy course, they should simply opt for the Occupational Therapy course. 

The two programs are not synonymous.

In this article, we shall discuss the differences of the two career options.

As an Occupational Therapist (OT), the focus is on optimising a patient’s independence and improving their functional ability to accomplish daily tasks following an injury or disability. With this core aim, an OT is trained to assess and adjust the physical environment of a patient’s home or work office to help one adapt to his or her circumstance and ultimately improve his or her quality of life. An OT will also train the a patient to use assistive equipment to help him or her cope with the everyday activities. 

As an Physiotherapist (PT), the focus is on treating a person’s injury, specifically the root of the concern, which are the injured tissues and structures. He or she evaluates and diagnose movement dysfunctions and then treats these through physical methods such as massage and exercise to strengthen, increase endurance and joint mobility. 

It is also important to note that there are many areas in which both professions greatly overlap.

Both professions are often involve in injury-related recovery and a large component of their job is to educate how to prevent and avoid injuries. An OT and PT are heavily educated and trained in anatomy and the musculoskeletal system and have immense knowledge about musculoskeletal injuries and rehabilitation. 

Now that you know a little more about the two different professions, I hope you can make an informed decision about which program to pursue! Good luck!

The ESSENTIALS to bring before departure


My students get daunted each time they realise they only have 30kg to check in. I can truly connect with the panic – not knowing how much clothes to bring, what kind of clothes to even pack, should you bring cutleries and crockeries, how about spices and asian comfort food?

Regardless of the number of clothes, crockeries and food you may wish to bring, there are some essential that must not be missed!

In this post, I will list the 5 essential things every international student should not forget out on bringing!

1) Electronics

Get your laptops, handset all from here. Singapore is known to be an affordable electronics base so get your gadgets before flying! If you ever need to repair your electronics, you can always fly back home during the summer or winter break to get them repaired. Some brands have branches overseas that will allow you to utilise their services as well.

2) Stationeries

You can definitely get stationeries in all countries, but it could be more affordable to stock up on pens, pencils (paint brushes, watercolors palettes and the such), notebooks here in Singapore. Head to Bras Basah Complex to shop at the big Popular bookstore to get these!

3) A week worth of toiletries and bed sheets

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Unless you are planning to immediately get some things the moment you land, it would be essential to buy some travel toiletries and a set of bed and pillow sheets. There is no need to stock up in big bulks – just something to last you for a week until you find your way around. Once you do, you can head to Target or Kmart for your essentials in Australia, Tesco, Asdam and Sainsbury in the UK and Kmart and Warehouse in New Zealand. Options are plenty!

4) International Travel Plug 


No explanation needed. This is to plug in all your electronics for charging. If you’re smart, get a multi outlet power strip! 

5) Cold cash

Get some money changed here just in case you need to pay for anything once you reach your destination. Such purchases could involve hailing a taxi, getting some food on the way, or small payments to be made for the first few weeks before you open up a bank account. A good amount would be between SGD$3000 to SGD$6000 (the conversion at the moment is divided by 1.8 for the Great British Pounds, 1.3 for Australian dollars, and almost similar for New Zealand dollars).

Hope that eases the pain of packing. Look out for my next post on What NOT to bring before leaving to study!


Singapore Medical Council – accredited Medicine Programs in Australia

pexels-photo-433267.jpegWith the release of the A levels results and the Singapore Universities admissions for the medicine programs coming out this May, it is only imaginable how frantic parents and students are looking for options to study Medicine

In summary, there are three ways to be able to do the Medicine program: 

1. Apply to an undergraduate degree program with an accredited SMC University
2. Apply to a dedicated undergraduate pathway program which will allow entry into a graduate entry program
(eg: University of Western Australia, Perth – Bachelor of Medical Science leading to MD – 3 years + 3 years (through-trained, progression guaranteed with a GPA of 5.5/7 by the end of the Bachelor’s program)
3. Do a Bachelor’s degree and apply directly to a graduate entry program

The focus of this article is on Number 1.

In Australia, there are four Universities that are accredited by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC). The list can be found in the Second Schedule, but be mindful that some of the programs stated have been discontinued for future students or have changed their program names and structure thus pending the accreditation.

The ones that are still in place are:

University of Adelaide, South Australia – MBBS – 6 years 
Flinders University, South Australia – Bachelor of Clinical Sciences / MD – 6 years
University of New South Wales, NSW – Bachelor of Medical Science / MD – 6 years 
University of Tasmania, Tasmania – MBBS – 5 years 

The ones pending accreditation are:

Monash University, Victoria – Bachelor of Medical Science / MD (if this program is not accredited by the time of graduation, students will graduate with an MBBS)
University of Newcastle, NSW – Bachelor of Medical Science / MD

What are they looking for? 

Every University wants to find high-calibre students who would be able to persevere through the intense program and those with the aptitude (the heart and the mind) to make potential GREAT DOCTORS.

The most popular qualifications looked at are the A levels and the International Baccalaureate. Grades differs from University to University and are usually strictly followed. It is best to read the International Admissions Guide of each program. The typical A levels H2s grades range from BBB – AAA, and IB results range from 35 onwards. 

International Students Admissions Test (ISAT) – This is a 3-hour computer-based multiple-choice aptitude test designed to assess a candidate’s intellectual skills and abilities that are the foundation of academic success at tertiary level. The test is independently developed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). 

Personal Qualities Assessment (PQA) – Only the University of Adelaide and University of Newcastle (pending accreditation) set this test. Similar to the ISAT, it is an nstrument designed to assess a range of personal qualities considered to be important for the study and practice of medicine and allied health professions. It comprises questions, grouped into four sections, the first to measure cognitive skills, the other three to measure particular personality and attitudinal traits relevant to health professional practice. The main difference is that the paper is set by the University to determine the right candidates for their program. 

Other than the University of Tasmania, every applicant would have to go through an interview via Skype or a call, in some cases, a face-to-face. 

Some Universities uses the Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs). A multiple mini interview consists of a series of short, structured interview stations used to assess non-cognitive qualities including cultural sensitivity, maturity, teamwork, empathy, reliability and communication skills. At the beginning of each mini interview rotation, candidates receive a question/scenario and have a short period of time to prepare an answer. Upon entering the interview room, the candidate has a short exchange with an interviewer/assessor. An MMI circuit varies in the number of stations and timing of each station.

There is no easy feat to conquer the rigorous procedure of entering the Medicine program. If the first time, you fail, there will always be the next round of application, or perhaps, going through an graduate entry might prepare you better for admissions. Ultimately, the main aim is to ask yourself if you are willing to push through these steps of entry –

Do you want it enough? 

I can’t get into the Masters due to my grades, what can I do?

First and foremost, DON’T PANIC!

There is always an option, it is simply a matter of time and to a certain extent, finances. If you are looking to further your studies with a Masters in the UK but did not meet the entry requirements, then your best option is the Pre-Masters!


What is the Pre-Masters in the UK?
A pre-master’s course in the UK is designed to prepare students who wants to pursue their master’s degree in the UK. It provides one with academic tools such as academic writing, advanced research skills, time management and basic knowledge of academic terminologies thus prepares you for a master’s degree. One would have to choose the subject related to the master’s programme that he/she wishes to pursue to satisfy the requirements. After the successful completion of the pre-master’s course, a student is guaranteed an admission to that program. You can continue either in the same school to do your master’s degree, or you can get admission in other schools as well. It is usually an intensive two-term or three-term program (roughly a year long). 

Who is this program designed for? 
The most obvious reason would be for students who did not meet the academic qualifications required for the Masters program. This would encompass the following:

  • graduating from a non-Honours background;
  • failing the English requirements.

However there are various other reasons that students may undertake the program:

  • wishes to switch the discipline from your undergraduate degree to postgraduate degree;
  • take more time to adapt to the University’s style of teaching;
  • brush up on English skills especially if you are moving to a country that is non-English speaking. 

Entry requirements for Pre-Masters
It varies from the courses one wishes to undertake and the Institution/ Provider providing the program. Usually the requirements are:

  • An undergraduate degree with a pass
  • IELTS UKVI score 5.5

Popular courses for Pre-Masters
The options are myriads; here are a few:

  • Business programs such as Business and Social Studies, Economics and Accounting & Finance
  • Engineering programs such as Electrical & Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering
  • Humanities and Art programs such as Hospitality, Leisure, Recreation & Tourism,  Design Management, Advertising Design Management, Fashion Management and Global Media Management

If you think these courses are for you or if you have some doubts you need clarifying, feel free to contact me