How do I know what I want to do in University?

woman in black t shirt leaning on white table in front of white book
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

In my years of conversing with students as young as 15, it has impressed me so much that some of them are already very sure of what they want to do in University. I remember a particular meeting with a student who talked to me for a full hour about his collection of stories of airplane accidents, and concluded that the design and engineering of the airplane mechanics are important factors to prevent such mishaps. His strong interest made him firm that the best program for him would be aerospace engineering. 

Of course, he was one of the few exceptions.

In most instances, a large number of you would not have identified your lifelong passion, and that’s okay!

If you are not too sure which programs are good for you, you might like to take these options to explore: 

Take up online classes
With the growth of online educational platforms such as Mooc, Udemy and Coursera, there is no excuse to not be able to learn (unless you do not have access to internet). Take some time to explore a variety of online classes and see which ones lit a spark in you. If you found one that makes you curious in going in depth, you might have just hit the nail. 

Consider a gap year 
Why not take a break? Since you spent a large amount of your time trying to climb the ladder of academic success, taking a gap year can be a good option to reward yourself and explore future plans. Travelling around can allow you to have a bigger perspective about global issues and perhaps you might develop an enthusiasm in solving a particular concern. You can also take this time to take up an internship or a job in a certain field.

Even if you do not find something that you’d like, at least you might be able to discover what you surely do not want to do.

READ! READ! AND READ!
Already have an idea of some programs in University? Think about a reading list of courses you are considering and get them from Universities you are contemplating of entering. Buy books or head to the library to read up on books of particular subjects that have got you interested. Books are great sources of knowledge, so start with them! 

Speak to people already out there in the career world
Take some time to speak to people in your community and find out what they do! They can be people close to you such as your parents, older siblings and relatives. Even teachers, counsellors, alumni of your school are great people to have a casual chat with. What is their day to day schedule? What skills do they feel are essential in their workplace? What are the challenges they face? Why did they choose this career paths? These answers may help guide you with your own path.

Choose a University with a flexible system
If you still can’t decide on a course path, look through Universities which allow you the flexibility to explore options for the first year. For example, the University of Western Australia in Perth allows you to do majors from different faculties. You could be doing a Marketing major with Psychology! The good thing too is that you do not have to choose your majors till the second year. 

Similarly, the University of Melbourne‘s curriculum is “designed to give you a wider understanding of the world beyond your degree”. Every student has to take Breadth subjects to complement their main discipline with a wider range of knowledge, skills and interdisciplinary perspectives.

Having flexibility in your program will allow you to explore your options if you have yet to decide your niche. 

What else do you think will help you in making a more informed choice? 

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Applying to UK Universities for Undergraduate courses

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Are you thinking of applying to UK Universities but feeling lost? Applying to UK Universities is made easy through UCAS application.

What is the UCAS? UCAS stands for Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It is an online centralised service that students use to apply to university. Students who are planning to apply for Undergraduate courses in the UK Universities will have to apply through UCAS.

Are there any datelines? There are datelines for certain courses in UCAS. For more information, please visit the UCAS Undergraduate: when to apply.

15 October (the year before commencement year), 18:00 (UK time) – Oxford’s and Cambridge’s courses, or for most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry.

15 January (year of commencement), 18:00 (UK time) – for the majority of courses.

24 March (year of commencement), 18:00 (UK time) – for some art and design courses. Make sure you check the course details to confirm the correct deadline you need to apply by.

30 June (year of commencement), 18:00 (UK time) – the final deadline for late applications with course choices

20 September (year of commencement), 18:00 (UK time) – students will be entered into ‘Clearing’ – the process universities and colleges use to fill any places they still have on their courses

What do I need to prepare?
Academic transcripts – You can use equivalent international qualifications that you have already completed, or the predicted/prelims grades of the qualifications you are still studying now.

Personal statement – a statement of 4000 characters/ about 500 – 550 words of why you want to study the course and why you would fit into the University. It should display passion for the subject area, and demonstrate motivation, enthusiasm, and the skills and experiences that will enable you to succeed at university.

Academic referral letter – A reference is a written recommendation from a teacher, adviser or professional who knows you academically.

Passport details – optional but best to put it in for identification purposes.

How much does it cost? The application fee is £13 for a one course application, or £24 for a maximum of 5 courses and for late applications sent after 30 June.

Now, if you need additional help, you should be looking for an education counsellor to help you with the procedures. Some agencies are paid a fee while some are not – the Universities will pay them for the service. However, most first-time consultations are free of charge so you should consider getting their advice. There are some Universities that allow direct applications (avoiding UCAS) and this would save you a considerable amount of time.

If you have any queries, please click on my contact and leave me a comment!

Should I study in Australia or the United Kingdom?

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So after reading the first article Why Overseas Studies put you ahead, you are now perhaps thinking more about taking that leap!

When it comes to studying abroad, the two most popular destination to sought after is Australia and the United Kingdom. Based on the 2017’s Australia Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the UK Home Office statistics, it showed that more than 2,800 Singaporeans attained student visas to Australia and 2,700 to the UK last year. There are a number of reasons for this large number, and in today’s article, we would highlight the differences in both destinations.

Duration
In both Australia and the UK, the normal course duration is typically three years. The main difference is that in the UK, the degrees are imbedded Honours, whereas in Australia a student would require to complete another year for an Honours program. This will be a huge advantage for students who are planning to study and qualify for a professional course such as Engineering, Physiotherapy or Law in the UK. It will not only save them time, but a year worth of tuition fees and cost of living.

Credit Transfer / Recognition of Prior Learning
Students with tertiary studies or extensive working experience can apply for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), or credit transfer which refers to the recognition of previous informal and formal training, work experience, professional development, professional licensing and examinations, and other work-based education and training. In the UK, one can state which point of entry he/she wishes to enter to (eg: Year 2 or 3). Australia, however, is a little more flexible by allowing credit exemptions, which means a student may not need to do certain units/ modules based on similar units/ modules studied prior. Therefore, students can study as short as one year or 1.5 years depending on how cognate the discipline of study.

Cost of Living
In Australia the Immigration requires students to prepare AUD$20,290 for one year cost of living, which includes off campus accommodation, food and transportation. Of course, depending on the state you are planning to live in, this can defer greatly. The estimated costs of living per state will be the following:

 

State/ Territory Cost of living State/ Territory Cost of living
Sydney 22,000 – 28,000 Queensland 22,000 – 25,000
Melbourne 22,000 – 28,000 Perth 20,000 -22,000
Canberra 22,000 – 25,000 Adelaide 19,000 – 20,000
Darwin 22,000 – 25,000 Tasmania 19,000 – 20,000

As for the United Kingdom, a student would need to prepare about £1,015 in his/ her bank account for each month you plan to stay outside of London. This works out as £12,180 per year. If you are studying in London, you need to be prepared to spend a bit more £1,265 per month, the equivalent of £15,180 per year.

Ultimately you would need to weigh this in consideration with your tuition fees and this will vary depending on the University and course you are applying to.

International Students
Based on the statistics given by the UK Council for International Student Affairs for 2015-2016, only 14% of the students are international (not including the EU which is about 6%) where majority of them are from China, followed by Malaysians. Australia proves to still be a popular study destination with more than 35% being international students (https://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au, 2015). Majority of them are also from China, followed by India, then Malaysia, Vietnam and Nepal.

Post Study Work Permit
The Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) allows graduates to work in Australia temporarily after they finish their studies, provided that they have minimum requirements of studying in the country of about two years. In the UK, however, as soon as you graduate, international students need to switch their visa to a work-related one if they wish to extend their stay. The new laws have made it tougher for international students to do so, and the post-study work visa was scrapped in 2012.

In summary, ask yourself a few questions like the following before deciding on a destination:
1)      Do I want to be closer to home?
2)      What do I want to do after my studies – go back straight or get working experience in another country?
3)      What kind of learning environment do I want to study in?

Both Australia and the UK would be good countries for international studies, the final choice will be dependent on the student’s priorities.

What happens after O levels?

pexels-photo-261895.jpegWhat should I do after my O levels? 

Most students are lost after their O levels examinations. It is certainly a period to think about the different pathways to take as it would determine (in some ways) the career road that a student will go down to. In most cases, it is a choice of entering a vocational education route (Polytechnic diplomas or the Institute of Technical Education (ITE)) or Pre-University Institutions (Junior Colleges or the International Baccalaureate Diploma)). Here are three quick questions to ask yourselves:

1)      Do I already know what I want to do?
If you do, then the decision is easy. If you are looking at Professional Courses such as Medicine, Dentistry or Law, the Pre-University Institutions should be your choices. This will better prepare you in terms of academics. However, if you are looking Niche Vocational Courses such as Hospitality, Media and Communications and Engineering, the Polytechnics may mould a better pathway to the workforce.

2)      Does my O level grades meet the requirements to enter?
Perhaps you are looking to do Medicine. You have to however, be realistic and ask yourself if you are able to enter any of the Pre-University Institutions based on the results that you got. In such cases, you either have to sacrifice your dreams and pursue a different pathway such as a Diploma in Biomedical Science in a Polytechnic.

3)      Can I guarantee myself a place in the Singapore Universities if I am planning to pursue Higher Education?
So let’s say that you did manage to do the A levels, can you then be sure that you will meet the required grades for you to enter the course that you want in the local University? Remember to take note that the spaces for Professional Courses in Singapore are limited thus entry are stringent. If you have taken a vocational pathway, you have to make sure that you are maintaining a GPA high enough to enter most courses (a GPA of 3.8/4 may be safe).

Such cases are so unfortunate and we have to prepare students at an early stage. What most of students don’t know is the following pathways to get you to your preferred courses overseas:

1)      Do the GCE A levels (UK)
The UK A levels is a main school leaving qualification which is internationally recognised. It is usually taken by students who are not comfortable with taking too many subjects (6 subjects in specific) like the Singapore GCE A levels. Students uses the UK A levels to apply for Professional Courses such as Medicine and Dentistry in both UK and Australia. It is a duration of about 1 to 2 years (the shorter duration would be extremely intensive). The standard full-time load is three to four subjects typically taken in fields relevant to intended study at the tertiary level. A common pattern of study for many students is to take four subjects in Year 12 and will drop out the last subject before the final exams.

2)      Do the Foundation program in UK, Australia or New Zealand
If you already know that you want to progress to the Universities overseas, do the Foundation program from your country of choice and proceed to the University and course that you wish to enter. The standard Foundation program is usually 9 months – 1 year depending on the destination and pathway provider you have chosen. It can progress to courses such as Engineering, Arts, Commerce and even the popular course of Law! Progression is usually guaranteed as long as the student meets the requirements of the chosen University.

Of course there are other factors to consider:

1)      How much will these pathway cost?
2)      What if I am still not sure what I want to do?
3)      Can I change courses after my pathway?
4)    Can these courses gain me entry to local Universities? 

The discussions are extensive thus I will not discuss it in this entry (do contact me if you wish to discuss on these specific questions). However the main objective of doing the pathways overseas would be to:

SAVE TIME

If you noticed, the UK A levels and Foundation will save you a good precious amount of time of about 0.5 to 1 year (more if you unfortunately fail the Singapore A levels/ Diploma program). This could have been used for better purposes such as getting employment faster. Take note for the boys, you would need to spend 2 years of your life in the Army, thus it is better to save the 1 year in Education to get you ahead.

Does University ranking matters?

pexels-photo-590020.jpegBefore we go in-depth to the discussion, it is important to know what the different University ranking measures. Each ranking organisation measures institutions in different ways, using different criteria, and different weightings of similar criteria.

1. QS World Ranking of Universities: this ranking organisation uses a consistent methodological framework, compiled using six simple metrics that it deems effectively capture university performance.
• Academic reputation (40%) – a global survey of more than 70,000 academics
• Citations per faculty (20%) – calculated by the total number of citations received by all papers produced by an institution across a five-year period by the number of faculty members at that institution.
• Student-to-faculty ratio (20%) – the number of academic staff employed relative to the number of students enrolled
• Employer reputation (10%) – measured by a global survey of more than 37,000 graduate employers
• International faculty ratio (5%) – demonstrates an ability to attract faculty and students from across the world, and implies a high global outlook
• International student ratio (5%) – see International faculty ratio

2. Times Higher Education World University Rankings: this ranking measures Universities based on teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook using 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators.

The performance indicators are grouped into five areas:

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Photo courtesy of THE

3. Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) (previously known as the Shanghai Jiao Tong index): this ranking uses six indicators to rank world universities, including the:
• number of alumni winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (10%)
• number of staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (20%)
• number of highly cited researchers in 21 broad subject categories (20%)
• number of articles published in Nature and Science (20%)
• number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index – Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index (20%)
• per capita academic performance of an institution (10%)

How then do University rankings assist a graduate?

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It gives you a headstart with Employees and Businesses at the beginning of your job search…

Increasingly, employers (especially multinational organisations) use rankings as a screening tool to qualify fresh job seekers for an interview. According to Channel NewsAsia, Commentary: The age-old question about university rankings, “For hirers screening thousands of resumes from candidates from unfamiliar countries, a knee-jerk coping response is to correlate the quality of the candidate to the pedigree of the university inferred through a recognised university ranking publication.”

There is this perception that coming from a highly-ranked university indicates that this person has potential and is poised for success because they beat many others to get into a top-notch school in their youth.

… but does not guarantee you a job.

Taking note of that, once you secured yourself an interview, getting a job offer from a company is purely dependent on how you fared during the interview and the aptitude test (in some cases). For those not in highly-recognised University, the challenge is how to score yourself interviews of your dream career. After which, your sheer force of personality and drive may be enough to convince employers that you are a catch, without needing a degree from a highly-ranked university to prove their worth.

With this in mind, should a student put emphasis on rankings?

Rankings is not everything, especially the overall rankings of Universities. If you already have a good idea of the subject you wish to study, then subject rankings might be a good starting point, but should not be the only means of determining the University to study.

A recommended way to know more about the University is to take the time to do a campus tour or attend one of their Open Days. This initiative will allow you to meet academics, current students and alumni. It will also give you the opportunity to see the types of facilities, academic support and to speak to a representative in regards to questions you may have about career prospects, industry links and learning structures. In short, this will allow you to decide if the University is right for you.

Major global rankings are less likely to highlight these important features; thus, it is important to not place a huge emphasis on rankings alone.

More questions? Feel free to send me a message!

What are some of the Allied Health programs I can study?

The Allied Health programs are gaining popularity in Singapore as the demand continues to grow and the capacity needs to be increased. “Providing updates on the Healthcare 2020 Master Plan during his speech, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said more than 900 hospital beds were added last year, through Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and the Jurong and Yishun Community Hospitals. The three hospitals will continue to ramp up this year to add another 270 beds.” (TodayOnline, New schemes, awards among plans to attract more to join healthcare sector, 19 February 2018). With an interest to make a direct impact on people’s well-being as well as be part of a lucrative sector, what are some of the Allied Health programs can you consider studying? 

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Nursing
Nursing focus is wholesome – focused on the whole patient, thereby setting itself apart from other disciplines through the positive caring approach. The profession is a discipline that aims on alleviating pain and suffering through protection, promoting health, wellness, and prevention of illness and injury. It is an advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations.

Occupational Therapy
An Occupational Therapist focuses more on evaluating and improving a person’s functional abilities. Their main aim is to help a person optimize their independence and their ability to accomplish their daily activities following an injury or in situations of physical impairment. They more likely to perform on-site assessments of both the home environment and work environment and give recommendations on suitable adaptations of each to allow for a better quality of life. The ultimate goal of an Occupational Therapist is to assist people improve their ability to carry out their everyday tasks. 

Physiotherapy
Most often overlapping with Occupational Therapy, a Physiotherapist tends to be more focused on evaluating and diagnosing movement dysfunctions as well as treating a person’s injury itself. He/She will be more likely to diagnose and treat the physical source of the problem; the injured tissues and structures.

Both professions are trained extensively in anatomy and the musculoskeletal system. 

Speech Pathology
Speech-language pathologists work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders. They work with both children and adults who have difficulty communicating because of certain conditions such as developmental delays, stroke, brain injuries, learning disability, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, dementia and hearing loss (including other problems that can affect speech and language). They work in many different research, education, and health care settings with varying roles, levels of responsibility, and client populations.

Nutrition and Dietetics
A nutritionist will usually have completed a tertiary qualification in any various fields of nutrition, food science and public health. The primary role of a nutritionist is to assist people in achieving optimal health by providing information and advice about health and food choices.

According to the SNDA (Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association), Dietetics is the integration of the art and science to the application of food and nutrition to health. Dietitians are consultants and practitioners who assess, maintain and improve the health status of individuals and the public they serve. They are responsible for the management of the sick and for the promotion of health.

Both nutritionists and dietitians aim to assist in a person’s journey to reaching optimal health through food and nutrition. However, dietitians are also qualified to work in private clinical practice, hospitals and the medical nutrition industry. They provide expert nutrition advice for people of all ages and prescribe dietary treatments for many conditions such as diabetes, food allergies, cancers, gastro-intestinal diseases, and overweight and obesity.

Radiography / Medical Imaging
A radiographer (or medical imaging technologist) is a university-trained health professional who works with cutting edge technology to produce X-rays, CT (computed tomography) scans, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans and other medical images to assist clinical radiologists and other doctors diagnose, monitor or treat a patient’s injury or illness. They have a very thorough understanding of the body’s structure, how it is affected by injury, and the causes and effects of disease.

Of course, there are other courses you may consider, though these pathways are currently not a common route that Singaporeans take (but hey, why not take a road less travelled?). You may also have a think of the following:
Podiatrists
Prosthetists & Orthotists
Audiologists
Medical Social Worker

For more details of the descriptions of these professions, feel free to visit the official website of the Ministry of Health Singapore – Applied Health Professions.

What should I consider before choosing a University?

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Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

It is certainly daunting when you are 18, and asked to make one of the most important decision in your life – which University do I go to? 

If you are anything like the typical students whom I get, your first stop is to check the rankings – QS Rankings, Times Higher Education, ARWU…. none of them are even official, and still, students treat them like a bible. Yet, it is important to highlight that the best moments of your time at University is beyond those rankings, and the important lessons in life often take place away from the classrooms. With that in mind, I’ve narrowed down some of the questions you’d like to ask yourself before choosing a University. 

What type of University do I want to enter?
Do a search on how you will be taught and assessed in the Universities of your choice. Some Universities are more traditional, meaning that majority of their courses have a number of exams and essays while the modern Universities place emphasis on group work, presentations and practical lessons. Of course, there are Universities that are trying to be in between so it is important to read the course content and structure. 

Do I want a large University or one that gives me personalised attention? 
Group of Eights in Australia, which are bigger Universities typically have large campuses, as well as a healthy selection of student services and things to do. Class sizes tend to be bigger and students should be more proactive and initiative if they wish to get extra attention. A smaller University may offer a more intimate and personalised experience. A class is required to interact and discuss with each other. 

Do I prefer a campus life or the city? 
Do you love the grassy fields, open space and outdoors? Maybe a campus life at a rural area would be an adventure for you. On the other hand, if you’re used to late night shopping and the frequent trips to movies and restaurants, these kind of campus life may leave you unhappy during your University life. When deciding the options for a University, think about where you grew up, what you are accustomed to and how much of a change you want.

Does the University has Clubs, Societies and Sports that I want to join? 
Life at university can be much more than simply graduating with a degree if you want it to be. Many institutions are famed for their well-rounded approach to extracurricular activities such as clubs and societies and sports, such as soccer and rugby (the destination will matter, like New Zealand is very well-known for rugby). If you’re eager to get involved in life outside the classroom, it’s important to check out what’s available. Get in touch with the Guild House or Student Union to see what is going on within the student bubble.

Can I afford the cost of living? 
The cost of living will vary widely from one university to the next and should be a key consideration before choosing your place. In London, the cost of living is almost twice as much than it is in North Ireland. Living in Adelaide will be more affordable than living in a state like Sydney and Melbourne. Ultimately, choosing a university should be as much about what suits your personal situation as it is about the picking the right course.

Remember, while the primary purpose of undertaking a degree is to arm yourself with a distinguished qualification in the subject of your choosing, it’s important to enjoy the experience too!