Memilih “U” yang Sejati – Choosing the Right “U”

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We all love having a plethora of options in our hands, especially when it comes to making an important, life-changing decision, such as choosing the tertiary institution to enroll in. I am no different; upon receiving my GCE A Level result slip, I was delighted because I had a high chance of getting into almost any university, and a good chance of obtaining a scholarship from them, especially those in Singapore.

Having adjusted pretty well into the fast-paced lifestyle in the ‘Little Red Dot’, I decided to stream my options into two main universities in Singapore: National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technology University (NTU), and began another round of research on these institutions. I roughly knew that both are ranked highly amongst the world’s top universities and both offer excellent engineering courses. After additional research, I found that whereas NUS is more reputable, NTU’s pedagogy is much more interesting, especially that of the Renaissance Engineering Programme, which I immediately put as my top choice.

Nevertheless, after asking further inputs from my teachers and friends, I ended up enrolling in Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). For those of you who have never heard of the institution, it is basically a new university established in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and I am part of the second (yes, SECOND) undergraduate batch that enrolled into the university. We do not even have our own campus yet!

So why ditch the other more established universities for one which is relatively new and unheard of? Why take the risk of enrolling into a university with partial accreditation and not a fully accredited one?

The answers to these questions are simple: because I knew what I wanted, and what the institution offered.

What I desired from a tertiary education was a more hands-on approach. I felt that 12 years of formal education, content cramming and regurgitation was enough, and that it was time to finally learn how to apply whatever I had learnt into practical use.

However, knowing what I wanted did not help much if I did not find out more about the experience within each university, and open houses merely gave me a fake, if not superficial, glimpse of life in the university. Therefore I decided to ask my teachers and friends for their advice and experience as most of them are graduates from either universities. Most of them said that the old-fashioned lecture/tutorial way of teaching would only be a repeat of my formal education experience. Such personal remarks from people who experienced studying in the university before is much more valuable than all the hype found during open houses.

In fact, it was my Junior College 1 (equivalent to Year 11) Physics teacher that suggested me to look into SUTD. She told me that if I wanted a hands-on approach to learning, there is no better place than SUTD which has a faculty to student ratio of 1:11 and a dedicated environment for innovation and design. She was the one that invited me to go one step back and reconsider the options I had filtered out before.

To conclude, I would like to urge you to really think about what you want when you are applying for a university. It is not about getting into the most well-known or prestigious university. It is about finding the university that is able to satisfy what you want out of your tertiary education. I am not saying that university rankings are irrelevant, but do take them with a pinch of salt. Finding an institution that matches your desire and way of learning is far more important than getting into a top-notch university. I sincerely believe that this phase of your life is all about finding the right “U”, for you.


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