Friday, January 13, 2006

Post No. 50: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood"...

I did it. I finally did it. After postponing my making of a decision for so long, I have finally decided on which university I would be going to for my undergraduate studies. My choice, as most of you all who know me would most probably know by now, is NUS, specifically a course in its Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences. This was no sudden decision but one made after a long & serious consideration. There's no more turning back for me anymore, especially since I have already mailed my confirmation letter to NUS and emailed SMU to notify them that I will be giving up the place they have reserved for me (no more am I "hogging" anyone's place... :P). I suppose you all would be curious as to why I chose NUS over SMU. Well, to satisfy you all, I would attempt, in this post, to provide a clear exposition of what reasons & factors led me to my final decision (and, I suppose, I owe my JC CCA-mate, who is currently studying in SMU and whom I somewhat treated like an unofficial information helpdesk with my frequent questions about SMU, an explanation... :p).

But before I do so, I suppose it would be better for me to start at the beginning and let you all understand how I came to have both a place in NUS and SMU.

Well, after the release of A-level results in 2004, I, being the typical "kiasu" Singaporean student (and somewhat "kiasee" also) and having no clear idea as to what I want to pursue in university or which university I want to go to, applied to all 3 local universities, like what a significant portion of my peers did that year. Another contributing factor to me applying to all 3 local universities was my ignorance about the quality of my grades. Don't be mistaken, I knew what my grades were but with reports of the significant number of my peers who scored straight As that year prevalent in the newspapers, I can't be blamed for being unsure about whether my grades are good enough for me to enter university. Hence, instead of applying to only 1 university and risk not being successful in my application, I chose to hedge my bets by applying to all 3 local universities.

If my memory doesn't serve me wrong, I applied for a place in NUS's Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, NTU's School of Humanities and Social Sciences (specifically a place in its Economics programme) and SMU's School of Economics and Social Sciences (specifically its Social Sciences programme). Also, I sent in an application for NUS's University Scholars Programme (USP for short). Thus began my waiting process. Soon, I heard news about my friends in army receiving letters from the universities they applied to accepting their applications and there I was still waiting and getting more & more anxious as the days went by. Surely, it can't be a case of all 3 of my applications not being successful, can it? Fortunately, I soon received news that I have been selected to attend an interview for applicants to the USP. I went for the interview and my own evaluation was that, being totally unfamiliar with the process of being interviewed, I screwed up the interview by being somewhat "fluffy" (i.e. lack of substance) in my answers to the questions of the 2 rather intimidating male interviewers. Well, I was, by then, quite certain that I won't get a place in the USP but by some roundabout reasoning, I reasoned that I will have to be eligible for a place in NUS before they decided to call me down for the interview. So I thought there was hope for me to get a place in NUS.

However, my first letter of acceptance wasn't from NUS but from NTU (this letter came about mid-April 2004). Being unsure about whether my applications to NUS & SMU were successful or not, I decided to accept NTU's offer and even sent them a deposit of S$100. Then, by around end of April 2004, I received a letter from SMU informing me that I have been shortlisted for an interview with them. I went for the interview, being more relaxed this time & having 2 interviewers whom were friendlier than those I met at NUS, and wrote the required essay. About 10 days after my interview with SMU, I was quite amazed, being somewhat of the opinion that I wasn't the "type" of student they wanted for SMU, to receive a letter from them informing me that I managed to get a place in SMU. Being still uncertain about which university I really wanted to go to at that time, I also accepted SMU's offer.

Well, at that point in time, having no definite news from NUS, I thought that my choice would be between NTU and SMU and to be completely honest with you all while meaning no offence to NTU, having a more favourable impression of SMU, I was slightly leaning towards going to SMU over going to NTU. However, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the course to a university education never did run straight & smooth. Approaching end of May 2004, just when I was deciding that I would be going to SMU for my undergraduate studies, I received a letter from NUS offering me a place in its Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (well, better late than never, they always say...)! Arghh... Call me indecisive, selfish, "kiasu" or whatever you all want but at that point in time, I was truthfully uncertain about which university to go to and thus I also accepted NUS's offer to me.

Fortunately for me, I soon received a letter informing me that since I accepted a place at both NUS & NTU, I was technically "hogging" places otherwise available to others (this wasn't the same words they used in the letter but the meaning is similar) and thus, I would need to make a decision as which of these 2 universities I wanted to go to. Being more enticed by NUS's offer (I can do Economics but I just can't picture myself doing a 4 year course in Economics), I gave up my place in NTU. Seriously, if I had receive a letter informing me that I would have to make a decision between NUS & SMU at that point in time, I would have already made up my mind then and not drag it until mow.

Facing a choice between SMU & NUS and not wanting to make a rash & wrong choice, I started to seek the advice of my friends (one of whom is the JC CCA-mate that I treated like an unofficial information helpdesk for SMU), family members and collected information about the both universities from the Internet. Well, the advice from my friends was both helpful & earnest but yet not decisive enough to push me towards making a definite choice. My parents didn't give me much advice, saying that it was my choice after all. Interestingly, each of my 2 elder sisters, who are both graduates from NUS, offered different advice. My eldest sister was inclined towards me choosing NUS while my other elder sister advised me to go for SMU. No easy decision this was going to be.

Being the usual logical, rational person that I am and still remembering enough of my A-level Economics, I started to compare & contrast the plus points & negative points of both NUS and SMU. Interestingly enough, the plus points I came up with for NUS were the inverse of SMU's negative points and vice versa. To prevent a long story from getting even longer, I would just summarise the results of my compare & contrast exercise. One, while NUS was more established, it also had a culture & teaching style which was less flexible & less friendlier than SMU. Two, while SMU's campus was much nearer to my home and to the city center (not to mention a well-stocked National Library), my impression of its syllabus was that it's a tad bit too business-oriented (yeah, I know it's a management university but if I wanted to study business, I would have applied for Business and not Social Sciences, right?), limited when compared to the wider range of subjects offered by NUS under Arts & Social Sciences and somewhat sacrificing depth for breadth (this is an impression I got from comparing its syllabus content with NUS). Three, while SMU claims to inculcate in its students the behavioural habits & values deemed necessary for one to excel in a New Age Economy where change is the only constant, NUS, in my perception, has greater & stronger links to the public policy-making sector in Singapore (a sector which I am currently interested to get involved in). Hence, so far, the strengths & weaknesses of both NUS & SMU balance off one another. Indeed, like what I have said, this was not going to be an easy choice for me to make.

Of course, I understand that all studies & no play will make one a very dull person. Hence, in my consideration about which university I want to go to, I also included in my consideration the quality & quantity of social life I would be likely to have in both NUS and SMU. Well, from the impression that I have (though I may be mistaken), the social life in SMU seems to be more vibrant and promising with its smaller student population size, its emphasis on group learning and it having more places to hang out at after school (considering its location near the city center). And of course, I also considered about the common perception of SMU having a lot of attractive female students (having seen quite a few of them during my experience with SMU and knowing one of them... In case you all are wondering who is this attractive SMU female student that I claim to know, it's my JC CCA-mate, who have a pair of the most mesmerising eyes, whom I have referred to twice in this post... :P). In fact, this was a point referred to at least 3-4 times during a recent matriculation exercise SMU held for guys serving their NS (hmm... what do they think NS guys are...? Girl-hungry...?). However, though a better social life would be a most appealing part of university life, it is still not the most important part and could also be perhaps a most distracting part. And as for the famed attractive female students of SMU, I suppose there are already long queues formed... B-) Anyway, at this point in time, my opinion is that, to borrow the words of John Stuart Mill, it is better to be a happy single than an unhappy boyfriend.

Okay now, after considering so many factors, what was the critical factor that led me to deciding on NUS? Well, that critical factor would be that the syllabus content offered by NUS appealed more to me, bearing in mind that I'm more interested in Social Sciences than Business. Also, though most other people would find SMU's city campus most attractive, I personally feel that it lacks an "organic" feel and is somewhat "claustrophobical" once one steps into the buildings (I personally preferred SMU's old campus at Bukit Timah), thus somewhat contributing to me deciding in favour of NUS.

Don't be mistaken, I am in no way saying that NUS is a better choice than SMU but just that, after considering for so long, I decided it was a better choice for me. Maybe I'm making the wrong choice and perhaps I will live to regret choosing NUS over SMU. I may even spend my future days in NUS thinking about how my life will be better in SMU. Perhaps I will lose out in the future due to me not having the supposed "SMU Edge". However, this remains my choice and no matter the consequences, I alone bear them. Right or wrong, good or bad, this remains my choice. And lastly, I will like to use this opportunity to regretfully inform my JC CCA-mate who's in SMU that she wouldn't be seeing me around on SMU's city campus next year but well, maybe we'll still meet during the Local University Exchange Programme...

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood / And sorry I could not travel both” -- “The Road Not Taken”, Robert Frost


::Child of Eden:: said...

Oh yes.. Hope you have made a wise choice. Whatever it is, just enjoy your study journey.. My personal opinion says NUS suits you more too..

= Tong = said...

I was once like u, confused in the choices of univ.

When look back, everything happens for a reason and you will live to find that out.

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