Written by Miguel Rhett M. Matugas, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business
With the close of acceptance deadlines for the 2014 intake of SMU students, we at the SMU Blog share a few important SMU tips to maximise learning and personal growth at Singapore Management University.
Embarking on life’s next chapter is never an easy task. Even this year’s graduating students can remember how it felt on that first day standing at Campus Green without a clue about how they would survive the next few years. But as you undergo the joys and rigours of the SMU experience, you will eventually be able to find direction and truly discover yourself at SMU. And although the sun begins to set on another graduating batch at commencement, it rises for another freshman cohort looking to make the most of their SMU experience.
This blog post contains a few of the secrets to not just surviving, but thriving, at SMU and making the most of your university experience.
SMU Tip 1: Make friends, and lots of them!
The good thing about entering university is that it’s a fresh new experience. Although there will probably be a few people you’ve already met from your old school, SMU’s diverse student body with students from all over the world, provides an excellent opportunity to get to know people from different backgrounds, and interact with them on a daily basis.
Between new classmates, project groupmates, and orientation camp buddies, you’re bound to make quite a few new friends at SMU. Before you know it, you’ll already have a group of friends to bid for classes, attend CCA’s, join case competitions, or just hang around with on weekends and after class!
SMU Tip 2: Speak up and let yourself be heard
With SMU’s reputation as “A Different U,” you probably already know of its interactive pedagogy where students are encouraged to speak up, participate, and express their opinions during a lesson. If you have an idea or a comment, don’t be afraid to bring it up and discuss it with the class. Aside from the fact that class participation is usually 15-20% of your grade, it’s the involvement of the students that fuels the learning at SMU. It’s not just about gaining knowledge from the professors, it’s also about learning from each other by gaining different insights from different perspectives on the same topic.
A fair warning though: make sure your comments are relevant or helpful before speaking up. Some enthusiastic students are notorious for regurgitating comments for the sake of getting airtime. This is generally frowned upon in the SMU society, so you should probably steer away from off-topic points.
SMU Tip 3: Actually learn from your professors
One thing SMU prides itself on is its teaching excellence from its distinguished and diverse faculty. Across the six schools, SMU houses professors from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds, all of whom have dedicated their lives to mastering their craft and passing on that knowledge to their students, so take advantage of the opportunity to learn from them and their experiences.
This is something that most students take for granted. I guess with the constant demands of academic life, every class gets trivialised into “just another lesson.” However, the truth is that these classes are supposed to teach us what we need to know before we go out into the world, and the professors teaching these things are no less than the best in their fields. If you make the effort to pay attention in class and share your ideas with them, you’ll pick up a lot of important knowledge, and maybe even find that professors aren’t at all that intimidating, but are very open and interested to discuss the topics with you.
SMU Tip 4: Get involved in extra-curriculars
It’s pretty much a no-brainer that to make the most of your life as a student, you have to actually take part in the university’s student life. SMU provides a multitude of ways to get involved, so it shouldn’t be hard to find something you’re into. From freshman orientation camps, to sports, arts, and other CCA’s, SMU holds a plethora of student clubs and activities that fuel its rich and diverse student life.
SMU students get quite the reputation for mugging, but it’s only healthy for you to take enough time to de-stress. Why not try out a few CCA’s, and discover things you’re really curious or passionate about? You’ll even find out that CCA’s at SMU are not just activities to do in your free time, but opportunities to meet new people, learn new skills, and develop your talents for your own personal growth.
SMU Tip 5: Discover your interests, and consider your majors
It’s true that it’s never too late to start thinking about the future, but unfortunately, there is a point where it’s too late to think about your majors. Trust us, you don’t want to be the student who just realises at the end of year three that you could have a passion for psychology or economics but don’t have the time to clear the necessary modules to graduate on time, or the student stuck in a major that evokes no interest from you whatsoever.
Although your major shouldn’t necessarily limit you in following certain career paths, it does have an influence on how relevant what you learn at school is to the path you eventually choose when you graduate. School, after all, is all about what you learn. So make the most of it and ensure that what you’re learning is useful, what you’re interested in, and what you can see yourself doing in the future.
SMU Tip 6: Get some out-of-classroom experience
An important truth about the university experience is that learning doesn’t stop once you leave the classroom. After all, university is supposed to prepare us for the outside world, which as we all know is NOTHING like the classroom. Luckily for us, SMU complements its teaching excellence by encouraging students to pursue learning beyond the confines of its seminar room walls.
SMU pioneered the compulsory 10-week internship for its students to ensure that SMU graduates would not only be prepared to face the realities of the corporate world, but that’s not all an internship really does for you. In the bigger picture, your internship is a peek into what could be your future. Beyond the office tasks assigned to you, you get to see an actual office environment, connect with experienced professionals, and test out various industries to see whether you’d be interested in pursuing a career with them.
SMU Tip 7: Be exposed to a world of possibilities
With the prevalence of globalisation, everyone nowadays realises the value of having global experiences and perspectives. For SMU students, there are quite a few ways to get this kind of experience. Just to name a few, SMU has opportunities for overseas community service projects (OCSPs), overseas study missions (SMs), and everyone’s favourite – international exchange programmes.
SMU has an 80-hour community service requirement for each student. If you’re game and looking for a meaningful and eye-opening experience, you are allowed the option to clear the requirement with an overseas community service project or OCSP. The OCSPs at SMU are mostly arranged by students and supported by SMU. The main purpose is to allow SMU students to give back and learn more about the community. Overseas projects not only provide the opportunity to help communities in other countries, but also give the chance to learn from and about the people living there. More often than not, you will be surprised by the differences between life in Singapore and life in the OCSP communities, and you’ll learn many life lessons along the way.
SMU also has various study missions (SMs) that take students overseas to learn about the business and industry environments in other countries. To get a better understanding, refer to this previous blog post by an SMU student who underwent such an experience.
For most students, the international exchange programme is probably the most exciting part of the SMU journey. The thought of being in a different country and experiencing new things you’ve never imagined is enthralling. And with over 200 partner universities around the world, SMU provides students with a wide variety of countries to explore on exchange. Many SMU students go on an international exchange, and return with a wider perspective and life lessons that they keep for the rest of their lives. If you’re interested, you can also check out this post on the learnings an SMU student picked up on exchange in Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.
If you get the opportunity to go on any one of these programmes, you’re bound to learn a lot about other countries, other cultures, and other ways of doing things that you haven’t seen in Singapore. Our advice would be to soak it up, collect that experience, and learn from it. It could really come in handy in the future, and it’s just an extremely refreshing and fulfilling experience.
SMU Tip 8: Most importantly, enjoy the ride!
This is probably the most important of all the tips in this post. If you haven’t already gotten the message from some of the previous tips, university life may be about learning but it isn’t all work and no play. It’s important to work hard and get good grades in school, but don’t forget that university is supposed to be the best time of your life and turn you into a well-rounded and educated individual.
Sure, make the effort and go for that A! But don’t do it at the expense of your enjoyment of the university experience. Work hard and do well in school but don’t forget to indulge your passions, engage yourself, and connect with others. You’ll only have four years of university but if you’re able to do all these, you’ll be able to look back and smile about your fulfilling experience in this “Different U.”
For more information on undergraduate life at SMU, check out this year’s newly launched SMU Undergraduate Guide here!