Picking the University of Your Dreams? Here’s a Tip: Be Negative!

By the SMU Social Media Team

For the lucky few who have their career goals all mapped out and know exactly which university and what course is going to the top of their list, good for you! It looks like you’re all set to go.

For everyone else, we know that choosing the right university is not an easy decision to make, given its vast consequences for your future. From your immediate student life upon starting school, to your career after graduation, many things hinge on your choice of university and course. With so many options and possibilities to consider, where does one even start?


The Solution: Elimination

Step 1: Instead of combing through reams of university brochures and course catalogues to figure out what catches your interest, why not start by striking off the courses that you most definitely do not want in your list?

That narrows down your options right away and leaves with you with more time and energy to thoroughly consider the choices left on your shortlist. In this way, you’ve taken the first big step towards completing the puzzle of ‘Choosing the Right Degree’.


Get on with the elimination

Step 2: Think of a few fields that leave you uninterested and maybe even a little bored—be it due to prior exposure from school experiences or through your own exploration. Proceed to strike these off your list. Don’t worry if you find yourself eliminating many industries; or if you are left with very few sectors; or if the areas you are interested in are obscure. All that matters is that you have a starting point to work with.


Now that we’re getting somewhere…

Step 3: Once you have a general idea of what you want, the next step is to explore the nitty-gritty of your shortlisted areas of interest. Roll up your sleeves, it’s time to scour the internet for information, or seek out family and friends for insights. A good place to start is to look at the degrees that fresh graduates possess when they are looking to break into the various sectors. Different sectors have their own barriers of entry, with some requiring more specialised degrees, or combination of disciplines, while others accept graduates from a wider range of disciplines.

After determining the degrees relevant to your industries of interest, check out which universities offer these courses, and make your comparisons. Of course, more common courses, such as Business Management or Accountancy, are offered by multiple universities; but when you consider the course combinations available for interdisciplinary education, you might start to discern your best choice.

If a course requires strategic partnerships with its related industries, it is likely that only one or two universities would be hosting the programme. For example, SMU is the only university in Singapore to launch a second major in Health Economics and Management (HEM) for its undergraduates, in collaboration with SingHealth; as well as to introduce Singapore’s first sustainability major in partnership with DBS.

If the courses you want to read are offered by various schools, try another round of elimination. Compare these universities and see which of them provides the pedagogy and curriculum that best suits your learning styles, or is best positioned to help you explore beyond your comfort zones. SMU, for instance, offers seminar-style classes and a highly interactive pedagogy; it also has over 300 double degree and double major combinations for students to choose from; as well as serves up its signature SMU-X initiative which provides students with the opportunity to work on real-world projects with real companies. These have proved increasingly popular with students who enjoy an interactive learning and prioritise the flexibility of personalising their education.


Still not too certain your shortlisted courses are right for you?

Step 4: Why not make use of your holidays to embark on internships or temporary jobs related to the industries that you’ve shortlisted? This way, you get to experience the true ins and outs of the trade, and get a better grasp on whether this is what you want to do with your life. Although it may be a little challenging to land an internship position if firms are mainly interested in hiring undergraduates, it is not impossible. Besides, with such a long break before university commences in August, you may even have time for more than one internship!


One last tip: take deep breaths and good advice

Selecting courses and universities is a huge decision to make all by yourself, and it can be daunting. During your search, if things start getting overwhelming, it would help to have a support system of friends and family to serve as your trusted sounding board. And if you find yourself changing your mind about the fields you originally had big dreams about, that is not the end of the world. Simply head back to the drawing board and find something new. You’ve got this!


Keen to take the next step with SMU? Learn more about our undergraduate programme today.