Sound familiar? Can I get a hands up for the many of us who were told this when we spoke to seniors? As a student about to embark on her third year of university, this is what I can tell my fellow former JC kids out there (ayeee whaddup): you cannot compare an orange from an apple.
What do I mean? Simply put, JC and university are two different worlds. Whichever you deem easier is completely dependent on you. Take me for example, I found JC to be easier. So recalling the words of my seniors never fails to leave a slight frown on my face because: Hey! I thought you said university was easier.
Maybe it is my personality, or perhaps it is the set of circumstances I have been dealt, taking into account the decisions I have made along the way. The point though is not about which is easier, but which is better. This too, is up to you.
First, let me breakdown the big changes most former JC students will experience upon setting foot in SMU. These changes are most like to affect four aspects of your student life:
Friends & Socialising
Proactivity & Involvement in School
What I mean by ‘course progress’ is that in JC, we essentially only had two questions to ask ourselves: “Arts Stream or Science Stream?” and “Do I take this subject as an H1 or H2 subject?” Aside from these, everything else was more or less answered by default (For example, who our teachers were to be; What time school was to end; How many subjects I could handle that school year etc.).
By now, most of us would have experienced the thrilling phenomenon that was the BOSS Bidding Week. From there you would have realized the burden of various decisions that SMU students have to make, in comparison to the time we were JC. It oddly feels like online shopping, no? There are definitely parallels: There’s the coveted thing you want (the course), the brand (the prof), and the edition (the timing). Then there’s the stock quantity (number of sections and seats) and the price strata (relative per Bidding Window). This is literally the basics of Demand and Supply being applied in real life here at SMU.
Source: SMU Website
However, that whole furore only makes up the tiny tip of the iceberg that is university life. When I meant ‘Course Progress’, I meant your whole course of study here. After clearing University Core modules and other mandatory modules unique to each faculty, you have about at least half of your 36 modules (or 38 and above for double major and double degree peeps) to decide for yourself. You can decide what you learn. When did we ever have this freedom in JC (sorry alma mater, I still love you)?
Let me let you in on a little ‘secret’ about our city campus. We are in the city. That translates to the surrounding commercial and retail spaces paying premium rent, which happily trickle down into the high prices that we, the consumers have to pay. Although this means we are spoilt for choice with the number of options around, it also spells disaster for our wallets as the mix of retail and F&B establishments in the vicinity are slightly more ‘atas’ (luxurious) than what you might find in your typical heartland estate. Our dreams of $3 economic rice are luckily still realizable, but it does seem to be getting just a wee bit harder to find such great deals. I hate to admit it, but yes, food is the one thing that will burn a constant hole in your pocket. All the lunches and dinners around school with friends might not be good on you wallet but let’s face it - isn’t eating together one of the few ways to bond (remember those pre-camp dinners)?
And then there is the matter of textbooks:
Friends & Socialising
In JC, we all belonged to one class and that one class usually kept its make up unless someone had a special subject combination and had to join another class for that subject. Here in SMU however, every class has unknown faces. And I really mean EVERY. CLASS. In a way, it makes it harder to remain and make new friends when you don’t see them every other day, but this also means that you get to meet a lot of other people! The bottomline here is not to be afraid if you find yourself alone sometimes, because you will certainly make new friends.
Proactivity & Involvement in School
This really isn’t just about ‘beefing up’ your LinkedIn profile or your Curriculum Vitae with a list of leadership positions you held during your time in SMU. It is important to be part of a larger collective- to being part of the school’s ‘heartbeat’ so to speak. It is a sort of fulfilling feeling to work with people and achieve things outside of the classroom. Every day an SMU student receives enough emails to drown a ship the size of the Titanic, so take advantage of the networking sessions, invitations to join the EXCOs of school events, sports CCAs, CSPs and everything else under the sun. JUST SIGN UP!
Source: SMU Facebook Page
Trust me, it is not ‘lame’ if you are involved in school events and have ‘school spirit’. For myself, I personally did not want to graduate from a school and come out of the entire experience not knowing a single thing about my school.
To date, I have ‘cycled through’ about 3 CCAs, and been a part of the same number of school events. And, to be honest, I still want to join other stuff! (I may have a problem but still). If you are still not convinced, here’s another thing to consider: University is probably the last place where you can try out new activities, sports, events and the like for free!
To summarise, the biggest change one experiences transitioning from JC to SMU is that SMU hosts an environment that is constantly in flux, compared to that of JC’s. Things here don’t settle here and this is really for the best: Like every tertiary institution, it will help us grow! So here is some quick advice:
Learn when to resist change, when to go along with it, and when to start it yourself (aka Grab that bull by its horns)
Always be open-minded: explore, discover and learn whatever you can. Make the most of your tuition fees!
Stay (feelin’) young: because you are! YOLO, my friends, YOLO.
Here’s wishing everyone a great semester ahead! :)