Which Singapore universities (NUS, NTU or SMU) courses should you choose for your children?

More than 20 years ago I was met with the decision of which universities and courses to choose from. I have no adviser since my mum is a widow with no education and none of my siblings have any University experiences back then. Most of my relatives were not highly educated too.
I have to make the decision by myself.
My childhood dream is either to be a Lawyer or an Engineer. English was never my forte, so the easy choice is to become an Engineer. This was further fortified by my proficiency in Math and Science leading to the relevance of my A level subjects, Math, Physics and Economics. So just like that, I was enrolled into common Engineering in Nanyang Technological University without much consideration into what my future career will be like! There are no real mentors to give me the wise guidance I badly needed back then.
That said, I was already lucky enough to at least know what I want to be when I graduate. It is not just me making an important decision hastily. I have many friends graduated from Engineering but ended up starting their first job in the banking or car industry or as Air stewardesses. Another friend graduated with Bachelor of Arts in Math and Economics but started his first job as professional debt collector. I also remember that during my army times, a reservist also told me he studied psychology in National University of Singapore (NUS) but couldn’t find a job as a psychologist, but instead becoming a Librarian for many years.

To have a wise mentor before enrolment into university is of paramount importance.
I know some parents will say, “aiyah”.. whatever he or she like, I am ok!
That is ignorance in my opinion!
Not everyone is the cream of the crop that can excel in what he or she love. And not every child has the maturity to know what he or she like.
I am not discouraging passion seeking. But to be successful in your passion which will translate into sustainable career earnings, there must be a fair deal of prior hard work, sufferings and talent in a specific field, already at an early age comparatively. Then you can stand out from the rest.
For adult, please be wise to give the younger generation the right advice that could possibly shape their career forever.
In fact, it is very important to plan early when he or she is in upper secondary school, so that the admittance to JC or polytechnic will be coupled with the relevant courses as stepping stone into the selected university/courses.
If you are the child who is having a dilemma of which university or what courses to choose, please seek the right mentor who has the good track record in life and career to give you the much-needed guidance.
With that in mind, I have been very focused myself in preparation to become a good mentor for my children or the young people I love. I hope to provide them with the right mindset and ideology which will enable them to make the RIGHT CHOICE NOW, so that they will not regret when they reach adulthood.
And to be able to do that, I need to acquire life experiences and knowledge myself. And being able to balance between both extroversion and introversion i.e. Ambivert. Extroversion acts include travelling, meeting and working people of different cultures improving our inter-personal skills; dare to try and experiencing failure myself, so that I can pick up and improve. Introversion acts are reading and writing, and learning from web. For me, my work and my wide social circle gives me the outgoing exposure, while writing this blog, reading books, and learning finance, IOT, are few examples of my inward improvement. Being an ambivert who love learning is not so much for earning money, but more for wisdom to keep pace with life.

Recently I gave advice to my loved one for her to apply for Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Information Systems (SIS). This is despite her average A level results of ABC for 3 H2 subjects. When the offer of admission came, we were overjoyed and was certain that it was her outstanding performance in CCA and her well written (guided) testimony that help to make the cut.
Initially she opted NTU Info Engineering & Media (IEM) as her first choice, which I thought was really good, but after some research, I reckon SMU SIS is the better choice. Both SIS and IEM were four-year courses, but SMU SIS course fees were much more expensive costing close to SGD 50K comparing to NTU IEM ~ SGD 40K.
So why did I opt SMU even with the higher fees?
Broad-Based forward-thinking curriculum
SMU School of Information Systems (SIS) focus on courses with emerging future technologies, such as IOT, AI, Business Analytics, Smart City Management and Technology, Cybersecurity, Data Science, Digital Transformation, Fintech, Lawtech etc.
After doing some extensive research, I find that NTU IEM tend to be more lopsided towards technical and drives more into the details of design and technical, with more hardcore maths, engineering and computing courses etc.
On the contrary, SIS focus on programs that blend social, economic, business, environmental issues with technology to develop smart practical solutions such as state-of-the-art smart city initiatives.
In general, SMU is also young and dynamic university whose strengths lies in its broad-based yet specialised curriculum. Undergraduates are prepared for a wide variety of professions and industries through its multi-disciplinary and forward-thinking curriculum. Smaller classes also help in a more focus approach of learning with more wholistic brain storming, which I felt is more efficient than just wrecking the brain to solve complex problem sums. I went through that four years of intensity myself in NTU back then, which I felt is totally unnecessary.
Leadership + Entrepreneurship  = Commercial + Technical
SMU also give me the impression that the university focus on the development of soft skills more. To me, soft skills are undoubtedly more important than hardcore technical ability when you enter the real business world if you want to be a leader. For e.g. developing management, commercial, relationship building as well as presentation skills.
My wife told me that in her company, the fresh graduates from SMU tend to be more vocal and have better presentation and inter-personal skills than those from NTU or NUS.
Entrepreneurs or employees who have a mixture of commercial sense in business with technical background are often more successful in their career.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are more commercial minded rather than hardcore engineers. Amazon Jeff Bezos who has avid scientific interest since childhood and studied electrical engineering, also had career experiences in Banking as a product manager as well as Head of customer service in fintech sector. Last but not least, Jack Ma started his career as an English teacher and has no formal technical knowledge in IT. But he is clever enough to partner his friend who was a computer teacher.
Highest paid & better prospect
SMU SIS graduates earned the highest gross monthly salary with a median of SGD4,300 and a mean of SGD4549 compared to the national median figure of SGD3,600 among fresh graduates. Those with Cum Laude (distinction) earned a mean gross monthly salary of $5,212, and a median gross salary of $5,000. Law graduates were excluded. NTU IEM graduates median gross salary last year was SGD 4000 which was already in the higher bracket within NTU or NUS.
Furthermore 7 in 10 SMU graduates secure employment before graduation.
If you are parents with concern on your kids’ education,
Do not stop learning yourself to acquire knowledge of the latest technology that will have an impact on the future economy. Without enriching yourself, it’s not possible to give the right advice to the child. If you think you are not in a position to give good advice, seek someone who can! But it is better to do it yourself.
Do not leave the entire decision of university admission to the child alone. Be the someone your child respect. Listen to the child, ask questions, and teach them long term thinking and guide them to appreciate what is going to happen in the future.
Start early in the plans for the child’s future varsity admission by keeping abreast of universities’ courses and their developments. Choose relevant subjects in pre-university programs as stepping stone.
Following passion is important but needs further justification to assess practicality.
Choose a course that gives your child a holistic helicopter view. Having a commercial mindset with polished soft skills coupled with a technical background will give you higher chance of success.   
While cost is a concern, but paying that extra monies now to nurture a person’s future is worth it!
If you are the student,
Seek advice from several adults you respect who truly love you and display not only good conduct in life but also good track records in their career. Listen to their advices and digest and write the pros and cons of each courses after you research yourself on the web.
Never choose the university course just because your best friend or all the rest of your friends are all going there.
Do not just choose the course based on what you think or feel is your passion. At your age, it needs more justification on future practicality. Don’t try to lie to yourself.
Similarly, do not choose anything which you have zero interest even after doing all the research and listen to all the adult talks. If you were forced to go into a course which you hated so much, the future outcome will not be good either.
Last but not least, do not make hasty decisions based on emotions. Be true to yourself before making decision.
It is your own future, not others!

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5 thoughts on “Which Singapore universities (NUS, NTU or SMU) courses should you choose for your children?

    1. Thanks bro! If anyone younger come to you for advice, you can give them the right advice or ask them to read this post.

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