Getting most out of your University time…

Having gone through 4 years of undergraduate studies in NUS (I believe it applies for NTU), I realized that most students approach their university studies incorrectly.

Xsmatters had a very well written article about this. While the article is specifically directed at entrepreneurship it also applies generally.

Universities are great places for youths to learn, grow and do something worthwhile. They provide a lot of resources, both physical and psychological for students to use. But how many people actually take full advantage of it? Do You?

It is actually very simple to make most of your univeristy. The important ideas can be encapsulated in three points, three verbs, three action items. Create, Challenge, Communicate.


Being in the university gives you access to the great wealth of knowledge, libraries, the faculty. And other resources like fellow undergraduates, and facilities like the business incubators. There are also many CCAs and clubs which lets students explore many interesting areas. Furthermore most of these are either subsidized or free.

University was the only time when I had the freedom, time and the resources to create something. I did not have any great responsibility, or pressing deadlines. Perfect environment to think of new ideas, work on some of your own initiatives, learn something new, start your own business.

Specifically, I believe that with any course, you can learn a lot more if you try to be creative, come of with new ideas, theories, concepts, and play around. Coming from the more theoretical and ‘stiff’ faculty of engineering, I felt the need to have more creative learning environment. But I will not direct this rant against the education system. In the given education system, the students should take the initiative to be creative.


Students should challenge anything that they do not believe in or agree. This is something I saw when I was on exchange. In DTU, students were encouraged to ask question anytime during the lecture. While this might be true for most NUS/NTU lectures, there, most students actually asked questions. Many times the tutors and lecturers were challenged over their material. This might seem a little rude according to Asian culture, but I saw great benefit in it. During some of the courses I had really amazing discussions with the lecturers, providing great insights into the subject.

I believe, students should not accept anything given to them blindly. While this is rampant at secondary school level, university should make students think and come up with their own conclusions. The aim is to create graduates, not mindless sheep who can only follow the leader.

Once, you start challenging things, you realized how many redundant things you are doing. Do you really want to do this? What will you get from doing this? Is it really that important? Can you spend this time doing something more creative, which would help you achieve your personal goals or aims?


This is one of the most basic, but most important issue I see in local universities. Again, I do feel its a cultural thing. Students can’t or those who can, don’t communicate.How many times has the lecturer asked a question during the lecture, and received a silence as a reply?? How many?? And the lecturer ends up answering his/her own question. This is just sad. (This is rampant in Engineering. What about other faculties??)

Students need to communicate well in order to get the most from their university education. They need to tell the lecturers what they understand, what they don’t. They need communicate with their peers to exchange ideas and discuss course work. They need to communicate with people around university to generate new relationships to grow and learn. But, we don’t. We prefer to stick in our own cozy cocoons and never dare to explore.

I have seen so many students, which great ideas or contents for their presentation, but just lack the communication aspect of it. Their presentation fell flat. Isn’t it sad, that while they knew what they wanted to say, and it did make sense, but they just couldn’t get their point across.

While these three points are not the mantra for getting into dean’s list every semester, I found them very useful in achieving a fulfilling experience during the final year. I did take many risks by challenging the norms, going beyond my comfort zone in many instances, and trying out different things. In the end, I had lots of fun, learned many things, made many new friends, and still managed to graduate at the end…


5 comments so far

  1. Dorado on

    nice article… although a little long winded (maybe i was sleepy when i read)

    just that u third point.. communicate.. are u talking about communite more or communicate effectively? to get most of university… i think u want to say communicate more… brainstorm more, talk more, synergy and stufflike that… seems like ur sucking up to TM if u want to talk about effective comms.. and i dun see how that can get me most of my uni time

    otherwise nice artilce very close to self help style… but hey.. doens’t mean self help is bad wad… and maybe insteado f using the same old 3-Cs thingy…use something else more catchy.. the 3Cs are a lil lame

  2. *ramya* on

    I agree with you totally on points 1 and 3. NUS students (myself included) tend to restrict themselves within the bounds set by the curriculum and claim that there is no room for creativity. We might have to find the time and the right guru to encourage us through. I know finding the “one” lecturer who would sit and listen to you for 10 mins without looking at his watch a 100 times is tough! BUT, they are out there!

    Dorado – there is a dire lack of communication in tertiary institutions here, be it effective or not! I think we have to start blabbering first and then maybe in the 4 yrs, will graduate to a more posh approach. Maybe.

    NTT, i have to disagree with you on the challenge! The reason we rebelled in Sec School and JC was because we got somewhere.. Maybe halfway there or even quarter way there. But you try that here, you will be square 1 for a long time. And honestly, how many asian lecturer view your questioning their material as educational curiosity. They go all defensive!

    but it is cool that you are approaching from a constructive perspective, instead of just ranting! We know that goes on everywhere!

  3. NTT on

    @Dorado and *ramya*

    Thanks for your comments. This is meant to be the subject of my next speech (5-7mins), and thus is long winded.

    I do agree with *ramya* that students lack communication skills, effective or not. And I am not trying to suck up to TM, since TM is not about effective Communications. I just feel that if students asked more question, and better question, and so on and so forth, they can get a lot more.

    Communicating more doesn’t mean just speaking a lot of rubbish, whatever you Communicate has to be more effective. If you cannot get your idea across your group mate, or professor, it doesn’t matter if you talk a lot of only a little.

    As for challenge, I agree with *ramya*, that it is difficult to Challenge the norms with such a system, as we have. The faculty does indeed tends to go defensive at every challenge.

    Maybe we cannot Challenge as the Danes do, but we can challenge our own pre-dispositions, and the societies ideas of norm, to a certian limit, without getting into trouble. I believe with emerging job market and new society in general, classical concepts of studies and learning do not apply. Those who dare to challenge, and do something different, end by in a much better position.

    As for the 3Cs, its a speech man. I need something like this to tie the speech together. What to do?.. all my points start from C… :P

  4. YouChooseNone on

    found this page while google-ing ” NUS sucks” or something along those lines. Well nice write up .

    -Man of few words.

  5. NTT on

    Actually, I have come to realise that there is no way to make a student realise that he’s actually in one of the best situations in his life.

    Especially those from NUS. It is indeed a wonderful place. But it is doomed to be only liked by those who have left it….

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