Education

4 Hidden Costs of Going to University in Singapore

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Joanne Poh

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Getting a university education in Singapore is no longer as cheap as it used to be, with Singaporean undergraduates matriculating in 2015 expecting to pay at least $25,000 for a 3 year degree course. But if you are budgeting for your university studies, don’t make the grave mistake of thinking your tuition fees will be your only—or indeed, your main—expense.

Making the leap from JC or poly to uni is likely to involve much higher levels of spending, so if you’re not going to be drawing an allowance from your parents, get ready to take on part-time work. Here are some unexpected expenses you can expect to incur.

 

Textbooks and supplies

When you were in primary school, chances are your parents bought all your books for the year at the school bookshop, paying a few dollars per volume. At university, you’ll soon find that reading materials can get very expensive. Taking eight to ten modules per year means you’re looking at a huge volume of reading material. And depending on your course of study, a single textbook can cost from $40 to over $100.

In addition, certain courses will require you to purchase materials and equipment. For instance, it is not uncommon for architecture students to spend over $1,000 a year on tools and materials for model-making assignments. Of course, certain things like textbooks can be resold (if you can be bothered), but other things like materials required for course assignments are, well… an investment for your future.

 

Laptop

At school, you might have been able to get away with using the family’s desktop computer. But it is pretty hard to survive without a laptop at university. These days, many students bring their laptops to class, and in many courses taking notes by hand has become a thing of the past.

In addition, unless you intend to run home every time you have to churn out an assignment, having your laptop with you so you can work on it while you’re at university can be a lifesaver. And if you say you don’t have a laptop, expect to get weird looks from your group mates.

 

Accommodation

If you’re going to NUS or NTU, you’ll have the option of living in a hostel. While not glamorous, living in a hostel can save you from a ridiculous commute and can be a no brainer if you live in Pasir Ris and need to travel all the way to NTU every morning.

It will cost less to rent a room in a hostel than it will to rent one in an HDB flat, and you’re generally looking at an outlay of about $235 to $500 a month. Lots of people who stay in hall make a ton of friends and get involved in lots of activities because of it, so if you can afford it and your parents live far from uni it’s worth a shot.

 

Programmes

There’s a mind boggling array of programmes that uni students get to take advantage of these days, from overseas exchange programmes to entrepreneurship programmes in Silicon Valley. Some of these can be positively life changing. But you only get to benefit from these little extras if you can cough up the money to pay for them.

For instance, when you go on an exchange programme you continue paying tuition fees as usual to your home university, but you’ll also have to bear the cost of flying to and living in a new country for one or two semesters. Sure, you could just avoid participating in any programmes altogether, but that also means you could be getting a lot less out of your uni experience.

Education loans are of course, an option for some and can help to ease to strain on the pocket during this time of study.

What other unexpected costs can uni students expect to incur? Let us know in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.