So you’re about to take your A levels or complete your diploma this year, and after that you’ll hopefully get to enrol at a university.
You have no idea what to do with your life, but you’ll wait until you get your results and then see which courses you can get into with your grades. Why plan ahead when you don’t even know if you’ll get in to your course of choice?
That is a recipe for disaster, and unfortunately what too many students used to do just a decade or so ago, when everyone who stood a chance of getting in would flock to prestigious courses like medicine, and everyone else would just try to get into the next best course they qualified for.
These days, students have so many more options, and work is more than just a boring office job. Figuring out what you want to do in life earlier on can go a long way towards ensuring you’re a little more fulfilled in your future career than those zombie-like working adults you see on the MRT.
If you don’t know where to start, here are six places where you can seek advice. Go through this list one by one and you should in a few months have a better idea of what you’d like to study at uni.
Your school’s career guidance office
More and more JCs and polytechnics now offer career guidance counselling.
If your school has a career guidance office or an ECG teacher-in-charge, your first port of call would be to set up an appointment to discuss your options.
Know, however, that they’re still employed by the MOE and some teachers still have a very conservative view of careers. So take whatever they say with a pinch of salt and discard whatever’s not useful to you.
You might also want to give the eCareers.sg website a browse. You’re given access to this site until 6 months after your graduation from JC (or secondary school, if you go on to poly).
University open house
You’re going to spend the next 3 years of your life enrolled at your new university course. So it pays to know what you’re getting yourself into before you sign up.
A good way to get a feel of uni courses that interest you is to turn up for local uni open house events, which mostly take place in March each year. Booths will be manned by students in each of the faculties.
Take the opportunity to ask them as many questions as possible about their course, and the kinds of career options open to them when they graduate.
For instance, architecture courses tend to have a high dropout rate. One contributing factor could be that many students are taken by surprise when they face gruelling schedules and overnighters in the studio. Better to know about this before you enrol than after.
Take on internships
Interning when you’re still a teenager might seem like a very kiasu thing to do. After all, what use can you be as an intern when you’re haven’t even started uni? You wouldn’t even know how to make coffee for the boss.
You might be fairly useless to the company, but the internship experience can nonetheless be useful for yourself. It will help you gain some insight into what it’s like to be an employee in the types of jobs that interest you. The reality is likely to be very different from what you imagine—and many people only find out when they’re university graduates.
When you’re on an internship, don’t just hide in a cubicle, only emerging when your boss tells you to photocopy some document. Take the initiative to ask to try out different tasks, shadow your mentors as closely as they’ll let you and ask as many questions as possible.
Talk to seniors and older friends
University can seem far away, but you probably already have friends who’ve enrolled ahead of you. Some of your JC and poly seniors would already have gone on to uni. And if you’ve got to serve NS, your female classmates will enrol two years before you.
These people can give you a first-hand account of what their courses are really like. So ask them out for a coffee and pick their brains. Compare not just different courses of study, but the experience in the various universities. For instance, enrolling in business school at NUS, NTU and SMU will yield vastly different experiences.
Get your parents to put you in contact with their friends
Your parents’ friends and your own aunts and uncles are working adults who have been in their respective industry for years or maybe even decades. That makes them a great source of information and perspectives that your own peers cannot provide.
So enlist your parents’ help in putting you in touch with their friends who work in industries or own businesses in fields you’re curious about. They can answer questions and perhaps even arrange for an internship at their workplaces.
Follow the local news closely
There are better reasons to read the news than getting a good grade in GP.
Make it a habit to at least read all the headlines on a local news site like Channel New Asia each day. Amidst all the articles about molestation cases and COE prices, you’ll find that there is a lot of coverage on the employment market.
For instance, if you’ve been following the local news over the past two years, you’d know that the attrition rate amongst young lawyers is very high, and that there is now an oversupply of law grads. So you might want to rethink going to law school even if you do get straight As.
You would also know that fresh grads in computing have seen a big salary jump, and that you now need at least two As to enter NUS’s school of computing, amidst Singapore’s plans to become a data science and AI hub.
While you shouldn’t let the news dictate your decisions, it can alert you to paths worth exploring, and alert you to red flags.
Have you decided what to study at university? Share the reasons for your choice in the comments!