Published in t’s magazine, December 2013 issue
Yay! It’s over! Your first 10 years of formal education are done. You’re standing at the threshold of a new beginning. It starts with choosing a poly or JC, and choosing what you’re going to be studying; but really, it’s about making the right choices for yourself to get to where you want to be. There’s a ton of advice available out there, but here’s some we think might be especially important and relevant to you right now, in sort of a Life Hack: Student Edition.
1. Give yourself room to grow
We considered doing up a table of comparisons between typical poly life and JC life to give you a better overview of what youo might be “getting yourself into”. But you know what? Your life should never ever be “typical”. Your tertiary education life will be what you make of it; choose the place that will best allow you to explore what you love, who you are, and who you’ll become.
2. Give everything a chance
That group member you just want to slap. That assignment that seems too difficult to do. At some point you’ll start to realize that life will throw you some lemons – and what you make of them will shape your character for life. It’s a learning journey, and it can get quite difficult, but stay open-minded. Difficult situations have a way of turning into life lessons, and they might even surprise you sometimes. Even that group member.
3. Find your identity
The next few years will probably be a lot about experimentation and finding out who you are inside. But so too, on the outside. Will you look back on your time in poly and wonder what the hippopotamuses you were thinking when you wore that [‘obiang’] article of clothing here? Some of us get excited by the freedom to express ourselves through our dressing; others are thankful to not have to decide what to wear on a daily basis. It’s your (wardrobe) choice.
Sometimes we forget that school isn’t all about studying and books and grades (yes, we’re sure it felt like that this past year especially!). Now’s the time to discover the person you want to be. Sports, arts, leadership roles, camps – these are the opportunities to develop some of the most essential life skills and grow as a person. Don’t give yourself the excuse that you have “no time”; you’ll only be preventing yourself from having the most enriching experiences ever.
5. Go with the flow (Or, It’s ok not to know what you want to do right now)
You don’t need a set plan right now of how you want to get from O level cert to PhD. Life isn’t about “Okay, so I’ll pick this course, score A’s, apply to NUS, do my Masters…” It’s okay to not know what you want. It’s okay to try out what interests you. It’s okay to choose the strangest-sounding elective that might not boost your resume but teaches you something you didn’t know before. So allow yourself to explore. Take classes you have no clue about, even if you won’t “score”. Who knows, it might open your eyes and change your life. It might even be your calling.
6. Widen your social network
Yeah, you might have been BFFs over the past four years and you might not see them that much anymore if you choose different courses or schools. Be cool with that. Don’t let your choices be dictated by a need to stay close to your current friends. Trust us, you’ll go on to meet a whole bunch of amazing people, and keep your old friendships. And you’ll be grateful for that network especially when you start working!
7. Get out of your comfort zone
When you start seeing your tertiary school life as one humungous adventure on which to explore and discover, you’ll start seeing incredible opportunities you might never have again. Take advantage of them while you can. So you’ve always been into football. Do something else now. Study French. Pick up dragon boating. Scale a mountain. Teach village kids English. The opportunities are endless. Just don’t say no.
8. Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to look stupid in front of an entire lecture theatre of students. Don’t be afraid to approach your lecturer. He doesn’t think you’re an idiot like you think he does. In fact, he’s going to be your mentor, guide, tutor, confidante, life coach – make use of that kind of support and guidance. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to fall. It’s all part of learning, and that’s what school is all about.
9. Experience everything
Take up a research programme during the semester break. Do business development for your club. Organise events for the student body. Secure the internship that you want. Take part in competitions. Attend talks by industry professionals and don’t skip the awkward networking. Cheer yourself hoarse at every camp. Go overseas on study trips, exchange programmes, community projects. In the ‘real world’, grades matter a lot less than experience. So study hard and do well, but gain as much experience as you can.
10. It’s your life
Yep, like it or not, this is your transition into official ‘adulthood’. Your life is your own responsibility now. Pick up good study habits if you haven’t already. Learn to manage your time well. Have a budget and stick to it. When things hurt, learn how to get over them. Don’t let the next two or three years just be an extension of the last 10 years you’ve had in school. Let it be a fresh start. A new, exciting, sure-to-be-epic adventure you’re embarking on.