Thu, Jan 21, 2010
The Straits Times
Forget the open-house razzmatazz

I'll do my own homework

AT LAST year's open houses, I was impressed with the warm hospitality of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the vibrancy of the Singapore Management University.

I was not able to make it for the one by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), but nevertheless, my head and heart told me that its Nanyang Business School was where I wanted to be.

I have always been a pragmatic person who values substance over style - the marketing efforts of universities might not correspond to their academic standards.

Instead, I rely on my own research to decide - browsing through credible sources such as The Times Higher Education Supplement to compare rankings, getting information from peers already taking the course and clarifying queries with their lecturers at the open houses.

For such an important investment concerning the next four years of my life and possibly my career, I should not decide solely based on the face value of glitzy buildings and exciting new courses.

Nanyang Business School has a long and proud tradition of excellence and holistic development, according to my sources. So there I'll go.

If it does not turn out to be my dream school, I will gladly blame my own lack of adequate research rather than gullibility.

Nicholas Lim, 20, has a place to read business at NTU this year.

Teacher-student interaction

CALL me old-fashioned, but wooing students with fancy brochures or inviting celebrities to perform gigs at open houses just does not appeal to me when selecting a new school.

I very much prefer the traditional no-frills open house, with the highlight being the interaction between lecturers and prospective students.

I'm talking about mass question-and-answer sessions held in lecture theatres, followed by private one-on-one sessions for the shy ones - which were more prevalent four to five years ago.

The interactions during the open house allowed me to gauge teachers' patience in coaching weaker students, and willingness to help those in need.

I believe that patient and helpful teachers and lecturers are vital in ensuring a pleasant and meaningful learning experience in school.

Calvin Ng, 23, is a third-year mathematics student at NUS.

Sneak preview good

IF I were looking for an educational institution for further studies, I would like to know what I was getting myself into.

Hence, I would appreciate it if there were classes which let me sample course modules for a diploma or degree.

Polytechnics and universities should offer free master classes that present bite-sized versions of the real thing, in their lecture theatres or auditoriums during open houses.

In order to simulate a real-life lecture or tutorial session, the class size should be kept to a minimum of 20 students for two hours each.

This could stimulate students' interest and provide them with a buffet of academic disciplines to sample before making a commitment.

For example, if I were interested in mass communications at a polytechnic, what better way than to sit in on a master class in print journalism, radio production or video editing before I decided?

Unfortunately, our polytechnics and universities do not really offer such classes yet. They should, to step up their game - rather than stick to tried-and- tested ways of recruiting students.

Rachel Chan, 25, recently graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Business Communication.

Personal touch still counts

NEW media such as Facebook and Twitter are excellent marketing tools, but I believe sincerity and a personal touch will still set a school apart.

When I was a clueless 16-year-old, I visited the open house at numerous junior colleges.

I remember the patience and guidance of one school councillor who took us on a campus tour.

There was no hard-sell, which is quite prevalent at such events, but I could sense his sincere interest in knowing what I was looking for in terms of academic courses and co-curricular activity choices, and providing the relevant advice to ensure I got a right fit.

He was candid in explaining both what the school had to offer and what it was lacking in.

He even showed me how to take public transport home.

In all, he had patiently spent close to an hour taking my friends and I around the campus.

And that was how I ended up at Hwa Chong Junior College.

Chew Zhi Wen, 22, is a second-year law student at NUS.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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