When he learned the public universities here rejected his application, Mr Sanjay Sundraraj, 27, was devastated.
He believed a university education was necessary to secure a good job. So he applied for a place at a private institution instead.
He now works as a recruitment consultant, a job he scored soon after graduating.
Mr Sanjay, who studied psychology at James Cook University (JCU), tells The New Paper on Sunday: "Entering JCU was one of the best decisions I made and it prepared me well for the requirements of the job."
But many others who graduate from private institutions have trouble securing jobs.
A survey released last week by the Council for Private Education (CPE) revealed that private school graduates have it tougher when it comes to finding a job.
It surveyed 4,200 graduates from nine private schools of varying repute in 2014.
Besides established institutions such as the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) and Management Development Institute of Singapore, less well-known schools like ITC School of Laws were also included in the survey.
Only 58 per cent of the graduates, who have no prior work experience, found full-time jobs within six months of completing their studies.
Another 21 per cent were able to find only part-time or contract work.
For the same period, 83 per cent of graduates from the three public universities found full-time jobs.
Regional director of employment agency Riverchelles International, Ms Lance Fo, says the source of degree does not determine employability.
Candidates from both public and private institutions stand a "good chance" of being hired.
"The statistics do not add up, to me. We are still placing fresh candidates from both groups.
"My clients will not choose local universities over foreign ones (through private institutions) as their first criteria," says Ms Foo, who has more than 16 years of experience in recruitment.
Senior recruitment specialist Wong Chen says it "doesn't matter" where their degree comes from and that employers focus on the individual's track record.
"At the end of the day, experience matters more. Companies don't prioritise where their education comes from," says Ms Wong, who works at Careerhub Consultants.
Miss Hidayah Hadi, 27, secured a job as a designer at advertising and magazine firm Kult after impressing it during an internship.
After graduating from the Lasalle College of the Arts with a degree in design communication, she was an intern at Kult for two weeks before being offered a full-time position.
"I really enjoyed my time in Lasalle, I learnt a lot there and I have not regretted choosing the school," she says.
Mr Paul Heng, managing director of the NeXT Career Consulting Group, says there might be a perception that private school graduates are "less equal".
But he says the education received in such institutions is not inferior.
"Generally speaking, I do not think so. Sometimes it could be a 'cost' issue and some people turn to private schooling as it might cost less (to enrol)," says Mr Heng.
For other students, private schooling offers the option of completing their course in a shorter time.
Miss Tan Yanting, 23, completed her degree in communications at SIM in just 18 months.
It takes between three and four years to complete the course at a public university.
Within a month of graduating, she was working as an account executive at Tilt Advertising.
When asked about her time in school, Miss Tan says: "I don't care if it is a private school. It suited me.
"The degree is very concise and the best thing is that I studied what I wanted to study."
Ms Wong says graduates from private institutions can take steps to improve their chances of landing jobs.
She says: "No matter where the degree comes from, they can improves their chances by preparing for interviews, reading up about the company's background and avoiding asking certain questions.
"All these will actually set them apart from other candidates."
Mr Sanjay says although he was disappointed by the rejection at the start, he was glad he enrolled in a private institution.
He says: "Not coming from a public university does not mean you are not good.
"People take different routes and which school you come from is not the only thing that determines where you end up working."
He took the right route to his PhD
He graduated with a perfect grade point average and would have been accepted by many tertiary institutes.
Mr Clement Lim, 27, chose to enrol at the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS).
Mr Lim, now a full-time PhD student at Nanyang Technological University, tells TNPS: "It made sense for me to join MDIS because it allowed me to reach my goals faster."
At 16, while studying for his diploma at Nanyang Polytechnic, Mr Lim decided he wanted a PhD.
It spurred him to excel at his studies and find ways to achieve his goal earlier in his life.
Mr Lim says with a shy smile: "It wasn't so much of a concern of how I would get there, as long as I got to the point where I could get the PhD."
A few months into his national service, Mr Lim heard about MDIS's biomedical sciences programme.
He applied and was accepted but had more than a year left in his NS. He sought permission and his officers allowed him to start the course.
So he was at camp during the day and attended night classes at the MDIS campus.
"I am very fortunate to have had the support of my superiors at the medical corp and at MDIS, who allowed me to start my degree early," says Mr Lim.
"This arrangement might not have been possible if I had opted for another route for my tertiary education."
Although most undergraduate courses in public universities take at least three years, Mr Lim received his first class honours degree in two.
Soon after graduating, Mr Lim scored a job at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) as a researcher.
He was only 23 and one of the youngest researchers in his tier there.
"Finishing so early might not have been possible if I did not take a private school route," he says.
He is now doing a PhD in marketing and healthcare innovation.
The journey might have been more than 10 years in the making, but he says it was the step to join a private school that made the difference.
"If you have a specific aim and if you want it badly, then you'll work on achieving it," he says.
When asked if graduates of private schools have smaller chances of getting employed, Mr Lim says: "The numbers and circumstances don't define you."
"What's important is to stay optimistic, even in the face of challenges."
According to MDIS, 75.4 per cent of its graduates find employment within six months of graduation.
This article was first published on October 02, 2016.
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