Entering NUS Business School?


Yesterday would probably be the last time I help out at an NUS Open day for Business School. Yes, because I will be graduating in less than 2 months!! Recalling this post which was written two years ago (here), I am glad that I am still able to contribute to the decision making of university prospects, with over 7000 views to date. 

And now, with two more years of experience, let me try to dish out more of my honest views as well as provide some guidance to the prospects.

How happy am I?

I recall a parent asking me this question: “How happy are you in this course?”

Honestly, four years in university still constitutes a large portion of my life (1/6 as of now). I can’t be always happy and I definitely was the least happy during my second year. Right now, I am happy not because I like my studies, but because I’m graduating soon 🙂 

That might sound discouraging. Haven’t I once felt enjoyable during these four years? Yes I did. Mainly due to activities outside academic and a handful of modules which I truly enjoyed. However, the majority of school work were really dull and just not for me. Hear hear: NOT FOR ME. I didn’t mean it won’t suit others. On a side note, I am a really chill person; I can probably forget to go for an exam and not blink an eye. I’m just not an academic person especially towards things unrelated to math and science. Which comes to my next point.

Why the heck did I choose NUS Business School? There are definitely a lot of you out there like me; Excelling in math and science but you just hate, you just freaking hate to practice countless of questions in order to secure that A in the exams. Yes, I wanted to try something new, something unrelated to what I know I can do, to challenge myself in another field. Did I regret my decision? No. No I don’t because I never know what will happen if I had accepted NTU Aerospace Engineering with Business minor, if I had accepted NUS ME or NUS MSE. Yes, I changed my choices two times during NS. I don’t regret entering NUS Business School because I wouldn’t have met the people whom I cherish now, the mentors who guided me, the friends who been through shit with me… I don’t regret it because I am a different person now from what I used to be before I entered university. I don’t regret it, because I wouldn’t have gotten my current job offer if I took a different path (I should probably write a separate post on this: How to get a job without internships).

And my complains about the school? Rest assured, for I will do the same thing be it NTU or SMU. It’s just my view that there is something wrong with the Singapore education system, and that why I learnt more, had more fun and had slacker classes during exchange. 

The Curriculum

I have teenagers coming up to ask, “Can you tell me more about what this course is about?”, “I don’t know much about business..”, “What do you all study?”

In short, we study how an organization run and how to keep it running. Be clear, it is how to make money for an organization, not how to run an organization, and definitely not how to create an organization. You don’t expect to graduate from business school to become a CEO of an MNC. There are generally 3 kinds of students in business schools: 1. Those who want to climb up the corporate ladder. 2. Those who want to be entrepreneurs or businessmen. 3. Those who do not have the slightest idea what they want to do with their life. Which one do you belong to?

There are aspiring entrepreneurs of course, but there is only one core module called “entrepreneurship”, that turns out to have more negative reviews. You see, business school has nothing to do with whether or not you want to be your own boss. You learn the skills that the school teaches you, and you decide for yourself if you are ready or if you are cut out to be your own boss. Please do not expect to enter business school and create a start-up company because you have “marketing skills, people skills, business analytics blah blah..”. A computer science year 1 who is proficient in Java, Python and C++ will own you quite badly. That is precisely my point about why I felt that most of the classes were not value-adding! Or rather, do we even know what we learnt? Can those skills even be applicable? I’m digressing a little here, but yes my point here is that in business school, we learn basic skills that can somehow contribute to the operations of a company when we first enter, and thereafter everything is about experience, be it promotion to the top management or starting your first venture.

Coming back to the curriculum. There have been quite some changes to the NUS curriculum from the time I was a freshmen. Let me do a quick pitch before going into details in case TLDR. As a year 1, you only have to think about 1 elective for each semester because you will be allocated 4 modules each semester and you cannot choose. You have all the time in your university life to figure out what modules to take in year 2 and year 3 and what specialization etc. If TLDR, you can leave now.

Typically, one module in NUS weighs 4 modular credits (MCs) and a semester’s workload is 20MCs or 5 modules. So for a business undergraduate without honours, we should complete 120MCs in order to graduate in 3 years or 6 semesters. 20/120 of these are university-level requirements (ULR), which are considered electives, but they are not free-to-choose electives. Rather, you have a choice from a list of modules. So, there are 5 of these ULRs that you have to take in order to graduate. 88/120 of these are programme requirements aka business modules. 64MCs or 16 mods out of these are core modules, which in short, are modules that you can only reject to take if you come from polytechnic with exemption or you quit the school. The next 24MCs or 6 mods are 6 other business modules (you can choose) which most people use to specialize in one of the four (Finance, Marketing, Management and Supply Chain). Yes, you have to use 6 modules to do one specialization. Lastly, the remaining 12/120MCs are your fun tickets (Unrestricted Electives). Use them to take interesting modules or something that can pull up your CAP. 

How about the honours programme? As you should know by now, one additional year equals an additional 40MCs, or 10 modules. For the honours student, we have to do something called the Field Service Project (FSP) which is like a consulting project to a real company with real problems and you have to try to solve them with real solutions. That is where you would likely apply your wealth of skills. The FSP is worth 8MCs or two modules. Next, the thesis, or we called it Honours Dissertation (HD). The good news is HD is not compulsory! I’m not going to talk about it because I have no idea what it is about besides lots of research. So in order not to do it, we have to do three level-4000 modules (level-1/2/3/4000 are just the module codes.). There you have 20/40MCs now. Good news about being a BBA honours students is that we have 5 more fun tickets to use, bringing it to a total of 8! Hence, some students will use 6 of these to do a second specialization. As for me, I used 7 of these to learn 3 languages. How cool is that right. 😀

Is doing honours worth it? It really depends on the individual. If the job you want to get into looks at honours for starting pay, and you really mind that increment, by all means. Some students do not want to graduate “too early”, while some still have no idea what they want in life to graduate in 3 years. Some students feel that the audit and marketing industry looks more at experience than honours degree. It is important to note that the requirement to enter honours programme is lowered from 3.5 to 3.2, which means more people are able to do it. And this also means that it is less valuable isn’t it? Is CAP 3.2 easy to get? I’m not ashamed to share. I screwed up my first semester (My worst semester) with a couple of B- and a C+. My CAP was 3.3.

Student Exchange Programme

Are there opportunities to go abroad? Some asked. Actually most. This is probably the best faculty for overseas experience. Take a look at FASS and Engineering where the sheer number of students can probably stomp down the whole Mochtar Riady Building. They have limited slots for exchange and it is competitive to get in. NUS Business School? I think the BBA office will probably ask me to tone down my opinion, but I really feel that as long as you are eligible for (CAP 3.0 I think?), and you want, and you can afford to go for exchange, you are guaranteed to go (Condition: you don’t mind going anywhere). Note that this is just my opinion only! Because really, I haven’t met anyone who didn’t go for exchange, not because they were rejected. In most cases for these people, they either do not want to go for exchange or they refuse to open their minds to other countries/schools after failing to get their choices. Having said all these, I am not saying that you are guaranteed the school or country of your choice, like I said as a condition. There are limited slots for every school and you will need to compete with your peers. However, there are just so many schools that you will probably not mind going to Budapest if you can’t make it for Manchester. Let me stress again that in NUS Business School, everyone has a very high chance of going for SEP if you plan it properly. 

Double Degree/Double Major/Minor

I have already answered this in my post two years ago. Major and Minor are course outside of the home faculty, in this case, outside of business. Can you take 2 Majors? 10 Majors? Yes you can if you can afford to. Should you take double degree? My take at this point, no. Unless you can justify yourself why you should. “More options in the future” is not a good enough reason. Let’s say you have a DD in BBA and Law and you enter the legal industry first. You don’t expect to quit 10 years later and try to find a managerial job in Unilever because you have a BBA degree. They’ll probably hire you as their legal advisor or throw you to start from an associate. You should understand by now that a degree gets you your first job and then experience is all that matters.

Incidentally, I took this new module: BSP 4515 Managing Social Networks in Markets and Organizations last semester and yes we learnt from case studies that in most cases, networks get you your first job and career progression. It was one of the modules I found enjoyable. So to current BBA undergraduates, do consider it. I got an A for that, but not because I was good, I think. As a new module, there were only 6 students (no bell curve) and my professor was probably too kind to us.

Yup, if you are still considering between the 3 schools, read my previous post here. Good luck for your applications~ Apologies for spelling or grammar errors because well.. I don’t really care if there are errors.


Business: NUS vs. NTU vs. SMU in a nutshell

Update: This year (2016), my new post answers more about the curriculum.

Having helped out at the NUS open day for the second time today, I looked back at my decision then. Did I regret choosing NUS Business? For all the past BBA prospects events (including this) that I have been to as a student ambassador, I have been asked the same questions over and over again. My stand will not change. I gave the same answers.

Generally, there are three types of prospects for business course.

1) Decided on Business/BBA or Accountancy, but unsure of which school to choose

The number one question mostly comes from this group of prospects for obvious reasons. They generally performed relatively well to be confident of securing a slot in one of the schools. When more choices are open to you, who wouldn’t consider them all carefully? Who wouldn’t want to make the best choice, which is more or less the “best school”. They want to know which school is the best, which school’s degree is valued the most, which school’s graduates has a higher employment rate and starting pay. They don’t want to make the “wrong choice”.

GUYS, CHILL. I can give you an answer right now, and it has nothing to do with the curriculum, the future prospects or the university rankings. The answer is, IT DOES NOT MATTER!

Honestly come on, let’s not cheat ourselves. Please take a look at these three surveys.


Let’s just compare BBA (Hons). All three schools’ graduates have overall employment rate of more than 90%, with SMU’s starting pay generally higher than the rest.

So you can safely make your choice now, pick SMU because you will then earn more than your other counterparts! Why aren’t you choosing SMU then? Something must be holding you back. You value the campus environment. You value the learning dynamics. You value the relationships that you will forge. The list goes on…

You ask about the learning environment, the curriculum. You ask if NTU offers more, if NUS is more “general”, or if SMU offers the best curriculum. I don’t think there is anyone in this world who took the full course in ALL three schools. That is to say, no one in this world can give you an accurate answer as to which school offers the best curriculum. Looking at facts, graduates from all three schools will be competing for the same jobs and companies obviously will hire graduates from all three schools. That shows that the content you learn in all three schools will very much be similar. You are worried that one school might not teach certain things and you lose out. But do you not know that each school teaches things that the others do not?

You go to NTU open house and the ambassador tells you, “Nanyang Business has blah blah blah and NUS Business lacks this.” Don’t you think the ambassador in NUS open day will also tell you about the qualities of NUS? That said, we do not have enough information and experience to give an impartial judgement. As an NUS student, I will of course tell you about the qualities of NUS because that’s what I know the most. It will be unfair to the other schools however, if you just take words at face value. Branding is important, but if the product is very much similar, I think you can safely purchase any of them. Tell me, is Colgate or Darlie better for your teeth? Frankly, I don’t really care, no I meant I don’t care at all, I just use.

As much as there are employers who prefer NUS graduates, there will be those who prefer NTU and those who prefer SMU graduates. University is totally different from JC. You want this job? Show me what you have more than grades and degree. The branding of the degree is important if you are comparing among many universities. But Singapore… no point man, no point. You won’t be telling your employer all that you have got out of 4 years is a first class honours from NUS and expect to get hired. Your other achievements and experiences weighs a larger portion, not to mention your personality.

Does that quell your anxiety?

It all comes down to you as an individual. Sure, each school has its own strengths and will be able to develop you, but your success lies in you, not the school. Your future lies in your hands, not dictated by the school. You make your choice, not because what the school can offer you, but what you hope to get out of entering the school’s curriculum and environment.

For me, easy. I want a conventional campus and somewhere near my house. NUS it is, period. I make the best out of what NUS Business offers me. Did I regret? No I did not. If given a chance to make a choice again, I will still choose NUS. The student life experiences were just awesome.

BBA (Accountancy) vs. Accountancy degree

Perhaps I’m not the best person to talk about this as I don’t have the technical knowledge on accounting related prospects. However, NUS BBA (Accountancy) graduates and accountancy degree graduates compete for the same jobs in general. So what do you say? Not much difference lah huh…

2) Indecisive about BBA  (Double Major, Double Degree, and other concerns)

These group of prospects can range from racking their minds over Economics or Business to Double Major or Double Degree.

Hello guys, have you decided what you want to do in the future? Most likely not right? Otherwise you would not be pulling out your hair making such a life changing decision.

For those who are considering DDP or other special programs (and having no direction), just admit you are greedy. You have the grades and you can make it to the top programs. You think that by taking these extra programs, they add value to your degree and you have more jobs options. You are right, your degree is value-added and you have more career options. You are taking a safe and smart choice. But is this necessary? Only you can answer that yourself. By all means you can try and drop at a later time, but please do plan your modules for retreat in case you decide to drop.

BBA a general degree? So isn’t it losing out in competitive advantage? Yes, it does. But there is something called specialization. Specialization is the competitive advantage of your degree over a general one. For example, BBA (Finance) is a BBA degree specialized in Finance. Then again, a general degree has its advantages too. You have more options! The point is that you don’t have to weigh the pros and cons so much. First, go for interest. Second, go for practicality. Last, it doesn’t matter, make the best out of it.

Double specialization is not to be confused with Double Major. If I’m double specializing in Marketing and Management, then my degree will reflect BBA (Mkt & Mgmt). A Double Major means taking a major outside of your discipline (in this case outside Business). This means something like Economics from FASS, but you will only be awarded one degree which is BBA. It is legit enough to say I major in Business, or major/specialize in Marketing (Business obviously) but not legit to say I double major in Supply Chain and Management. A double degree is quite clear cut I believe. The name tells you that you will be awarded two degrees at the end of the day, for example BBA and BA (Economics). This also means that you will be feeling the full extent of the wrath of an Arts degree. However, you only need to take modules relating to economics/to complete your major if you are doing double major instead. Hope this information clarifies much of your doubts.

3) Unsure of securing a place

If you are just trying your luck, just do it, but please put a safe choice as your second choice. That’s all and hope for the best. If you die die want to take business course, the doors to other institutions are always open. Face it, grades are required to enter university. No point sulking over something that you have already done and foreseen.

At the end of the day, it is not so much about which school is the best. Make your decisions more than just paper value, and make the best out of your decisions. No regrets. You shape your own future. All the best!


Update: This year (2016), my new post answers more about the curriculum.