Full disclaimer: I am currently schooling in a tertiary institution in Singapore.
Having said that, I am not going to engage in one of those comparison posts. I do not want to compare, because one cannot do so if one has not been in any of the other major universities in Singapore. What you hear about the various institutions is probably true, but remember that perception largely depends on who is perceiving it. It would be prudent to see if the source of an opinion is of a similar personality to yourself, or is similar enough for you to think that a similar experience would result if you attended X institution. Just because your best friend’s niece loved a certain school and excelled while being in it, does not guarantee the same for yourself. But then again, what do you know when you’re around 18 to 20 years of age?
The institutional salience filter: Labeling Theory
Obviously, labels make a difference. I suppose, to a certain extent, all these labeling issues will always be around. Here’s a take from the article on Harvard.
That is their promise, and that is the edge that Harvard students get in their first impressions. I suppose the general rule of thumb is, never, ever in a situation to introduce yourself as being from a certain institution and stop there, expecting that that alone will entitle you to anything. Where you are from at most gives you an edge, it is not a reason for anyone to hire you.
Another thing, it is not just the student cohort that makes any institution different. It is also the gatekeepers, the ones selecting who gets to be in the institution, both at an administrative, faculty and student level. It is the industry, the ones who come into contact with those associated with an institution that will perpetuate the external brand image of the typical character found in that institution. It is the school “culture”.
Why I am loving where I am/have been
Totally awesome modules like the Business Study Mission (I’m New York Dec’07), Digital Media Across Asia (here’s what we’re building for the community), opportunities for Student Exchange Programs (GO HOOS! UVA) are amongst the things that I will cherish in my undergraduate life.
A whole multitude of other opportunities are out there when potential students come in, for anyone keen to take them up. These come in the forms of the various CCA clubs, Case Competitions, Overseas Community projects, bond free scholarships. And most of all, the hunger and drive that is in the student cohorts. So there are many chances for you to learn, and also to give back. There are many chances for you to step out of your comfort zone and grow.
Of course, you could choose not to participate in any of these, and just exist as a normal undergraduate.
What I am advocating
Take a more proactive stance in your education. The pedagogy is not entrenched in stone, neither is the syllabus, neither is your educational route. The opportunities are out there, it is up to you to find those that have the best fit with who you want to become. There is also nothing wrong with stumbling into something that you find you are good at.
I have to say I am loving the experiment into Web 2.0 elements in this year’s Open House Campaign with blogs and the like, but there are just too many things going on in the front landing page of the website, completely overwhelming the viewer. Where do I start?
Their Photoshopped signages in the advertorial campaigns need much more work. Take the cue from Industrial Light Magic when they created Star Wars, and realized that a bit of dirt on their shiny spaceships made it seem that much more realistic. The signs are too clean, too glossy, too distant. On a random note, the signs are also mostly significant only to those already in the institution, who outside would know that they are part of the school architecture? Then again, maybe that was a good way for the campaign to build up the rapport from within the school and not just be outward orientated.
To those contemplating admission…
I guess to sum up, I hope that if you are “different” in terms of what you have to offer to your future counterparts in school, you will come. Don’t expect mere admission into an institution to give you that differential edge. The sooner you realize that the world does not owe you anything, the sooner you can change your strategies towards getting what you aspire towards in life. And the good thing about it is, there are now multiple channels open to you (that are also less socially stigmatized).
To the graduated/graduating…
It is myopic to say that this issue does not concern you, just because you are graduating. In some ways, you are affected by the current cohort in school. You should be very concerned about the kind of people that your alma mater is accepting. It’s heartening to see the Student Association asking if seniors should be invovled in the admission process. This concept has was what they envisioned for the LCKSP program, I wonder if it would be possible school-wide.
There you go. I couldn’t be there physically to help out, but at the end of the day, I am thankful for my institution for shaping me into who I have become today.
So yes to being different, even though I still cringe slightly when people talk about it.
But even more so to being great. Some of the most amazing people around still haven’t got a clue about what they would be doing in 5 years time, but they are great at what they do currently and they continue to strive for this.
Focus not so much on being different (it is possible to be different in a wrong way), just take the time to find out what you excel in, and simply, be great at doing that.
Live or merely exist; the choice is yours.