Of: Truth about Singapore Management University: Elitist, muggerish and overcompetitive

Recently, an SMU graduate posted on Transitioning.org about his experience during his study. My response is in bold.

Hi, I have graduated from SMU for almost three years. To be honest, I don’t have any sentimental or nostalgic feelings for the school.

>> Hi, I am still reading Information Systems Management in SMU and will only be graduating in two years time. To be honest, I have sentiments for the school.

Rather, I feel detached.

>> And no, I do rather feel attached to the school and the people here.

Truthfully, the school has enriched me for four years, broadening my horizon with loads of academic knowledge. However, it has also left me with a lot of negative feelings. Let me elaborate further.

>> Truth is that I am one of the few who would constantly be muggerish and compete with my peers, but at the same time, immerse myself in non-curricular activities at the expense of my grades.

The school culture is known to be muggerish and overcompetitive – it’s actually no different from NUS and NTU.

Libraries and group study rooms tend to be perpetually flooded during school terms for examinations and projects on school holidays and Sundays. Some people even went to the extent of staying overnight to mug for their examinations!

Project groups also tend to be competitive. Students put in a lot of effort on the “decorative” front to outsmart each other. In the end, grades got overinflated and it’s hard to get an A unless you are one of the elitist bookworm or a very illustrious worker.

>> I have to disagree on putting effort into decorative front to outsmart each other. Yes, at some level, we tend to fluff things up and also compete with each other. However, there are always the backend work that are not always evident during presentations or even written the reports. Many would have devour entire books, journals, clocking 200+ searches on Google a day to suss out the information required for the project. Grades are overinflated, not because of the decorative front, but the amount of effort that the profs and adjunct lecturers would have recognised.

Competing with each other, what I f0und thus far, is a friendly game. More than often not, we share our materials, our resources. We debate on the finest points that were taught in class, sometimes too passionately.

To be honest, I have no competitive advantage over those worms, so a lot of my seniors advised me to get active in CCAs. Nevertheless, I am poor and can’t afford to dig out my pockets for activities like dragonboating or exchange trips to Europe.

Its way too expensive!

>> Even so, the lack of money should not have stopped you from getting active in CCAs. There are 140 and counting CCAs in school. It is bound to have CCAs that require only your commitment to them and not the cash. Personally, I am involved in 3 CCAs currently, having left one only recently. Out of the four, only one would require me to fork out semestral fees, for tennis coaching, but at a highly subsidised rate; and another, to Europe for a choral competition, but at a highly subsidised rate as well. All in all, I have paid about 30%-40% of what the working adults would have to pay to partake in such in activities.

Am I broke? Yes, I am. But I am fortunate to have my parents to back me up in such times (and of course, to be repaid as well) and to have random work in school through Work Study Grant and the student assistant scheme to supplement these expenses.

As for the other two CCAs, they require commitments from me to attend and work with the club members. In fact, for most of the time, Chamber Choir would require me to be there to learn the music and produce it with the rest of the member only. So that makes three CCAs

So basically I am a gone case.

>> So basically, no one is a gone case if he looks for resources to pursue his non-curricular activities in school.

The culture at SMU is known to be cold because there are too many “overachievers” fighting among themselves and the greeting tagline usually begins with “What’s your GPA?” or “Are you planning to go for any exchange trips?”

>> The culture is what you make out to be and what you desire to be. Sure, there are many “overachivers” fighting for the same grades, but nonetheless, I have yet to see such fights resulting in bloodshed. “What’s your GPA?” is a common refrain among all students, for a simple reason: we want not to have our peers to be kicked out school because of the grades.

You should have eavesdrop further in the conversation and more often than not, the follow up from the questioner would be “If you have any problems, look for me or anyone. I am sure that we can help even if it is little.” And, yes planning to go on exchange trips is common among all students and likewise eavesdrop a bit more and you would hear “When and where? Let’s go together so we can enjoy ourselves over there!”

There, wherever it may be.

Even some of the foreign students claimed that our local mainstream students have a lack of emotional intelligence and positive volition because of the inability to connect deeply with people from different background.

At the same time, our local students would also shun foreign students because of the fact that they are foreign. So segregation and eventually cliques will occur. Over time, a line is drawn and you have to take your stand.

You either belong to the elite crop of ACJC (lots of them out there), foreign scholars or polytechnic upgraders.

>> Cliques are inevitable. And most cliques start out early. I have friends throughout the university, but do I consider myself part of a clique? I don’t really have an answer since the friends I have made are of diverse backgrounds and interests. Nonetheless, I do not see how ACJC equates to SMU. There is a good spread of JC students coming from the various JCs (even I am surprised at how easy I can find juniors, seniors and peers from my alma mater, YJC).

Either you are a fan of the SMU culture or you are not. For those who are fans of SMU culture, they are the ones who benefit from this type of seminar-style culture and get to represent the school on business competitions.

Nevertheless, I realised that SMU has very good marketing strategy.

They tend to advertise on those elite graduates who get the best out of the school. The fact is though our school does produce high wage earners, they are also others who don’t get the best out of the school and draw ordinary or sub-par wages.

This marketing strategy does help to increase enrolment but they don’t represent the whole truth.

A lot of people is blinded by statistics and tend to overrate our school. After that, when they work with us, they understood that we are in fact “bluffers”. That some of us talk a lot, but have no substance.

>> Marketing wise, I do have to agree with you on this. As much as the University would advertise itself as it has been doing so, it takes people like you and I to explain the statistics. More often than not people would cite the yearly salary by new graduates survey as one of the admirable points as to why they want to come to SMU.

But how much these surveys reveal? That is the question I always pose to them. Nonetheless, I believe the school does train us well, especially in producing results in limited time.

On the high side, SMU has a good image .However; it’s not a school for everyone. I have learnt my lesson and moved on. After graduation, I have learnt much more, that life itself is generally more challenging than my time in school.

The real lessons are always out there…

>> The real lessons are always out there, even in school. School is a time when you can afford to make mistakes and learn from it. Graduating from school would just be another journey which we would take to continue learning from the job, from the work we do. Hence, the Commencement ceremony at the end of every graduating student of SMU.

Graduate of SMU

>> Undergraduate of SMU

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