NTU Freshmen Guide: How to survive your freshmen year

The most complicated thing that messed me up the most while preparing for NTU admission? This mysterious thing called STARS and all the abbreviations that I have no idea what they mean. Now that I’ve finally finished (read as: survived) my first year in NTU, I’ll like to share with you the essential 101s about NTU.

I’ll give you the backbone of NTU and I’ll tell you what to expect; you’ll gather your own experience and form your own opinions. LET’S START!

(If you are a senior reading this, do note that NTU edveNTUre, has been replaced by NTU Learn as the online system for NTU students.  Basically, it is where you login to retrieve everything you need in soft copy. Blackboard mobile learn app is also connected to it! )

Academic

The only website you’ll ever need to find everything academic related: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/Students/Undergraduate/AcademicServices/Pages/AcademicUnitSystem(AUS).aspx

Modules

  • What is AU?

Let me introduce the concept of AU. AU, also known as Academic Unit, is basically like debt. Students from different majors are assigned with different amount of AUs, and you need to clear all AUs in order to graduate from NTU. And in order to clear AUs, you need to take up modules, attachment/internship programmes, and final year projects (FYP).

One unit of AU represents:

(a) one hour of lecture/tutorial per week

OR

(b) 3 hours of laboratory/fieldwork per week

For freshmen like yourself, all you need to know is that a typical module in NTU has 3/4 AUs.

According to your specific faculty, there are certain rules about how many AUs you can take in one semester. And if you wish to overload on your AUs, which is inadvisable in most situation, you’ll need to appeal to your specific faulty. For example, having 18 AUs and above is considered overloading for any humanities courses.

  • GERPE? GER-CORE? GER-UE? CORE? HELP!

My sweet child, fret not.

CORE courses are simply courses that you MUST take for your major. Usually, these are already pre-registered for you.

Major PE(Prescribed Electives) are courses you’ll choose FROM YOUR MAJOR that will allow for specialisation in a certain field.

GER-CORE courses are usually 1 AU courses taken online or are pre-registered courses included in your major’s curriculum structure. They are courses that cover the following areas: Communication Skills, Singapore Studies, Sustainability, Ethics, Enterprise and Innovation.

GER-PE courses are specific courses under these three categories: Business & Management, Liberal Arts, and Science, Technology, and Society. Students MUST take at least 1 module from EACH category; and depending on your major, you’re required to take 3 – 5 GER-PEs.

GER-UE(Unrestricted Electives) is basically a wild card. You can choose to take module offered by any other major, other than your own,in NTU. In my opinion, UEs make university life interesting.

  • What do I need to clear? How many AUs do I need to clear?

Well, it depends on your major.

Once you have your username and have been registered into NTU’s system, you’ll be able to access your DEGREE AUDIT in the NTU Course Registration site

course registration

Once in there, you’ll need to enter your Network Username and Password.

You’ll then see this table:

AU requirements

This table tells you exactly how many AUs for the specific type of modules that you’ll need to clear during the 3 / 4 years in NTU.

Scroll further down and you’ll see another table:

course registered

This table tells you what courses you’ve registered for and what courses have already been pre-registered for you.

DEGREE AUDIT is a page that you would want to visit before and after of course registration and end of the semester.

How you choose to clear your AUs are entirely up to you, but most courses do provide a suggested curriculum plan: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/Students/Undergraduate/AcademicServices/CourseRegistration/Pages/CurriculumStructure.aspx

(Note: There may be changes to the AUs required as the table is for AY2015/2016)

STAR WARS (aka Timetable Planning)

Welcome young Jedi to the world of STAR WARS, where pressure is high, tears will fall, and defeat is guaranteed.

Or in other words, welcome to timetable planning in NTU.

STARS (Student Automated Registration System) is a system that allows students to register for modules. You are unlikely to use STARSfor the first semester as courses will be pre-registered for you.

Unlike NUS, which uses a bidding system, NTU uses a FIRST COME FIRST SERVE system in which the fastest person to register for a module gets the module.

Even though as freshmen you will not experience STAR WARS in your first semester, you will experience the ADD/DROP period, during is the first TWO teaching weeks, wherebyyou’ll add modules. Once you’ve chosen your preferred modules, the allocation of said module is entirely random, likea game of probability(unless you’re a senior, then the probability of getting a popular course is higher).

Here’s an article to tell you more about how to win the WAR: http://digitalsenior.sg/win-stars-war-guide-ntu-course-registration/

Anyways, here’s a guide to STARS and STARS Planner.

1. Go on your DEGREE AUDIT and take note of the courses already registered for you

degree audit

2. Take note of the INDEX NO. and COURSE CODE. The index no. indicates which tutorial group you’re in

course-registered

3. Go on to STARS PLANNER. STARS PLANNER is a platform for you to plan out your timetable before you register for any other UE or GER-PE.

course codes4. Type in your COURSE CODES from your degree audit into the textboxes on the left. If you’re required to take up a UE or a GERPE to fulfil minimum AUs for a semester, you can check out what courses are available from each faulty in the OPTIONS You can also visit https://wish.wis.ntu.edu.sg/webexe/owa/aus_subj_cont.main for more details on a certain module offered during a certain semester

5. Once you’ve entered your COURSE CODES, press PLAN

course codes plan

6. Find the exact INDEX NO. ofthe course as indicated in your DEGREE AUDIT and select that accordingly. You would also be able to see the VACANCIES available and the WAITLIST for the specific tutorial group.

exam schedule

7. You’ll end up with a timetable! Make sure to take note of your EXAM SCHEDULE and make sure they don’t clash. If you see RED BOXES in your timetable, that means that your schedules clash and you should probably find another timeslot or another module for UE/GERPE

8. Once you’re happy with your timetable, you can press ADD COURSE(S) INTO STARS

ADD COURSE

9. A pop-up of STARS would appear. ClickADD COURSE and enter the INDEX NO. of the not pre-registered course that you want, you would be asked to rank them from 1-5 (1 being the course you want to get the most and 5 being the least)

10

10. You can check your status for the course at PRINT/CHECK COURSES REGISTERED

11

11. The STATUS should appear as WAITLISTED. The result of the ballot would be sent to your NTU email at around 10pm or later. You will NOT receive an email if you are NOT SUCCESSFUL in registering for the course. The ballot will start again the next day with fewer vacancies left for each module.

 

May the fastest bandwidth be with you, young Jedi.

 

GPA

You will get your GPA for the semester 2 to 3 weeks after the end of finals week.

You will find the your letter grade for each module and GPA for the semester at http://www.ntu.edu.sg/Students/Undergraduate/AcademicServices/Examination/Pages/ExaminationResults.aspx

OR alternatively, you can visit your DEGREE AUDIT, which will show you the exact same thing AND yourCGPA(Cumulative Grade Point Average).

The corresponding GPA to your letter score is shown in the table below:

letter gradeThere really is no need to know how to calculate your GPA as it is also quite difficult to estimate the BELL CURVEof the modules.

Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U)

Here’s something interesting! S/U is an option for students to choose how they want to be evaluated for a particular module. If you get an S, it means you’ve passed the module. And “U” indicates failing a module. Each student is allowed to S/U 9 to 12AUs in the course of their whole NTU life. Once you’ve S/U-ed a course, it will no longer count to your GPA and your transcript would only indicate whether or not you’ve passed or failed the particular module.

You can choose to S/U a module during the beginning of the semester or at the end of the semester.

Tip: There are some modules that are graded by Pass/Fail. So, if you do take those modules, you’ll not waste the precious S/U AUs.

 

First year can fail modules? And it’s fine?!

Well…Yes and no.

Yes, because you can fail your modules and it would not count into you CGPA.

No, because exempted modules will appear in your transcript. Also, if you fail single module in Year 1, you will not be promoted to Year 2 despite not affecting you GPA.

For more information: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/Students/Undergraduate/AcademicServices/Examination/Pages/FAQ–Freshmen-Year-GPA-Exemption.aspx

Social

Campus bus

NTU has shuttle buses that loop around in school and buses that drive you directly from specific MRT stations to school.

For the internal shuttle buses, we have the CAMPUS LOOP – RED LINE (CL-R),CAMPUS LOOP – BLUE LINE (CL-B), CAMPUS LOOP – YELLOW LINE (CL-Y), CAMPUS RIDER, and CAMPUS WEEKEND RIDER (CWR).

Abbreviations:

  • LWN Library – Lee Wee Nam Library (North Spine)
  • SPMS – School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences
  • WKWSCI – Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
  • CEE – Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • SBS – School of Biological Sciences
  • TCT LT – Tan Chin Tuan Lecture Theatre (North and South Spine connection)
  • ADM – School of Art, Design and Media

campus loop - blue

campus loop - red

campus loop - yellow

campus rider

NTU shuttle

Tip: I would highly recommend taking the Campus Rider to school if you’re travelling by MRT. This way, you can save on your bus fare and just buy a MRT concession.

You can see the real time movement of the buses in NTU on http://campusbus.ntu.edu.sg/ntubus/

For the external one-way shuttle buses:

pickup station

Tip: Be at the pickup location at least 5 to 10 minutes before the actual pickup time as the queues are long and the shuttle buses do not follow the schedule strictly.

For more information and visual guide: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/has/Transportation/Pages/FAQ.aspx

Why is the campus so big?! I’m lost!

It takes a while to get used to NTU. The best thing you can do is to spend a day or two just to get lost in NTU. Even better, once your timetable has been fully registered and confirmed, you should go find your classrooms THE DAY BEFORE.

Most of the lecture halls and tutorial rooms are located in the NORTH(NS) and SOUTH SPINE (SS).

Faculties whose lessons are usually located in the NORTH SPINE:

  • School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering (MAE)
  • School of Materials Science & Engineering (MSE)
  • School of Computer Science and Engineering (SCSE)
  • School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE)
  • Earth Sciences (ASE)

Faculties whose lessons are usually located in the SOUTH SPINE:

  • School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE)
  • Nanyang Business School (NBS)
  • School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS)
  • Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI)
  • School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (SPMS)

Other faculties such as School of Art, Design, and Media (ADM)and National Institute of Education (NIE) have their own set of tutorial rooms at their faculty building.

 

For more information about the whereabouts of your LTs and tutorial rooms:

Interactive map of NTU (not user-friendly on mobile, best used for planning and familiarising): http://maps.ntu.edu.sg/

List of tutorial room and how to get there (mobile friendly):

http://www.ntu.edu.sg/odfm/usefulinfo/academicfacilities/seatingcapacity/Pages/tr.aspx

List of lecture halls and how to get there (mobile friendly):

http://www.ntu.edu.sg/odfm/usefulinfo/academicfacilities/seatingcapacity/Pages/lt.aspx

 

You get a hall! You get a hall! Everybody gets a hall!

As freshmen, you are guaranteed for a one-year stay in one of NTU’s 18 halls.You don’t get to choose which hall you choose; NTU likes the idea of random selection. We don’t have fancy, fancy names for our halls; we call them by numbers, eg. Hall 1, Hall 7. (Except for the newest 2 halls, Pioneer and Crescent Hall). However, you are not forced to stay in halls and many freshmen do choose not to stay in halls. If you’re still thinking about whether or not you should stay, here are some advices that your seniors give.

All halls are accessible via campus shuttle buses. For more information regarding your allocated hall, go on digital senior’s NTU hall guide.

Hall life awaits you! Apply for your hall today at: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/has/Undergraduate/Pages/NTUNewStudentsApplication.aspx

CCA/Clubs

Speaking from personal experience, I’ve made most of my university friends (as of now), from joining clubs and CCAs. There are interest clubs, such as your normal sports, performing arts, CIP clubs, but there are also ACADEMIC CONSTITUENT CLUBS. These clubs are formed within the faculty and aims to serve and plan events for the student population of the said faculty.

So if you have time for more activities in your freshmen year, why not come down to the CCA fair at the beginning of the first semester to see what you’re most interested in?

For more information on the CCAs/Clubs that are well-established: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/CampusLife/Clubs/Pages/StudentsUnionClubs.aspx

For more information on ALL CCAs/Clubs, big or small:

http://digitalsenior.sg/cca-listing/cca-category/ntu-cca/

 

The OMNOMNOMS and where to find them

You need food to live? Nah, I live for food.

So, where can you find them in NTU?

If you live in hall, you’ll find out that most halls or the neighbouring halls have a canteen. Specifically, halls 1, 2, 4, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, and Pioneer have their own canteens.

If you’re in the academic buildings, SOUTH SPINEhas only one big canteen, KOUFU (Canteen B), near the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (SPMS). Near KOUFU is a llaollaoto satisfy your yogurt cravings.

Just outside of SOUTH SPINE is THE HIVE, which has CO-OP CAFÉ that serves drinks, pasta, and western dishes.

Between NORTH and SOUTH SPINE, we have THE QUAD CAFÉ situated near the School of Biological Sciences (SPMS). We also have COFFEE BEAN & TEA LEAF and SPRUCE BISTRO near the NANYANG AUDITORIUM.

NORTH SPINE is where you’ll find the widest selection of food. The cheapest option would be CANTEEN A, situated above MCDONALDS. Beside MCDONALDS are SUBWAY, STARBUCKS, and JOLLIBEAN. Opposite these shops are KFC and PIZZA HUT. There are a lot more eating options in NORTH SPINE as they have just finished building the NORTH SPINE PLAZA the past semester of AY 2015/2016.

For more information on F&B in NTU: http://www.ntu.edu.sg/has/FnB/Pages/default.aspx

Adaptations for survival in university

Alright freshies! Now that you’re more or less ready for NTU, here are some last words of advice before you step into university life.

1) Preparation is essential

Know that there will be tremendous stress and pressure in the last month before the finals week, know that falling sick and missing classes will mess up a lot of plans, know that taking up new experiences is not always pleasant, and know that things never go as planned. Be mentally, physically, psychologically prepared.

Ultimately, you’re in university for four/three years of intensive studying. And university classes are, most of the time, fast-paced, content heavy and high workload. Preparation ahead of the class curriculum is absolutely necessary in order to fully enjoy the array of activities that university can provide. Fret not, we have guides for Junior College and polytechnic students respectively.

2) Always assume you do not have enough time

In university, you’ll most definitely be planning more than one meeting in a day. For example, you have the first meeting at 1pm, which you assume will take an hour, so you plan your second meeting at 2pm. If you plan meetings this close to each other, chances are you will delay your second meeting (due to transportation, meeting timeextensions, getting lost, buying food, etc.). Give yourself and your group mates a generous estimation of time when planning meetings.

3) Sleep is not for the weak

With so many lectures to catch up, hall activities and clubs to join, competitions to prepare, there is simply no time for sleep. But please, for the love of god, do not mess up your body clock! It doesn’t matter what time you sleep, just maintain sufficient and consistent sleep. Sleep at 3am, wake at 10am; that’s cool!


 

You should now have sufficient ammunition to conquer the first few major battles of Freshmen Year! Be brave, be strong, and be prepared. Look forward and strive for your best. There’s no battle too hard to overcome; show them who’s boss.

*raise a glass* This is to a good first year to all you incoming freshies!