Applying for Exchange at NUS: Factors to Consider

If you have ever wanted the opportunity to study at another university, look no further! NUS offers the chance through the student exchange programme (SEP). With the SEP, students can apply for a placement at another university, both within Singapore and overseas, and students can have the opportunity to study there for a whole semester (approximately 6 months)!

However, many students are unfamiliar with the system, and often have many questions about how to decide on a university or country, or whether they should even undertake the SEP in the first place. Hopefully, this article will serve as a guide for you on the factors to consider when you apply for a student exchange.

I will cover three topics: 1) why you might want to consider an SEP; 2) local SEP; and 3) overseas SEP. And so, let’s jump into why you might want a SEP!

1. Why SEP?

There are many reasons why you might want to go on exchange. One would be that it freezes your CAP (or GPA). Now, what exactly does this mean? Let me explain. Under normal circumstances, in university, your grades accumulate every semester and the grade you receive for each module is included in the calculation of your CAP score. For example, if you score A+ for everything, you get a higher CAP as compared to scoring B+.

However, when you go on an exchange, the modules are pass-fail. This means that the actual grade does not matter — you only need to be concerned about passing. The grades for modules taken during an exchange programme will not be calculated, and your CAP will not be affected by the semester. However, the module credits will still count towards your course. This means that you can fulfill your course requirements while taking harder modules, without the fear of your CAP going down!

Another factor would be the interesting modules offered. Regardless of whether the exchange university is local or overseas, the modules offered are much more interesting and engaging than those in your university. They have a larger variety, and many of the modules listed cannot be directly linked back to a module code in your university. This means that they teach topics that are not offered in your university, allowing you to increase learning!

A final factor would be cost. When considering an SEP, you can also consider how much money is required. Cost can help you choose between a local and overseas SEP, since overseas universities tend to have higher costs than local universities.

One additional consideration relevant to overseas SEP would be the longing to experience a different country and culture. It is no secret that Singapore is far too small, and it can be refreshing to go to an entirely new country and gain exposure to the world.

As mentioned previously, there are two kinds of SEP: local and overseas. Under both categories, there are factors to consider before you make your final decision.

2. Local SEP

For a local SEP, the main consideration is most likely the type of module you wish to take. Since you will be in Singapore, other factors such as the country of the university clearly do NOT apply.

You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of each university in terms of the major. For example, for psychology, NTU is known to be stronger in research than NUS and SMU. So if you wish to learn more research-based topics, NTU is a prime university.

An additional factor to consider can possibly be the location of the university — I believe NTU is well-known for being located extremely far away. It’s even referred to by NTU students as ‘Pulau NTU’!

Other than that, I don’t think there is anything else you need to consider. However, one important thing to note is that priority for a local SEP will be given to senior students and those who have failed a previous SEP global application (at least, for NUS).

3. Overseas SEP

For an overseas SEP, there are obviously a lot more factors to consider, and the most important criterion differs from person to person.

For example, I know of some students who immediately rule out certain countries due to either safety reasons or parental restrictions. They are either more concerned about their safety in a country like the United States or have parents that do not want them to attend university there. Thus, any US placement is automatically ruled out.

Others tend to choose by country — for example, some students enjoy visiting the UK and thus focus on choosing an institution within the country. When choosing a country, common factors people consider tend to be safety, language (ensure that the modules are taught in English), the tourist attractions (such as food, the things to do there, etc.) and cost.

For cost, some countries have a higher exchange rate than others (e.g., US, UK versus China, Korea, Japan), and so some people tend to choose the cheaper countries to save on finances. Although this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the things you too can consider when picking a country.

Personally, the best way to choose is by considering the modules offered. My method was to go down the list of modules, have a rough idea of the topics of interest, and see which university offers them. For example, I am not particularly interested in topics such as gender studies, and do not wish to take any module already offered in NUS. Those topics were automatically ruled out.

The topics I was interested in included anything relating to children, the family, or the law, so any module along those lines was a possibility for me. Additionally, when doing module mapping, you need to ensure that you can reliably list down five possible modules you wish to take. Thus, I needed to find a university that provided five modules within my scope of interest.

Also note that when submitting your SEP plan (for NUS), you need to identify five different universities, and for each university five potential modules you wish to take. And while this may sound simple, you will soon find that scrolling through the long list of possible universities and seeing the long list of potential modules offered can be tiresome. Additionally, it can be difficult sometimes to identify five universities, especially when certain countries are ruled out.

For example, although the US provides many interesting modules, some of my friends had no choice but to rule out the country. However, this left them with limited options. Some countries offer less-interesting modules, or similar content taught in NUS. Others offer so few modules that there was no point in choosing them.

While you decide which factor to prioritize, keep in mind that the criteria you choose can limit your options.

To sum it up, here are the steps to decide on a SEP:

  • Decide if you want an SEP in the first place
  • Decide if you want it local or overseas
  • For either, you have certain factors to consider when choosing your university. Prioritize the factor(s) that you want, and select the university based on that

See? Not that hard! Anyways, hope this helped! See you in the next article.


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