As a first-year student in university you’ll experience many new surprises, ranging from different grading methods to the freedom to organize your timetable. These things can be confusing for all you freshies, especially if you don’t know any seniors who can advise you.
In my experience, seniors have been a huge help in adjusting to university life. When I was planning the modules I would have to take for the next four years, it was a senior who helped me find my graduation requirements, and told me how to plan effectively based on NUS sites such as LumiNUS and ModReg.
When I entered university, I had seniors who taught me how to set up my LinkedIn account and how to plan for any overseas exchange programs. They also advised me on which modules to S/U.
Finally, I have been fortunate to come into contact with a senior undertaking a Masters program in forensic psychology, and he has given me valuable insight and advice about what I should consider when choosing this route.
Since seniors have been such a huge help to me, I thought I would provide five tips on how you can connect with them and ask them for advice.
1. Keep in Contact With Secondary/JC Seniors
The easiest way to know seniors in university is by connecting with them during JC or Poly. You can even start as early as secondary school! If you already know seniors and manage to keep in contact with them, it will be much easier when you transition into university. You can tap on their experiences even before your first semester begins, and ask them for help in terms of planning modules and graduation requirements.
It would be good if you know seniors who attend your university: if they are taking the same major that’s even better! They can share their experiences, talk about good professors and help plan your modules. Even if the senior isn’t from the same major, there are still things you can learn from them, such as how to use your SUs wisely. In fact, if you have subject-specific questions, there is a chance they know someone you can approach.
Overall, maintaining contact with seniors in earlier educational institutions helps you to have some guidance in university, so do keep that in mind!
2. Follow Society Pages
Even before entering university, you can always find free advice through social media pages, especially Instagram! The university will usually have a sizable amount of CCAs, with some formed specifically for your subject. For example, for Psychology, NUS has PsychSoc—a society dedicated to aiding the psychology community in NUS, be it through welfare or academic advice.
Each society has an Instagram page you can find and follow, and it tends to have posts asking the general public whether they have any questions about the subject at NUS. PsychSoc has posts that encourage questions about psych in NUS, and this is a golden opportunity for you!
This method is useful for two types of people: those unsure of what subject they want to do and those who’ve shortlisted their subject, but want more information. For those considering various subjects, you can search up these societies on Instagram, and enquire about the workload or the potential jobs you can undertake after the degree. And for those who want more information on a specific subject, feel free to ask as many questions as you like! The seniors are more than happy to share their experiences, and will be willing to answer any questions or even future DMs!
However, note that this method is less effective in terms of certain aspects, like planning modules. If you know a senior personally, it is much easier to get them to sit down and help figure out your plan for the next few years.
3. Go for Orientation Camps
Even if you don’t know anyone before entering university, going for orientation camps always helps.
Orientation camps take place before university formally begins and are a great opportunity for you to meet other freshies who will be taking your course! Of course, they also help to connect you with seniors, which is definitely a good thing. Take full advantage of this opportunity to communicate with them and ask as many questions as you like.
I recommend joining subject-specific orientation camps instead of faculty orientation camps—for example, I joined the psychology orientation camp instead of the FASS (faculty of arts and social sciences) camp because it was more beneficial for me. The psychology seniors were kind enough to teach us about bidding for modules, and all the tips and tricks necessary before the semester even began. They were also kind enough to open the floor for a Q&A, and answered every single question via a booklet that they sent out to all of us. I’m unsure if other subject-specific orientation camps do this, but from my experience it is definitely worth it!
4. Join CCAs
If you didn’t manage to connect with any seniors beforehand, no worries! Just go join a CCA! Joining CCAs presents many opportunities for you to bond with seniors, regardless of whether they are in year two or year five.
In terms of joining CCAs, there are three methods: you can join whichever CCA you are passionate about, you can select specific CCAs related to your course and join that, or you can do a mixture of both.
For those who choose the first method, there are often many skills you can learn that would be beneficial. For example, even though I’m a psychology student, I chose to join NES (NUS Entrepreneurship Society), which has taught me a lot about LinkedIn and networking skills. I have also managed to connect with seniors, who kindly send me potential openings for projects which can help to boost my LinkedIn. This can be advantageous, especially since you learn equally important skills, and you often get a new perspective that you don’t necessarily find if you simply join course-related CCAs.
But if you do choose CCAs related to your subject, there is another advantage: the seniors you mix with have experiences to share and can give advice that is much more specific towards your aims. They can give relatable and insightful advice, be it in terms of module selection or finding internships. These pieces of advice will be highly beneficial when it comes to planning out your years in university.
Finally, you can do a mixture of both, which is what I’ve personally done in my first year of university. This method gives both advantages listed above, which has been extremely useful for me personally. However, this method also means that you will be rather busy in terms of the number of CCAs you join, so be careful to either balance the CCA work with the academic work or purposely limit the number of CCAs you join.
5. Be Intentional
This final tip is more of an attitude one should have, rather than practical action. But I have found that this is just as important as any action you can take.
For example, when going for orientation camps, instead of being shy and turning off your microphone, take this opportunity to ask them questions. Or when meeting seniors in CCAs, be brave enough to take the first step and send them a message on telegram. Always be intentional as it often helps you to cast aside any social anxiety or doubt when connecting.
But being intentional also means being prepared. It means having a specific list of things to ask seniors, such as ‘where can I find internships’ or ‘how do you plan your timetable’. It also means doing some reflection beforehand, such as reflecting on why you want to take the course, or what job you would like to get after university. This can help you to ask much more intentional questions which are beneficial in the long run.
And that’s all from me for now—good luck!