19 Dean’s Listers from Local Universities share their secrets : What is your Motivation for working hard?

We all know that University life is very different from any other phase in your academic journey. We don’t have a teacher to call us up when we don’t submit our homework or turn up at lectures. We are treated as adults. With freedom, comes responsibility, as Spiderman said. Alot of self-motivation and discipline is required in order to do well in this phase of our life.  Here, we find out the secrets of dean’s listers of 2014 on why they are able to do well amidst the intense competition in world class universities in Singapore.


SpatikaSpatika, Computer Engineering , NUS

I went through depression and anxiety about a year ago. I put too much pressure on myself to do many things but ended up doing none of them. This left me feeling overwhelmed, yet underwhelmed and frustrated. It got to the point where I was an emotional mess. I couldn’t get out of bed, much less do anything productive. I wound up taking a medical leave of absence to try and pick myself back up.

 In hindsight, it was the best decision I ever made. It helped me realize that there’s more to life than good grades. In the grand scheme of things, one lifetime is pretty short – you might as well enjoy it to the fullest. You might be thinking – “Easy to say, but practically, grades matter!” That’s true, but keeping the bigger picture in mind, allowed me to focus when I did study. This made me more productive – making work more enjoyable, hence providing fresh motivation to study.

Another motivation for me: my experience made me want to disprove the stigma associated with depression & anxiety – they’re not signs of weakness. Also, I hope my story will help people who are going through what I did. You don’t need to suffer depression to find motivation – but perhaps, before you burn out, take a break, gain some perspective, and return with a clean slate!

Jason Ye
Jason Ye Ruicheng, Digital Filmmaking in the School of Art, Design and Media, NTU

Being in an Arts school means you’ll meet many people with very specific skills like design or cinematography, but many of them suddenly find themselves in University and having to study and be graded for seemingly unrelated subjects like Business or Sciences. The keyword here is seemingly, because once you work outside (I work Part-Time every Friday and Sunday at a video equipment rental place) and meet other people, you will realize how important these unrelated subjects are. They give you general knowledge, new perspective and ideas that make you sound smarter to others and influence your work at the end of the day. (Thank you Practical Ethics)

My point is, once you realise that what you are learning adds value to you as a person and your future, you will start taking lessons seriously and perhaps even find them interesting. It won’t feel like studying.

Alice Venecia Lammy, Materials Science and Engineering (MSE), NTU

To keep myself motivated, I always remind myself of three things

  1. Do something principle. I read this in a random blog, but it inspires me until now. When I was stressed writing a report, I applied this principle by forcing myself to do anything although it’s just a menial task. For e.g. I started by doing the header, without knowing it, I was energized to keep writing. Just like what we often heard, the beginning is always the hardest.
  2. Give yourself a break. Sometimes the reason why we are unmotivated isn’t mental, but it’s physical. Hence, I always make sure that I get enough sleep and keep myself in my best condition.
  3. Think of “Why”. It is important to remind ourselves the reason why we are doing it in the first place. Don’t let the boost fading and leaving you behind.
Aw MK04Aw Mun Khay, Business Administration, NUS

I am motivated to work hard because I believe it is the foundation to a good future. My parents are not University graduates, but they work so hard to put me through school because they see the value of getting a good education. The least that I can do is to play my part and perform to the best of my abilities. Since tuition fees are not exactly cheap, we might as well take the opportunity to get the most out of the system. The first step to achieving that is to give everything our best shot, so that at the end of every semester we can look back with no regrets, regardless the final result.

Hong Wei Shian, Electrical Engineering, NUSHong Wei Shian

One of the most important factors of motivation, which I feel gets put down way too often for being cheesy or idealistic, is to appreciate and enjoy the process of learning. Always try to understand what you’re studying instead of memorising blindly, identify how the topics you’re studying link with each other and the rest of your course in general, and from there develop a driving curiosity. Everyone enjoys learning to a certain extent, which is why many hobbies feature some form of learning, whether it’s mastering a game strategy, picking up a dance move or discovering a plot point in a drama series. And before you say that you have zero interest in what you’re studying, think about how much time you’ve sunk into reading random BuzzFeed articles about topics you couldn’t have cared less about five minutes prior. Cultivate a curiosity for what you’re learning, and even when you’re temporarily bogged down by tests and assignment deadlines, you’ll still have an overarching goal to keep you focused.

JinXiangPhotoNim Jin Xiang, Computer Engineering, NTU

I like to keep my revision session short and highly productive. I always set a very specific goal before each revision session, for example, study chapter XYZ and be able to solve the tutorial questions related to that chapter independently. Once I achieve that goal, I will reward myself with a short break and do something outside of study. This will ensure that I do not spend too much time for the lecture notes and tutorial questions, and get bored by them.  Achieving the goal gives me the sense of accomplishment and the short break helps to refresh my mind and get ready to absorb more information in the next session. The reward at the end of every session motivates me to work harder. Besides, I encourage group study as well. It helps to create better study environment and forge better relationship with my peers. Being able to help my peers in their study also motivates me to work harder.


Ong Zhe Han, Double Degree – Bachelor of Chemical Engineering (Hons) and Bachelor of Business Administration (Hons), NUS

We always need a passion for something outside of your normal school life, be it sports, hall activities or even going for rave festivals. Knowing that such an activity will always be there, waiting for me at the end of a tiring school day/week/semester, I channel all my energy into what’s directly in front of me. These activities then take on a whole new level of fun when you actually get there, because you know you’ve really earned the right to enjoy it. That, is my motivation for working hard.

Loo Pei Yi, Linguistics and Multilingual Studies, NTUPei Yi

My motivation is to challenge myself, and do my best in every module I am taking – compulsory or not. It was my choice to come to university, and I want to make the best out of it. Some modules may be tough, some modules may be enjoyable. Ultimately, you would learn something from it, if you are willing to put in effort. It is definitely difficult to stop myself from worrying about grades, and ‘putting in effort’ did not always guarantee an A. However, it left me with no regrets but a lot more knowledge. You will never know when these knowledge come in handy in future!

Lin RuotingLin Ruoting,  Chinese, HSS,  NTU

In our generation, concentration on one thing has become much more difficult for temptation of Internet and other social activities.  In my case, I had also fallen into multi-tasking habit since I studied at poly where most of the projects required online research. With the time, I realised that did affect my productivity at work, and the motivation to study. While in the class, I got to observe the improvements of others and reflect on my weaknesses. Then I began to control the time on the internet and organise my learning schedule, especially during pre-exam period. Sometimes, I would review my previous projects done well to inspire me moving forward. Meanwhile, spending time on my interests such as singing and playing the music instrument helps to relieve my stress. After all, self-encouragement is necessary, reward yourself when a challenging task is completed.

WillieWillie Wee Ye Chiang , Bachelor of Business Administration, NUS

“As Confucius once said, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. Often, when you choose to specialise in an area (probably due to the popular belief that it will provide you with superior career prospects), you are stuck with a smaller pool of modules that may not be that interesting or easy to understand for you. Not wanting to be held hostage to the modules that I have to take, I ultimately chose to pursue a general BBA degree (one that does away with specialisations… yes it exists!) so that I can have more latitude to take modules that are relatively more interesting. With passion, success comes more easily. Studying would be enjoyable, and pretty soon you might even find yourself looking forward to quality time with your textbooks!

Even for those compulsory foundational modules, I would endeavour to relate the theory to the real world. Ultimately, it is all about finding a way to make learning less rote-based, and more fascinating and relevant.”

RohitRohit Mittal, Computer Engineering, NTU

The following considerations keep me motivated to work hard.

1. No regrets – I don’t want to look back and regret things that I could’ve done instead of fritting away time. I want to make the most of now and launch myself on every wave and opportunity.

2. Make myself proud – Nothing feels better than accomplishing a task I have worked countless hours on. Feels even better when the work is recognised, appreciated and rewarded.

3. Make my parents proud – Although doing well should be for oneself, I don’t want to disappoint the people, especially my parents, who are continuously supporting me and have implicit expectations from me. The smile on their faces brought on by my accomplishments keeps me motivated to achieve even further.

 Keep pushing yourself and remember that it will pay off in the future. That’s where the saying “hard work pays off” comes from. You have to work hard to get what you want – No one hands anything to you. It would be too easy that way.

Ka Wai
Ka Wai, Aerospace Engineering, NTU 

I aim for the peace of mind after taking the exams, which comes with putting in the necessary effort when the situation calls for it. I will definitely be disappointed if I do not meet my expectations, but at least I won’t regret not having put in enough effort.

I’m grateful to also be able to draw inspiration from my supportive family as well as like-minded friends who push each other on when the going gets tough.

StefanStefan Putra Lionar, Mechanical Engineering, NTU

Although GPA is not the only thing that decides success, I believe that having good grades will help me in reaching my success goals faster. Therefore, I have set a goal to​ graduate with First Class honor since I began my undergraduate journey.  Luckily, I have friends who are also hardworking and it really helps me to maintain my motivation and goals. On top of that, I also set another external motivation to drive myself in achieving more. For example, if I can achieve a certain number in GPA, I will reward myself with something that I really like.

Sim Shi Xian, Business Administration, NUS

Personally, I learn best when I am interested in the subject on hand. It is really important to get myself interested first to be motivated. For me, interests can come from many different sources – passionate professors, relevant topics, or even enjoyable project mates. Therefore, I do a lot of research before choosing my modules. For allocated modules, we don’t really have a say in many aspects, but we are definitely still in control of some factors, such as the friends we study with, for example. Basically, I try to create a positive environment which keeps me, and others, both motivated and happy. I believe it is essential to enjoy ourselves in everything we do!

Khor JunKhor Jun Onn, Aerospace Engineering, NTU

It is not easy to keep motivated, especially when there are so many distractions around you. My secrets of keeping myself motivated are: Getting yourself a role model from the start. However, there is a condition in choosing a role model – Choose a realistic model. There is only little chance we can exceed the achievements of Albert Einstein, so get realistic.  A professor in your school, a CEO or a researcher who is well known will do. If that is not enough to motivate you and you think that there is still a long way to go before you become like your role model, well here is another tip of mine. Get yourself a realistic target such as small improvement on your GPA, and do not mind sharing it with your close friends or family, let them constantly remind you about it!

Ghifari Rahadian

Ghifari Rahadian, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, NTU

My motivation arises from the fact that my tuition is fully covered by scholarship, while my friends who don’t receive scholarship withdraw from their acceptance.

 If I didn’t secure the scholarship, my middle-income family would be unable to afford the tuition fee that forces me to withdraw as well. Instead, the awarded scholarship provides me with great opportunities such as promising education, nurturing environment and challenging activities that NTU offers. Therefore, I decide to get the most out of my university life by not only studying hard, but also participate in various CCAs. Realizing how lucky I am is the fuel that boosts me every day by not wasting the opportunity that has been given to me.

Chia Xintian, Biological Sciences, NTU

I am afraid I do not have an exciting life story or experience to inspire life-changing motivation. For me, it was always more of an overall learning process and a hopeful optimism that today’s efforts will be useful in future. I once read a quote that really inspired me; “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Of course, it is always very tempting to give in to school fatigue and succumb to procrastination after long hours of toiling over schoolwork. Thus, it helps to strike a good balance between work and leisure to sustain your learning process. Ultimately, you decide what you want to achieve in your university studies, and your hard work may possibly pay off in greater ways than you imagined. :)


Bonus: Masters students’ responses

KishanKishan Golyan, MBA, NTU

Jack Welch once said “take control of your destiny or someone else will.” And that’s what motivates me to work hard – to be in control of my destiny and my career because you can replace ‘destiny’ with ‘career’ and that adage would apply equally well.

Having said that, we should understand that in today’s fast-paced world you need to not just work ‘hard’ but also work ‘smart’. You have to be aware of the context, be flexible and constantly make choices. ‘Smart’ hard work is the way to go!

chaweeChaweewan Gatepithaya, MBA (Finance), NTU

I always believe in learning and persevering at a younger age for brighter prospects. All experiences that have happened to me count towards my successful future and there are so many things I can learn or err at my younger age and maybe they only occur once in your lifetime. Hence to ensure that there is nothing for me to regret about in my older self, I learn to leverage on anything by working hard in both technical and soft skills and trying new things when I still have time and energy. This has sharpened and shaped me to become who I am today as well as enlighten me about the person I want to become in the future.


Learn from the best if you want to be the best. If you would just pick up one or two tips from here, we are sure that your academic journey will drastically change for the better! Remember that in learning, grades are temporary but education is for a lifetime. Being on dean’s list is the cherry on top of all the amazing learning that you will be experiencing in the university. So do your best, enjoy the moment and everything else will follow.



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