Whats holding you back from changing your course?

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I did almost two years in my first specialization/course and called it quits in my fourth semester. By then, I had invested 20k in tuition fees, 10k in school materials, my virgin freshmen experience…and the list went on.

 Various thoughts went through my mind but I pressed on with the decision anyway. So if you’re harboring the same intention and you are hesitating, we might be sharing some thoughts in common and here’s why you should not let them influence your decision.

You’re afraid of being labeled a quitter

When I was in my original course, I saw a handful of course mates leave before me. They were generally perceived to be lazy people, slipshod with their assignments, and always missing in action for group work. I thought these people were quitters and lacked the determination for throwing in the towel so early in the game. But when it was my turn, I actually admired them for their decisiveness. In fact, of those who jumped ship, one of them eventually went on to place Dean’s list in the new course and another, truly enjoyed his calling as a teacher.

I believe that hard work yields results, however we do have to realize that people do better in certain things. Instead of continuing to invest time in something that you don’t like and you probably can’t do very well, just to prove your perseverance, you might want to consider taking that same amount of time to succeed in something that you’re better in.

 Quitting because you suck at something doesn’t necessarily mean you are a failure in life so don’t beat yourself up over it. And don’t let what other people think affect you.

[On a side note, here’s a good read: How to Stop Giving a F*ck What People Think by Sean Kim]

“Reconsider lah.”

“Are you sure? Why not just hang in there for a while, secure the degree then look for a job you’re interested in? I’m certain it will be better this way. “

“Huh? But I feel you’ve got the talent for this.”

“Eh, I heard that course very competitive leh, you sure you want to transfer there?”

Sounds familiar? If you have confided in friends with your intention, you probably have heard these responses before. And their responses may be influencing you but never, ever let any of their words become reasons to your decision because you will most definitely regret it.

Why? Well, because they are not you. They may take a while to deliberate over their suggestions, but it will never command the same deliberation that they put into their own problems.

And we’re all guilty of this at one point or another.  It’s just too easy to contribute a perspective or even an innocent (sometimes most of the time, irresponsible) remark when you are just a bystander.

Regretting your decision because you heard from a friend that it would work is probably the last situation you want to be caught in. Whether is it to stick around or search for a greener side, just make sure it is your decision.

You are mourning over wasted time

You feel obligated to continue in the same course just to justify the time that you have invested in it. Leaving the course now will do like a total wipeout of all your efforts and you have to completely restart in the new course.


Time to restart

From an economic perspective, this will be a sunk cost fallacy. The time you’ve spent is a retrospective investment and it cannot be recovered. But you have the power to decide what to invest in with your future time and energy. You can choose to continue in a failing cause or to search for something more worthwhile.

And even if you can’t convince yourself rationally, you need to understand that your time has not been wasted. You’ve built relationships with your course mates so maintain them even if you leave the course. Your credits can be brought over to your next course as well so make sure you check out the procedures. You’ve gotten yourself tuned to the university system so you start off better than the freshmen in the new course.

You don’t know what to do next and you’re uncertain

I was able to narrow down to a couple of courses when I decided to do a transfer. Most of my other ex-course mates were certain of what they wanted to do next as well.

 If you are not too sure what you want to move on to, maybe you might want to consider taking a leave for the semester and take up a contract job in a startup to explore your interests in the real world. Well, there’s no hard evidence to this…but startups tend to give more freedom in terms of job scope which allows you to fiddle around a little.

 The fact is that what you learn in university is not all that applicable in the working life. You may not like your course because of certain aspects of it but you might not have to deal with it in your future job. Likewise, things you appreciate in your course may not be what you can expect in your career.

 You may even come to realise that your current course is indeed your true calling!

If you do decide to do a course transfer, here is a list of pragmatic stuff you need to take note:


1)      Procedures and Deadlines

I believe that NUS, NTU and SMU allow their students to apply for a transfer of programme and also for external applicants to apply for a transfer to their courses. Deets should be on their websites so do a google search for them. Take note of the deadlines, the pre-requisites and the application procedures!

Application Form

 I recommend that you secure a position in a new course before taking leave from your previous course. I was overly confident that I could get a place in the same university and didn’t in the end. Fortunately, another university accepted my application.

2)      Costs

Make sure you check out the details on tuition grant and the various repayment schemes such as the tuition fee loans and CPF. Three years back when I did my transfer, the tuition grant only covered the number of semesters in the original course. I believe it should still be the case now. You can contact MOE directly on this because the university offices do not know how the tuition grant works.


Original course: 4-year programme = 8 semesters

New course: 3-year programme = 6 semesters

If you have already used up 3 semesters worth of tuition grant in your original course, you will have only 3 semesters of grant left (6 – 3 = 3). The last 3 semesters in the new course will not be subsidized.

The unsubsidized semesters could not be paid using CPF or tuition fee loans.

In the end, I completed the course in 5 semesters (instead of 6) by cramping the credits and also transferring some credits from my previous course. Alternatively, for most 4-year honours programmes, you may choose to forgo the last year and settle for a degree (without the honours) at the end of the 3rd year.

Also, the tuition fees may have increased from the year you were admitted. You will most likely have to pay the new (and more expensive) rates if you switch universities or start on a clean slate.

3)      Leave of absence (LOA)

leave of absence

Your faculty admins will most probably recommend that you take a leave of absence first instead of cancelling your student candidature. By taking a temporary leave from the course, you will still have the opportunity to return if you ever decide to. Remember to take it before the first few weeks (check out your university website) before they charge the fees for the semester!


  1. Hello I am planning to change my course but now I am already in year 2 semester one. It is rather scary to be changing course at this point especially since I am already in year 2 and it is rather late. May I ask how do you cope with the fear and feeling of discouragement especially since year 2 is generally perceived to be late in terms of changing course?


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