Why you should work first before going to University ?

working student

The default route in Singapore is to go to university after JC or poly education, followed by work. In the western world, however, many choose to embark on a year-long sabbatical to work, volunteer or travel before entering college. Here, I discuss the 4 benefits of working prior to studying and offer suggestion on whether you should do so.

You become Happier in University


Many students have asked the million dollar question- ‘what university course should I choose? ‘

I don’t have very strong passion in anything, I let the course choose me instead! 

If you end up in a course for the sole reason that its entry grades befits your Alevel score, then you will find yourself being the next victim of the unhappiness syndrome in university.

Of course, its not your fault that you don’t know what course to choose. Afterall, the only thing you have done up to this point in time in your academic journey is a lot of memorization work.

The formula to finding your course of study is the same formula you use to find the answer to the Maths question in secondary school exam- Trial and Error. When you work, you try out different things( assuming you don’t have a demonic boss asking you to sweep the floor all day) and strike out what you don’t like. You get close to what you like. Even if you work as a waiter, you get to find out if customer service is your thing. If you enjoyed it, then maybe tourism and hotel management is your calling in life. Not only that, stepping into the working world allows you to see industry trends so you spot what is the next big thing you want to bet your future on. There you go, you have your degree course, one that takes into consideration the external environment and the internal passion. You can’t possibly go wrong with that.

You get more Bang for the buck

hell yeah

Lets admit it, university tuition fees is many times higher than what you pay to study at junior college or polytechnic. In fact, Singapore universities charge one of the highest tuition fees in the world. You don’t want to repeat your same old act: go in, study, take exams, receive certificate, delete content and leave. You paid so much money(or take up so much debt) , of course you must maximize your returns and fret not, the world class reputation won’t disappoint. The question is how do you make full use of it?

Once you get your hands dirty in the working world, what you learnt from your prof cease being just academic concepts, but something that is useful(for the first time in your life right). If you have worked in a marketing agency, you start to see how you can apply the 4Ps of marketing in the real world, rather than on the papers. You even recall examples of how your agency has brought the 4Ps to life. Your job experience adds meaning to your learning in class, and vice versa. Suddenly, you have an ‘Ah-ha’ moment and piece together the puzzles in your mind that originated when you were working. You will like the feeling.   That’s when you can go back to your workplace to outsmart your previous boss with your new found knowledge.

You become a Star-player

because I’am the star player…

Want to gain an unfair advantage in class ?

Have you seen classmates who are like star players in the classroom, participating, asking questions and presenting with utmost confidence? Ask them. They have worked before.

University is no longer a place where the best muggers win. In an environment whereby holistic education is increasingly put on the pedestal, undergrads score a high GPA only if they can be a good leader in a project setting, speak out with confidence and smoke very well in exams.

You learn all of these skill sets in the workplace. Don’t believe me? When your boss asks you why you include the percentage of mobile penetration in the report and you are left with 2 choices: Impress her or pack your bag, you pick up top notch smoking skills in the process. In contrast to your peers who get smoked by their profs, you know how to throw a smoke bomb to confuse them into giving you an A.

As you join university, your workplace skills come in very handy and being a dean’s lister is just unavoidable.

You have Unlimited fuel

Many students struggle with finding the motivation to study. There’s just too much work in university, sometimes you just want to sleep in. That’s understandable.

But there’s a way to gain inexhaustible motivation such that you have no problem waking up at 8 am on a Saturday morning and glue yourself to your desk for one whole day. In other words, you become a car with an unlimited amount of fuel in its tank.

That is to go to work first. When you work, you realize how hard it is to earn money. It takes your sweat and blood(not literally) to put a penny into your pocket. Then you compare the salary you were receiving to the tuition fees that you are paying to university, and that’s when you have an epiphany. You realize that you are paying more money to sit in class than your company is paying you to photocopy documents.

The motivation comes naturally after that.

But I will be slower than my peers

By how long ? 1 year? 2 years ? 5 years ? You think that’s long ?

Well, you have 50 years of working life waiting for you upon graduation. Why be so eager to be a graduate ? You are going to do a degree program only once in your life, why not make the most out of that 3 or 4 years in university?

Besides, everyone runs their own race and you don’t have to be concerned with your friends’ journeys. At the end of the day, it is not about who becomes manager faster, but whether you led a fulfilled and meaningful life. No one is racing with you. You compete with yourself.

So I should start searching for a job ?


Well, for Singaporean guys, you are lucky. You have a 2-years mandatory working assignment(a noble one) after Junior college/ polytechnic. During that 2 years, I personally switched course three times across 2 different schools and I am relieved to end up in a course that I have no regrets studying(at least for now).  I also observed my peers who walked out of the jungle alive becoming a different person when they enter school. They are ecstatic to carry books and not rifles everywhere they walk( and not march).  Hence, your working experience really doesn’t have to be very relevant to your course of study for you to reap its benefits. I mean, hardly anyone is doing military studies after ORD.  Importantly, it has to be a channel for you to discover who you are and develop a greater appreciation of life. Studying in school will never be the same for you once you do that.


  1. Great list of reasons here. Two more to add to the list:

    – Gaining real world experience allows you to have more specific academic goals and a clearer sense of career direction.
    – It also helps you learn more about yourself and expands your capacity to see the world from others’ perspectives.


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