THE TEMASEK TIMES

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Truth about Singapore Management University: Elitist, muggerish and overcompetitive

Posted by temasektimes on May 9, 2012

Hi, I have graduated from SMU for almost three years. To be honest, I don’t have any sentimental or nostalgic feelings for  the school.

Rather, I feel detached.

Truthfully, the  school has enriched me for four years, broadening my horizon with loads of  academic knowledge. However, it has also left  me with a lot of negative feelings. Let me elaborate further.

The school culture is known to be muggerish and overcompetitive – it’s  actually no different from NUS and NTU.

Libraries and group study rooms tend to be perpetually flooded during school terms for examinations and projects on school holidays and Sundays. Some people even went to the extent of staying overnight to mug for their examinations!

Project groups also tend  to be competitive. Students  put in a lot of effort on the “decorative” front to outsmart each other. In the end, grades got overinflated and it’s hard to get an A  unless you are one of the elitist bookworm or a very illustrious worker.

To be honest, I have no competitive advantage over those worms, so a lot of my seniors advised me to get active in CCAs. Nevertheless, I am poor and can’t afford to dig out my pockets for activities like dragonboating or exchange trips to Europe.

Its way too expensive!

So basically I am a gone case.

The culture  at SMU  is known to be cold because there are too many “overachievers”  fighting  among themselves  and the greeting tagline usually begins with “What’s your GPA?” or “Are you planning to go for any exchange trips?”

Even some of the foreign students claimed that our local mainstream students have a lack of emotional intelligence and positive volition because of the inability to connect deeply with  people from different background.

At the same time, our local students would also shun foreign students because of the fact that they are foreign. So segregation and eventually  cliques will occur. Over time, a line is drawn and you have to take your stand.

You either belong to the elite crop of ACJC (lots of them out there),  foreign scholars or polytechnic upgraders.

Either you are a fan of the SMU culture or you are not. For those who are fans of SMU culture, they are the ones who benefit from this type of seminar-style culture and get to represent the school on business competitions.

Nevertheless, I realised that SMU has very good marketing strategy.

They tend to advertise on those elite graduates who get the best out of the school. The fact is though our school does produce high wage earners, they are also others  who don’t get the best out of the school and draw ordinary or sub-par wages.

This marketing strategy does help to increase enrolment but they don’t represent the whole truth.

A lot of people is blinded by statistics and tend  to overrate our school. After that, when they work with us, they understood that  we are in fact “bluffers”. That some of us talk a lot, but have no substance.

On the high side, SMU has a good image .However; it’s not a school for everyone. I have learnt my lesson and moved on. After graduation, I have learnt much more, that life itself is generally more challenging than my time in school.

The real lessons are always out there…

Graduate of SMU

* The above was first published on Transitioning.org on 8 May 2012. We thank Mr Gilbert Goh for his kind permission to reproduce the article.

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79 Responses to “Truth about Singapore Management University: Elitist, muggerish and overcompetitive”

  1. Gw said

    on the high side???? or is it “on hindsight”

  2. Graduate of NUS said

    seriously, it’s the same for nus business school also, just that there are more foreigner cliques there (viets) who are seriously crap. not to mention some survey saying starting pay of nus business grad to be 3.8k (ya right, take 1 who earn 10k and 4 who earn 2k, that’s the average) and the ratio of 10k earner is like 1 to 100, those who (ironically) go to hongkong HQ to work. no chance for the local scene.

    • Lol said

      I’d advise you not to refer to other nationalities as crap.

      • Mel said

        I think Graduate of NUS means the quality of their work or their attitude is not as desirable or top notch as others make it out to be..

  3. SMU FIRST CLASS HONOURS said

    The loser should have enrolled in ITE instead. We all know that if SMU is included in the Times University rankings, NUS and NTU got no place in the rankings. I would like to rank SMU alongside Havard and Cambridge because the standards are way too high. Students who are from SMU are indeed bright, capable and very positive in life. I am one of them. Thank God I went to SMU over Cambridge or Harvard.

    • Rise Against said

      So you have a problem against ITE? You my friend…is one fucking douchebag.

    • “We all know that if SMU is included in the Times University rankings, NUS and NTU got no place in the rankings.”

      Ahahahahag keep kiddin yourself son

    • Jj said

      THat was mean and uncalled for! ITE??
      PLease show some humility, Guess that’s what THey dont teach in school These days!! Outrageous!!
      Considering ur a first class honours??! Major in What?? Being an A**hole??!!

    • Matrix said

      We all DON’T KNOW that if SMU is included in the Times University rankings, NUS and NTU got no place in the rankings. But we do know that SMU is not in any of the recognized ranking lists. SMU is better than Cambridge and Harvard? Can you even get into one of those in the first place? Making such baseless and childish comment, it’s hard to believe that you’re one of those ‘bright [and] capable’ SMU students. Please stop being a nuisance and pretend that you’re a SMU student.

      • SMU Better Than Cambridge? No. said

        From the little I know, SMU is not included in many rankings because its too specialised as a higher-learning institute; its skewed towards the business aspects of the working world. Most major University rankings only include Universities that caters to a wide range of subjects and disciplines; schools that offers Arts, Business, Engineering, Humanities, Sciences, etc. under one roof, allowing the student to (potentially) receive a much wider and diverse education, although its dependent on how the student chooses to mark his education.

        SMU being able to beat Cambridge and Harvard? I call bullshit on that; perhaps if we compare the various majors that SMU offers with other Universities, SMU graduates will have more knowledge in that particular subject. However, I believe that people will still prize Cambridge and Harvard graduates not only because of the prestige attached to their qualifications, but because they are ensured that these graduates have knowledge beyond what they specialise in.

    • Just another dude said

      Is this a bad attempt at satire or are you actually serious?

    • troll hater said

      haha lame…

    • Bak gong said

      lol. Seriously, R u a troll? Self-praise is no praise leh.

    • Duhz. said

      haha.. SMU dun have such thing as “first class honors”… ZZzzzz… Troll… SMU students are prob much better at bluffing then this….

    • first class so what? said

      i hope this is meant to be a satire, cos if not, you’ve just shamed yourself and smu. first class honors or not, you’re really the kind of person why pp label smu as elitist.
      do not bring the rest of us down with you.

    • nice try said

      trololol. nice try. SMU doesn’t have first class honours.

    • Shawn the Train said

      this is a joke…

    • ezen said

      Hey SMU Summa cum Laude you meant? You are a disgrace to the rest of the alumni for being the Elitist that the writer describes.
      Although indeed, the writer could be self victimizing a little (as evident there were many different choices he could have done to change his situation) and a good number of SMU graduates are bright, capable and positive, they also have a good and humble heart.

      Please don’t boast about loving SMU yet with contempt and little acceptance for others from alternative education in the same breath. If you truly appreciate the opportunity that SMU gave you, then come back to the community / society and serve!

      • SMU Summa Cum Laude said

        This is obviously satire. Everyone knows SMU does not have first class honors.

  4. MSU said

    SMU is over-crowded because the school is too small and it has been taking in far too many students.

    #1. “The National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University could each add 200 to 250 places while the Singapore Management University could enrol another 400 to 600 students. That would bump up figures by about 800 to 1,000 places, and lessen the worry parents and students have of demand outstripping supply, said ex-Cabinet minister Dr Tony Tan, now advising a committee on the expansion of the tertiary sector.” Sept 2 2007 http://www.straitstimes.com/Free/Story/STIStory_154024.html

    #2. You were not around in 2007 when the school was just beginning to get overcrowded. We feel the difference from prior years such as 2005 or 6.

    #3. In 2008 or 9 SMU authorities without consultation rolled out a practice of allowing 3 different people to book different seats in a GSR. Brilliant, right. I believe the genius emeritus guy responsible had a name beginning with I. There was mass opposition, SU got involved and the system was changed to booking requiring confirmation just like for SR.

    #4. Nowadays good luck to you if you need space in the room for your new CCA. We had a highly promoted rule that any group of 10 students could form a new CCA together and it wasn’t hard to either get funding or get space.

    #5. Despite all the above, fee$ are increasing.

    #6. I was a fan of SMU culture but I may not say the same today.

    • jeri foo said

      SNU is currently occupying very expensive lot of real estate. Its about time to move out to Ponggol or Sembawang.

  5. Student said

    Sounds like someone who did not make the most of his time in school and decide to complain about others.

    What you make of school and how much you actually enjoy it is defined by yourself.

  6. Clouds said

    Honestly as an SMU graduate, I do not agree with this post entirely. I wonder which clique of friends is this graduate actually mixing around with because all my friends and I have NEVER met anyone who starts a conversation with “What is your GPA” or no one actually asked for each other GPA. Perhaps there are low EQ people but definitely is the minority, well the black horse always stands out.

    Starting a conversation with “Are you planning to go for any exchange trips?” in no way is a question that shows you are an “overachiever”. This question is a very great topic to start with SMU students because a lot of people go for exchange and there are a lot of interesting stories and discussion to be continued from there. It is not to prove that you are capable to go oversea.

    Local students indeed shun foreign students, NOT because they are foreigners, but because of the working attitude, while we should not stereotype, we have no choice but have to because a great number of them have unacceptable working attitude. Of course, there are locals with horrible working attitude as well, but playing with probability, the probability of getting a horrible group mates is smaller if we get locals. Honestly even foreign students shunned the foreign students of certain nationality.

    Too poor that’s why you cant join a CCA? I think that’s nonsense. There is hundred over CCA in SMU, just don’t join one that needs you to pay. There are plenty out there.

    “You either belong to the elite crop of ACJC (lots of them out there), foreign scholars or polytechnic upgraders.” Really.. no body cares whether you are from which JC, which poly. Perhaps if you are a freshman, they talks about it a lot but as you get into junior and senior year, no body cares where you are from. Because no matter where you are from, we are all in the same playing field – SMU.

    I am like you, from a poor family, no competitive advantage, CCA-less. I definitely agree with you that most of us are “deceived” into SMU by their marketing, yes i agree SMU is a little too competitive (imagine I score 80/100 for statistic and is one of the lowest in the class) but I still think that your views is too extreme and does not reflect the true SMU.

  7. Ray said

    1) Mugging, if you don’t like to mug, then dont! but you cant stop others from wanting to do better in their exams.
    They don’t cheat, bribe, then let them.

    2) Joining CCA does mean you got to go dragonboating or exchange trips to Europe.
    There are other cheap CCAs in SMU. Ever thought of joining inline skating or just play pool with classmates?

    3) Cliques can be formed everywhere lah, even at home if u have a large enough family. Some people just gel better with others.

    In conclusion: A mindless rant! Obviously unhappy with SMU but the listed reasons are so weak.

  8. LAMination said

    Reading this, I feel sad for the writer. I hope that any other SMU student who feels this way will spend some time reading my comment because I wouldn’t want someone else to drag themselves to school for 4 years without an aim.

    I am not going to expound on how the culture at SMU helps prepare for you for the working world (though it’s true), because I am pretty sure you’ve heard this till no end.

    Putting aside the cut-throat competition and the drive for grades, SMU is a school with many opportunities. Comparing the experiences of students at the 3 local universities, I have to say that SMU’s staff and professors are the most approachable. If you have any difficulty with your classes, you can always talk to your professor after class. Spend some time with your professors especially the adjunct profs with lots of industry experience. What you learn from them after class will be more useful than anything you learn in class.

    If you are want to go on an exchange, business study mission or OCIP but have difficulty funding it, go talk to someone from the Office of International Relations. They are more than willing to help you. Also, you don’t have to choose Europe. Various nearer destinations will provide you with an equally enriching experience.

    If you are stressed, go talk to Office of Student Life. They have many programs that will help you out and most importantly, I think the people at the Office of Career Services are worth their weight in gold. Yes some of them are very fierce but end of the day, they really go all out to help you when you need help finding a job or an internship.

    Nobody, says you must go all out to score those A+, and honestly, it isn’t too hard to get a B, if you are willing to put in an ounce of effort. Beefing up your slides, improving your presentation skills are all very important skills. In the working world, executives don’t have time to read through your 15 page proposal, what they need is an elevator pitch. So some fluff, despite how you hate it, is important, and you better get used to knowing what it takes to make your presentation better.

    So in summary, yes SMU’s culture is tough but trust me on this when I tell you that the CAT LTB etc, prepares you for the real world and how much you gain from it depends on whether you wayang your way through or whether you took the time to develop those soft and hard skills that are badly needed in the work place. And if you feel stressed, take a step back, settle for a B if you must and most importantly talk to someone who can help you instead of whining to people who can’t help you. If you follow these steps, you may not end up with a Summa Cum Laude but you will be one of those people whose employer will be pretty impressed.

  9. This article is not necessarily true. I believe it is a generalization of the SMU culture. However, each school in SMU has its own culture, and I believe this is true for all universities in Singapore. The article written by the graduate above is definitely not reflective of the culture in my school.

    I come from the SMU School of Information Systems, and likewise, we have a very challenging study lifestyle here. In fact, we have to work the hardest in SMU, and in terms of the number of hours spent on our school life, I can say that the School of Information Systems can easily take the lead.

    You would then think that SIS has the same elitist culture since we barely have time for own studies. That is thankfully not true.

    As mentioned by the annonymous blogger above, it is true that there are a group of students that are doing well in their studies in SMU, and there are also a group of students that are doing poorly in their studies in SMU. This is obvious since every school will have a trend like this. If everybody is doing well, then there would be grade inflation, and if everyone graduated with an A, then the value of an A on your degree would lose its value. Thus, there is a need for someone to be not doing as well as the top.

    In SIS however, we have a huge number of students doing badly, and a huge number of students doing well. What is surprising about the culture here is that many of the students doing well devote a significant amount of their time to the students who are not doing as well!

    The peer-to-peer culture here in SIS is so great that many students voluntarily come back during their summer holidays to help their juniors with their summer lessons at the expense of their own time! There is a good and warm culture of peer-to-peer learning, and helping one another to graduate together.

    Therefore, from my perspective, I do not see how the above article is descriptive of the whole SMU culture.

    SIS also constantly challenges the student with a learning environment that is similar to the working life out there, so I daresay that I am being cultivated to meet the challenges of the working life.

    If you want a good university life, go for a university course which you have passion for. If you don’t like the course, and join a course only because their graduates have a higher salary, then you can’t complain when you suffer from a lack of passion, and don’t perform as well as your peers in the same course.

    You create your own school life. And you can create your own school culture. So don’t blame the culture. Think of how you can spend the 4 years in university better. After all, you are only an undergraduate once.

  10. SMU Drop Out said

    I totally agree with the author.

    I am a 3rd year SMU drop-out due to the fact that I just had enough of the environment there.

    • Just another SMU graduate said

      I think it’s more of if you’re suited for the environment than the environment itself. There are always better places for you :)

  11. dt said

    how can grades be overinflated if it is hard to get A?

  12. ermm said

    I’m sorry.. And the purpose of posting such an article is…?

  13. Thisiscrap said

    Dude, you are not doing well in SMU because your English sucks hence you cannot present yourself well. “Bluffers”? Seriously? How old are you?

  14. Ex SMU said

    your one-sided opinion is not “Truth”.

    please make a better attempt to tell the “Truth”. Would have expected to see more facts, less opinions.

  15. rj said

    LOLOL at smu first class honours. well trolled sir, well trolled

  16. MSU said

    To answer Dt’s question,

    Grade inflation means on paper, an A+ is say 94 marks, A 88 marks, A- 82 marks. In practice, people are very muggerish and the number of A+s is capped. Therefore A+ becomes 99 marks, A 96 marks, A- 93 marks, B+ 90 marks.

    The difference in performance of people with A+ and A is very slight. But the impact on their GPA is huge, as much as 0.4 for that course alone.

  17. axewhy said

    Even if your experience in SMU rendered you a bitter, vengeful and miserable person, it is not right of you to sully the name of a school that has done its part in giving you an education that is acclaimed, not customized. My gpa is WAY below average but I have never felt looked down upon or shunned because one’s calibre is measured by how successful you are in a team and how you thrive in a high performing culture. How is asking about your exchange plans being competitive by the way- this is the puzzling part of your message. If you feel that your experience has been lackluster- that’s only because you havent tried hard enough. You need not be well to do to get a well rounded student life. You just need to have the right mind, heart and inclination to do so. BTW SMU is not full of AC people, there are a number of people from RJ, VJ, Polys, Average JCs that happen to be rich, outspoken, smart, well connected and outstanding as well. Have you been bidding too many classes with AC peeps in them? Or have you brought along stereotypes from ages ago with you into adulthood? I think you have not interacted enough with people from all walks of life which is why you sound like you lack social depth. Given the size of our school it is expected for everything to get blown OUT OF PROPORTION. Be it the “muggerish” culture, competitive nature, obsession with career branding yada yada. The list goes on. But if only you dig deeper, ponder further , and have a wide enough network to leverage against, you will understand that everywhere is the same. Muggers, Competition, Presentations, Class Participation, GPA, Project work, Career mindedness do not belong to just SMU alone. Your myopia is revolting and I hope you can stop broadcasting such untrue representations of the institution.

  18. AP said

    Totally agree with Ray’s comment above. I’m a graduate of SMU but I didn’t fit into any of the buckets the the author has outlined. I was neither rich enough to join CCAs or go for exchange nor was I a mugger or bluffer. I got average grades and it was fine. I have a job now but I’m not a ‘high wage earner’ nor do I earn sub-par wages.

    Analyzing a situation and coming up with 2 extremes might be easy but it’s an oversimplification of the reality.

  19. Kim said

    I don’t understand what the writer is going on about. What else should group study rooms and libraries be used for if not for studying and project work?

    There ain’t no free ride in life. You’ve gotta work hard for what you want. That’s life in Singapore dude. What does overcompetitive mean? Competition is good. If you don’t want to go to university, no one is forcing you too. There are many other things you can do, including joining the workforce early.

  20. LAM said

    Reading this, I feel sad for the writer. I hope that any other SMU student who feels this way will spend some time reading my comment because I wouldn’t want someone else to drag themselves to school for 4 years without an aim.

    I am not going to expound on how the culture at SMU helps prepare for you for the working world (though it’s true), because I am pretty sure you’ve heard this till no end.

    Putting aside the cut-throat competition and the drive for grades, SMU is a school with many opportunities. Comparing the experiences of students at the 3 local universities, I have to say that SMU’s staff and professors are the most approachable. If you have any difficulty with your classes, you can always talk to your professor after class. Spend some time with your professors especially the adjunct profs with lots of industry experience. What you learn from them after class will be more useful than anything you learn in class.

    If you are want to go on an exchange, business study mission or OCIP but have difficulty funding it, go talk to someone from the Office of International Relations. They are more than willing to help you. Also, you don’t have to choose Europe. Various nearer destinations will provide you with an equally enriching experience.

    If you are stressed, go talk to Office of Student Life. They have many programs that will help you out and most importantly, I think the people at the Office of Career Services are worth their weight in gold. Yes some of them are very fierce but end of the day, they really go all out to help you when you need help finding a job or an internship.

    Nobody, says you must go all out to score those A+, and honestly, it isn’t too hard to get a B, if you are willing to put in an ounce of effort. Beefing up your slides, improving your presentation skills are all very important skills. In the working world, executives don’t have time to read through your 15 page proposal, what they need is an elevator pitch. So some fluff, despite how you hate it, is important, and you better get used to knowing what it takes to make your presentation better.

    So in summary, yes SMU’s culture is tough but trust me on this when I tell you that the CAT LTB etc, prepares you for the real world and how much you gain from it depends on whether you wayang your way through or whether you took the time to develop those soft and hard skills that are badly needed in the work place. And if you feel stressed, take a step back, settle for a B if you must and most importantly talk to someone who can help you instead of whining to people who can’t help you. If you follow these steps, you may not end up with a Summa Cum Laude but you will be one of those people whose employer will be pretty impressed with.

  21. theoptionstrader said

    if you expect a degree to teach you everything you need to know in life…i can understand why you are under-achieving. get real. stop complaining. try to figure out why there are other graduates who do well in life. the competitiveness in SMU is not new. if you went into a school not knowing what it is like…once again it shows something about you. i’d stop embarrassing myself if i were you.

  22. badoet said

    how do u even graduate? ur arguments r super weak. ur way of thinking is feeble at best.

    wds wrong with studying hard? u r supposed to study when u r in uni…. worthless cunt.

    expensive cca? thats new,, y dont u join a mahjong session cca. hopefully u can earn some money from there.

    wds the different between what u experienced in school (elitist, cliques, overachievers, ppl trying to bluff their way through) compared to ur ‘real’ world?
    do ur ‘real’ world ppl consist of pessimistic losers who dont even form a clique of friends?

    in fact, how r these ‘elitist’ , ‘muggers’ , ‘riders’, ‘over achievers’ even matter with the school that u attend?
    isnt the pursuit of knowledge should be ur highest priority? i really dont mind if u complain about the curriculum. bt the culture?

    bottom line, change ur bloody way of thinking!
    stop bloody complaining about everything. most probably all of those mentioned above is not ur own generated opinion. u probably got it from ur circle of friends too.
    find better groups of friends who r not sore loser cunts that u used to hang out with.

    p.s. im not suprised if u r a Singaporean studying in Biz school.

  23. theoptionstrader said

    if you expect a degree to teach you everything you need to know in life…i can totally see why you are under-achieving. get real. stop complaining. take control of your life. try to find out why other fellow graduates are doing so much better. SMU’s competitiveness has always been there all along. if you enter a university without knowing what the varsity is like..once again it says something about you. I’d remove this post if i was you.

  24. haha said

    then you wasted your education. congrats.

  25. deedee said

    An SMU grad from 2008, while I’m not gaga about SMU, I think your article has a) gross misrepresentations and b) several logical fallacies. I and several of my friends have been members of CCAs that didn’t cost a penny and were a lot of fun. If there is grade inflation getting good grades should be easier, not harder!

    In terms of muggerishness (wonder if thats even an english word) it is what you make of it. I’ve almost NEVER studied in a GSR. NEVER studied over night. Its just he average Singaporean carrying over their JC day habits to their uni days. What can the school do about it?

    Yes there are cliques, there are cliques EVERYWHERE. Im sure not all 1000+ students are from ACJC, Poly upgrades or Foreign scholars. There are heaps of others who don’t fall into any of these categories, So it seems unfortunate that you spent considerable time feeling left out by the ACJC folks instead of using that time to build productive relationships with others who were less “cliquey”

    Having subsequently been at some of the other local unis, I can say with confidence that the Profs at SMU are more accessible, the classes at SMU are more fun, you can actually contribute, instead of being “educated” by some long lecture given to 200-300 people at the same time!

    Having worked for over 3 years now I believe that the seminar style teaches you to communicate, formulate opinions and express them coherently and defend them when necessary. This is a VERY important skill at the workplace, if you don’t want to be just another worker bee.

    I’m sorry that you feel you got a raw deal, but I’d say that is partly on account of how you used your time and opportunities at SMU as opposed to any particular issues with the school itself.

  26. Louise lau said

    A lot of universities are like that, not just SMU. I was from nus and have the same feeling like yours. But face up to reality, in lky’s words, life is never fair , it never will be. In the corporate world, you w find that impression management counts more than real work strengths, that is how FaceTime come abt in Singapore.

  27. jacksonlcg said

    Well it really depends on you… You can be in SMU like I did without having all A’s and still get a job. (Not bragging but I always tell my employer in SMU its not always about the GPA…)The fact is that SMU just reflects the “real” world, like how employers always look at GPA before selecting their best candidate; isn’t it? Practical and in your face.

    I do not have good GPAs but I have friends who are top students, its about the EQ and how you interact with people. The mindset and attitude you have will reflect your experience in the school. Anyway the CCAs in school do not require money!! some do but not all!! All I can say is you have not explored enough and lack the ability to find out more about the many advantages…and become a typical Singaporean who complains too much. I learn a lot about the real world from school, like what you say people are selfish when it comes to personal gain but there are people who are helpful as well.

    To me its a love and hate relationship and you do not always get honey all the time so learn to eat some bitter stuff if you have to…it’s life. =)

    A below average SIS student…

  28. All SMU students were required to take Analytical Skills. I have a feeling this student didn’t do very well.

    Students learn as much as they want from a school. It is not about the money that we spend or the kind of friends we make, it is about how much hard work you put into learning the skills required for the workforce that you feel are relevant. If you did not realize during school what skill sets were important, then I pity you. Other than the whole bunch of muggers you seem to hate, there are also many other bunches of people who picked up various skills they found useful in their professional careers.

    I was never close to a good GPA, mind you. But although I did get some negative feelings from certain aspects of school, I believe your ultimatum of how real work life holds more “real life lessons” is a very sweeping statement based on rather weak premises and arguments. I didn’t have to do well in school to learn what I found useful at work now. Real life is obviously more challenging than school (which explains why almost everyone working now would rather still be in school) but if I were you, I would at least put forward some more entertaining reasons for stating the obvious.

  29. sue ann said

    I’m grateful to SMU for teaching me how to cope amidst a stressful, jam packed 15-week schedule; now i have a higher threshold for stress. I loved SMU but I always thought it had too many people complaining about every damn thing. And that people worked towards grades rather than actual learning. At the end of the day, school is what you make out of it. Shut out the noise, superficiality and cynical waxing, and you’ll find a great life teacher – but only if you’ll let it be.

  30. Tilottoma Sequeira said

    When you go to University you have a choice. A choice as to whether you wish to study hard, be “muggerish”, spend your life in the library or make the most out of what the University has to offer- and this is really irrespective of which University you intend on attending.Yes there are all rounders- and they really work hard to excel at everything but honestly it is all about priorities.

    You obviously have confined yourself to friends who chose to prioritize GPAs and decided to define themselves by merely a number. I can tell you from experience that GPA is not everything, especially at SMU. I am not on the Deans list nor is my GPA even close to those who are on it, but I have had some great internships come my way and just to be clear – I have never been greeted with “What’s your GPA?”

    University is the time for you to explore your interests. In SMU we have the opportunity to really experience everything and I am sure the same is the case at NUS or NTU or any other University. I have been part of 5 CCAs in the last 3 years at SMU and I have not paid a dime towards their funds. So to say that you are poor and therefore cannot join CCAs is really a misrepresentation. Yes you have to pay to go on tournaments, and to go on exchange, but then again you have a choice – no one is forcing you to do anything. Maybe there are people who can afford to go on business study missions and exchange trips but the opportunities are numerous for those of us who can’t.

    “You either belong to the elite crop of ACJC (lots of them out there), foreign scholars or polytechnic upgraders.”

    Honestly speaking, I have no idea what any of the above terms really mean, all I can say is that I am an international student at SMU and I do believe I have some great Singaporean friends in and outside the University who neither lack “Emotional Intelligence” or “Positive Volition”, at least according to the degree of my definitions as to what those words may mean. Needless to say for 3 years of being here, I have NEVER once been “shunned” for being foreign or anything else for that matter.

    Of course there will be those who draw sub-par wages and get “ordinary” jobs (whatever that means), but is that not the case of graduates from any University? When did it become wrong to advertise and market your best? Have you ever seen Multi-National Companies marketing the downsides of buying their products? I honestly have not.

    Enough said, I could go on arguing but the reality is that you have had some tough experiences here and it is not fair to generalize your experiences on a public forum (or otherwise) and impose your myopic views on those of us who have really gained a lot from the “SMU Experience”, maybe this experience is not very different from what other Universities have to offer but it is still an experience that a lot of us will cherish once we graduate- you really cannot expect University life to be a bed of roses all throughout.

    In no way am I saying that SMU is the perfect school to be in or that those who are not here are not worthy of being recognized, nor am I speculating it to be anywhere close to Harvard, Cambridge or even NUS or NTU in terms of rankings, but in another year, despite the odds, it is going to be the place that shared four of the best years of my life and in hindsight, I know that nothing else will matter…

  31. Just another SMU graduate said

    I would just like to say there is no school in the world that is for everyone. Every school has its own unique culture and the unfortunate cold hard truth is not everyone like that particular culture – similar to your working environment. Which is why never blindly follow the crowd and instead explore on your own to find out yourself if the place is really right for you.

  32. NAND said

    It’s the same plight for all students! why will this change

  33. Lee said

    A standing ovation is called for here. For Temasek Times! Outstanding journalism expressed in today’s articles! They stir up great intellectual discourse and are issues crucial to society’s development!

  34. - said

    dude. all reputable universities are like that, i doubt you would have been happier anywhere else. if going to university wasn’t about trying to perform well in comparison to others, then it wouldn’t be a very useful thing to attend. education is about showing you are qualified above someone else. and if you are concerned about your future prospects, either you impress with your grades, with your extra non-academic activities, or you apply for internships. did you expect everyone at university to sit back and relax and just let good things in life land on their laps? it is a personal choice how much you decide to do. either you chill out and be average and be satisfied with what you get, or you work your ass off and eventually your efforts pay off.

    also, foreigners being finding it difficult to integrate into the local community is a problem for all foreigners. it is problematic for singaporeans who attend schools in foreign countries as well. the fact of the matter is that you will always have very different cultural perspectives and expectations from the local population if you are foreign.

  35. That's what she said

    So Much Urine…

  36. dyuanj said

    Article from an SMU graduate who would like to share his views in this forum thread:

    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=259829322339

  37. TitanGS said

    SMU generally enrolls snobs into the school who think they are all high and mighty, as compared to the rest of the students studying in singapore. just because the school is a good school, doesn’t automatically make the students morally good. infact, they tend to get proud more often than not. they may succeed in life, and know about many concepts taught in schools, but they will never understand a simple concept such a humility, until life hits them where it hurts most. they are simply more of a machine and less of a human being, because a human being can feel, but a machine just does whatever it sets out to do without any morals and values. i feel sorry for them. its so sad…

  38. Ivan said

    As is rigor, temasektimes gives prominance to commentaries of this genre: Unquestionably poorly researched, off tangential and skewed.
    Just a few extracts : “Truthfully, the school has enriched me for four years, broadening my horizon..” “I feel detached.” “some of us talk a lot, but have no substance.” “school culture is known to be muggerish and overcompetitive ” , are sufficient to show the shallowness of his arguments, and contradictions, based on assumptions and just plain hearsay.
    Is the writer a SMU graduate or someone who claims he/she is?

    • xiujing said

      so true. temasek times you should review your articles. we already have enough negativity, wrong perspectives towards things.

  39. Melyl said

    What a badly written article. Author sounds like a typical Singaporean, whinging about everything possibly bad, hardly seeing enough positive to overlook the bits that are less than ideal. Wake up kid, wait till you start working, we look forward to another trash-talk article from you.

    It is not the school that is “over competitive”, it’s the whole country, since you’re about 4 years old. It is a university, how can it puzzle you that library and study rooms are filled during the exams?! They aim to bring out the best, OBVIOUSLY the projects will be competitive, it’s no longer secondary school art lessons in which you float along and do alright for merely handing in your work on time. Not being around foreigners is not an SMU thing, loads of Singaporeans are complete rubbish at it, all the stereotypes of the Indians, Chinese, English, French,etc – open your eyes, it’s not just SMU. I would put money on it that you do the same at times. Connecting with different backgrounds?! Please, the western community in this country often comment how racist the whole country is, you’re whinging about one university? Don’t like the “polytechnic upgraders” term either, so they were far below, but have managed to crawl up the ranks, upgraded themselves so much that they are now worthy of joining the whinging likes of YOU in SMU? That, is not an upgrade from what it sounds. Why would institute/firm would EVER market and advertise anything other than the best?! How does this poster sound, “Look, a lot of kids graduate and find shit jobs, earn no money, and are miserable in life, but PLEASE! JOIN US!”. Now isn’t that a winner?… The aim of the uni is to attract the best, nurture them well and hope the achieve their dreams of high-paying jobs, so more and brighter kids will come their way, and they will make their contribution to the uni, OBVIOUSLY. Why are you whinning about that?! Sounds bloody foolish! The whole truth can NEVER be clearly represented in 1 poster, now stop being a 5 year old and face it.

    **a lot of people ARE, by the way.

    Oh goodness are you pathetic. By the way, I’m not from SMU, never wanted to study there, so this is not just “protecting my school”. I do live in this country, understand it’s crazy culture as well. This is just astonishment at how bloody stupid this article is.

    • Ma Ling Luncheon Meat said

      A typical Singaporean you say? Are you by any means, defining yourself as unique?

      Do not criticize the idea just because it’s a shallow truth. Don’t tell people that you’re not the least bothered by the over-competitive nature of the school.

  40. rolled eyes said

    Obviously blames his lack of success in life to everything other than himself. Even if he was at any other school, he would not have been happy. 4 years of education in university hasn’t taught him to write well, perhaps he had not spent enough time learning lessons, just sulked around the campus being bitter at the world.. Hates the fact that he is not popular and the professors don’t favor him.

    I think SMU has taught me 2 big lessons ( but the same lesson can probably be gleaned from anywhere else)
    – life is never going to be fair
    – and if you want something, work your ass off for it

    I dont earn big money, but I understand – its all statistics. There will always be a curve.
    Which school wants to say they also produce mediocre students..

    Your university life is how you make it ..don’t blame the rest of the world

  41. Kairen Chan said

    You are absolutely right, and I wish more people had the courage to post anonymously. It still riles me today that I had to rely on industry and intellect for good grades. I deeply regret being “one of the elitist bookworm”, because being literate is such an unfair advantage to lord over your peers. Sometimes, when I approach women in bars, I open with “What’s your GPA?” which has never, ever worked but is a hard habit to kick. But you, sir, are an inspiration to us all. You see things the way they really are, and you aren’t afraid to call it. It comforts me that you are drawing “real lessons” from life after college, and I hope that the floor manager of the McDonald’s where you work sees your potential as clearly as I do.

    • Joseph said

      This is probably the most potent, sharp, yet sarcastic and accurate reply written haha.. Well done! (without any sarcasm!)

  42. Edwin Sieng said

    I don’t see how is the author’s view valid across the majority of SMU students. As a current SMU student, I felt comfortable with average GPA, mixed around with various friends across different faculties, races, CCAs, age, pasts and family background and had a slightly balance out of school lifestyle (jeopardising schoolwork at times for entertainments). It is true that grade ‘A’ and above can be relatively tough to achieve but it is not impossible if sufficient effort were put in. However, we should not forget students from polytechnic with prior knowledge will definitely ace over the rests in terms of class participation and projects (if any) and thus it is your call on how the efforts you are planning to put in for various module.

    Most importantly, I would like to highlight on the monetary value that you are pointing out. SMU is not about judging an individual based on the valuation of that person. At times there are many jokes about it but eventually, they live as an SMU’s joke and should not be taken seriously. I am from an average family and will be heading to an average exchange (in asia) but faced no major problems in interacting with my schoolmates be it during the current holidays or school terms. If you put a false front, it can be easily detected and if friends are indeed judging you based on criteria, let it be. You know what is right for you to do and move on.

    Two years in SMU and I have yet to regret as being anywhere else could be a different learning process. Since I chose SMU and was accepted, I should get the best out of it before dwelling into the next phase of life and I sincerely hope after further reflection of your 4 years in SMU, you did achieve much more than what you expressed.

  43. Alright people, can see you are obviously all riled up by this guy’s post… But let our comments be for rebutting, and not personal attacks. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and we need to be mature about it. That’s something SMU taught me. :)

  44. Jonny said

    Alright people, can see that you are obviously riled up by this guy’s post… But let our comments be for the sake of rebuttal, not personal attacks. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and we have to be mature about it. That’s what SMU taught me.

  45. xiujing said

    I am sad. by the extent of victimization that you choose to place on yourself and on the amount of blame you place on our Alma mater. I am a graduate. I had no exchange, did not participate in any activities in horse riding, golf, tennis because I was too broke. I took up tuition.classes.and worked part time to earn my graduate trips and I have heard from graduates from every school taking up jobs to earn.money for exchange and stuff. muggers are everywhere. everyone wants to strive for a better life, and our nation is pro-competiton. those are facts of life that we all have to deal with. if you have graduated three years, and you still feel this way, I would say to you maybe you should rethink your life. any experience you have been through, is yours and.belongs to you. perhaps, you should embrace it and stop fighting the ‘i don’t want to and didn’t want to be there’ feeling. afterall, it is over. take care senior.

  46. Hi Mr Goh, my name is Aizad. I totally agree with the fact that the education system in Singapore is flawed in many ways.( Not to mention that there are the good sides too). I’ve had friends in that school over the years and I concur that they spend more that half of their time mugging in school/home/cafes hence neglecting their social life and other life values that will be critical in the future. Do u mind if I share your post on my blog? :)

  47. Drew said

    University culture at SMU is just different. Period. I agree with the writer. It is seriously lacking in soul. Monstrous creatures abound, ‘zombieing’ around and about their business without any soul. A mechanical and lack luster lot, obsessed with numbers and self-importance, exhibiting shameless indifference towards foreigners. Even towards those hailing from the best educational institutes, because this lot of locals is not capable of functioning well with those it is not familiar with. The local professors at SMU who would rather place their bets on their local favorites and regard foreign students with suspicion and even derision, thus validating the local students, who would otherwise fare miserably. And couple that with the over-obliging foreign professors who bend over backwards to please their local hosts by acquiescing, and you have the typical maladjusted SMU student supported by an unscrupulous faculty. I would dread to think how these uncouth and crass students and their dubious academic ‘stalwarts’ would function in Ivy league colleges or internationally, for that matter. For shame!

    And BTW ‘SMU FIRST CLASS HONOURS’ – you are delusional to think you could rank yourself alongside Harvard … hahaha … and you certainly could use polishing up your language skills, but then English was never your first language, was it?

  48. IT'S NOT SMU, NTU OR NUS. IT'S SINGAPORE... said

    THE AUTHOR IS WRONG. The snobbish people in SMU that the author is talking about belongs to the exception. Ask yourself this: if people are really selfish, where can you find seniors who are helpful enough to send you their study materials, or offer you advice on which prof to bid?

    Though I must admit, when I first step into SMU, i thought this was just going to be like JC where the people aren’t genuinely nice and I’m mentally prepared for back stabbing and sorts. But one thing SMU taught me is that the problem isn’t SMU or NTU or NUS. The problems is Singaporeans. It always emphasize the importance of having a global perspective and encouraged us to see the world. To me, “global perspective” is just an abstract word until I really did it. If you’ve interacted with the warm, hospitable people in Taiwan, the helpful and friendly Indonesians, the sociable and laid-back europeans, you’ll soon realize its not the university but Singaporeans as a whole that is in need of reflection. When I came back to SG after a holiday, I have difficulty adapting back to the harsh Singapore culture. Once, I took the same lift with a family of mother and son. When my eyes met theirs, my mouth let out a sincere and friendly smile :), just as everyone did in Taiwan. The auntie rushed out of the next nearest floor and said to his son “this uncle SIAO one. Don’t take the same lift as him when u’re alone.” (me: WTF?!)

    I think I’ve digress a bit too far. What I’m trying to get across is: don’t blame the flock just because of a few black sheeps. When you see a Christian holding a bible in one hand and a dildo in the other, will you say all Christians are hypocrites? Or blame this idiot for spoiling the image of Christians? Likewise, don’t generalize the whole SMU or NTU or NUS population just because of a few idiots. And for the author’s case, my guess is he is unfortunate enough to attract all the idiots to him. (probably to do with law of attraction where the like attract? I don’t know.

    As for “SMU FIRST CLASS HONOURS”, either he is a fake NTU or NUS student trying to smear the school’s reputation or he is just plain stupid. Who in the world will say they are “FIRST CLASS HONOURS” in a post like this?

  49. Hahn said

    Dude your argument is incoherent. Oh! and I’ve seen lots of universities presenting the WHOLE truth to their prospective students!! NOT! -.-

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