The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best College Programme (Part 1)

Still scratching your head in search of that ultimate college programme? Join us as we explore the top considerations you must be aware of!

Updated 08 Jun 2016

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After the formidable, obscure and gruelling question of where-and-what-to-eat, the next most taxing riddle to crack is arguably the ultimate question of… what-to-study.

Perhaps you’re one of the kiasu rhinestones in the midst of rocks that is clouded with a burst of choices. Or, you’re an aspiring wanderer who simply has no clue despite the mountainous pile of college brochures (#letsbehonest, most of us slip into this department).

It is also very possible that your parents and friends hold you in high regard (ahem, #greatexpectasians), vowing that you'll make a brilliant doctor or a successful lawyer. In each and every way, choosing a college course is a knotty rite of passage.

Lamentably, we can’t bestow you with the magic formula/miracle pill that’ll snag all your worries and plagues away. And yes, it remains a perplexing reality that just a few months ago, you still had to seek for the teacher’s permission to answer nature’s calling, and now all of a sudden, you are expected to make informed decisions about your future (oh, the irony).

But don’t fret. In this 3-part series, we explore the top considerations you MUST be aware of before plunging headfirst into a college programme.

Part 1: Know Thyself

The first golden rule to making a sound decision kicks off with you. Having said that, understanding your personality entails you to tune into yourself and scrutinise it under a gigantic magnifying glass.


#1. What is your personality?

What is your ballgame when it comes to social interactions? Are you more at home when surrounded by a sea of people, or do you favour the company of a few? If you are a ball of fire that glows as the life and soul of any party – also rings in as being chirpy, jolly and energetic – and you rack up your energy bar by mingling around in a party, you’re likely an extrovert.

And for those of us who bounce back to life only when we’re quarantined from civilisation tucked away from mobs of homo sapiens in search of solitude for recuperation, the introvert tag is certainly one that’s stamped all over our forehead. Curling up at home with your favourite book, chances are you’re also one that mainly judges listens silently before magically fading away in group conversations.

Whether you gravitate towards the extrovert or introvert category (or somewhere in between), your personality does render a vital and substantial influence on your choice of career, relationships as well as overall lifestyle. Here’s why:

Extroverts are more inclined towards a career that warrants them the green light to be encircled with a pool of people. Justified by their charming quirks, our social butterflies also can’t go without stimulation or they’ll grow bored nippily. Repetitive tasks on the other hand, is a turn off unless they are fun or reap some sort of payoff while their concentration span (particularly in solitary pursuits) tends to be briefer as compared to introverts.

Case in point for extroverts? Teacher, nurse, lawyer, physiotherapist, financial advisor, human resource specialist, public relation specialist, event planner and basically any profession that demands heaps of social interactions and prowess in people skills.

As for our fellow wallflowers, introverts tend to tilt toward the serene prospect of working alone or in tiny groups. While the term “multitasker” is not likely to bob up in their resumes when vetting new hires, they compensate by being able to focus on one task at a time. Introverts are also detail-oriented peeps who fancy observing a situation before dipping their toes in the water.

Case in point for introverts? Computer programmer, accountant, writer, graphic designer, animator, librarian (for very obvious reasons), food scientist, web developer and literally any profession that requires minimal social conversations. As such, introverts may not be cut out for sales call, business lunches or energetic social situations.

With the rise in technology, introverts can now thrive in virtual situations (social media analyst, anyone?) where it’s much more possible for them to hold online conversations without being strained from exhaustion in the manner they feel being around people for too long.

But you may ask…”What if I’m an introvert with a childhood dream of battling in court?”. Well, don’t lose hope! You shouldn’t hastily strike out careers just because a profession may seem more suited to extroverts. A majority of us actually lie somewhere in between, and with the right understanding of yourself coupled with the right systems in place, it IS entirely possible that you can be blossoming in extroverted professions too!


#2.  Hunt down your interests

The most fundamental consideration in the choice of a college programme is of course, what truly excites you a.k.a your passion. Yes, we are talking about something that you’ve always wanted to delve into or something that resonates within the very fibre of your being.

Are you into the vibration and meaning of numbers? Or perhaps you’ve been secretly moonlighting as a rock star over the weekend?  Or do you fancy placing your left brain to the test with chess and board games? If so, that may be where you’re meant to head to. The meat and potatoes here is to brainstorm and list down the activities that you relish in during your spare time, as they are likely to offer glimpses at your own cup of tea.

Case in point? If you are hard core gamer and steam is equivalent to your oxygen, it does not necessarily insinuate that you should just dive right into a career in designing computer games. Rather, such preference may be a signal that you enjoy strategic planning, and perhaps you can consider careers like investment banking that requires structuring deals and resource planning. By pinning down the activities that you are good at, you’ll be able to scout for courses that offer similar characteristics with ease.

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#3. Tap into your aptitude and skills

Interest and aptitude are as different as chalk and cheese because what you like doesn’t always translate to what you are good or competent at. Of course ideally, you should pursue a course that provides you with an arena to explore both. However, in this less than perfect world, such notion typically resides in the hypothetical world.

Lesson 101: Dig deep within yourself, seek and chew over your strengths and skills (heck, even weaknesses so you’ll be aware of your own limitations). It is exceptionally vital that you play to your strengths and locate a programme that fits seamlessly to those strengths. So how exactly can you pin down the skills that comprises of your forte?

More often than not, you’ll be able to spot some trends within your SPM results.

A lot of A’s in a field = good choice of programme.

Some A’s and some B’s = decent choice

All C’s = there might be a better choice.

Lots of C’s and D’s = #fuhgeddaboudit.

Tips: If you identify yourself as a language lover (read: excellent communicators with an unannounced love for memorisation), you may consider venturing into fields like law, journalism, international relation or education, to name a few. But if you tend to gravitate towards subjects that encompass a substantial amount of computation and mathematical thinking, give courses like computer science, finance, business or engineering a thought.

If all fails and everything remains a fuzzy picture, you can perhaps try recalling:

  • Subjects that are like a piece of cake to you
  • What your friends constantly praise you for (#notatimetobehumble)
  • Tasks or activities that always get you all pumped up
  • What is your reputation as the go-to-guy

Tips: Obtain objective opinions from family or close acquaintances on what they perceive as your real passion or true calling. This is a necessary move because well… sometimes we believe we're really good in something but then we also tend to ignore facts that contradict it.

Case in point? You may remember the glorious time where you bagged home a 2nd place in a math competition six years ago while conveniently forgetting the fact that you’ve also been scoring C’s for math during your past few exams.

Yes, gone are the days when choices were simple: good or evil, ketchup or chilli sauce. Nowadays, we have to choose between shades of grey, one gazillion condiments and a plethora of programmes. As college deadlines are catching up in a flash (chop-chop), you’re probably one of the bunch who is grinding your teeth down to the bone and making sense of your next move.

What other serious considerations should you think about before finally making that ultimate decision?

Check out Part 2 of this series, where we explore the moving parts of the working world, and find out why you should never follow job market trends.

Unsure of where your forte lies? Check out this article: How Can You Make Sense of Your SPM Results?

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    Grace Chan

    Grace Chan

    Writer. An ardent follower of Carl Jung & Rumi. A green tea junkie whose daily dose of therapy include binging on the divine fluid. Grace also feeds on Psychology and will give away just about anything to cuddle with furry felines.