National University of Singapore
Feature | Organisation

Success and Leadership Beyond Paper Qualifications

National University of Singapore
A fruitful university life entails more than just going to lecture halls and excelling in your studies. Two talented scholars tell us about the multifarious opportunities open to NUS undergraduates and how they have been empowered to pursue their passions by the institution.

Ahousehold name like the National University of Singapore (NUS) hardly needs any introduction. As the choice university for over 28,000 undergraduates from more than 100 countries, NUS has earned a reputation at home and abroad for its academic rigour, research innovation, and strong track record in grooming future-ready graduates. The university’s success is evident from its long list of accolades: it is consistently ranked among the world’s top universities and is considered the best in Asia according to the 2017 Times Higher Education rankings.

But beyond prestige and reputation, it was the enriching environment and numerous resources at NUS that won over Dunman High alumna Tiffany Cheong Hao Min and St Andrew’s Junior College alumnus Bryan Quek Jun Ming.

“I feel that university is the best time to venture out of your comfort zone and explore opportunities,” says Bryan. Tiffany agrees, adding, “NUS offers many platforms for students to develop holistically. This resonates well with my learning attitude as I enjoy trying different things and stretching my potential.”

Connecting Passion with Purpose

Both go-getters were thrilled when they received the highly-coveted NUS Scholarships in recognition of their academic and co-curricular achievements. Tiffany, a Prime Minister’s Book Prize winner and former journalist at The Straits Times Business Desk, was awarded the NUS Global Merit Scholarship; Bryan, a semi-professional soccer player signed with Prime League, was awarded the NUS Sports Scholarship.

For Tiffany, the biggest benefit of the NUS Global Merit Scholarship is that it is bond-free. Also, it is an avenue for her to contribute to social causes – she is currently working on a community involvement project (CIP) to promote greater appreciation of hawker culture in Singapore.

Tiffany Cheong Hao Min

Tiffany Cheong Hao Min 
NUS Global Merit Scholarship

Student, Double Degree in Economics and Business Administration with the University Scholars Programme

“NUS offers many platforms for students to develop holistically. This resonates well with my learning attitude as I enjoy trying different things and stretching my potential.”

As for Bryan, the NUS Sports Scholarship has been invaluable in alleviating the financial burden on his family and helping him maintain his financial independence. “I have not taken a single cent from my parents since National Service (NS) ended,” he confides.

More importantly, the time freed up from having to work part-time to support himself can now be channelled into studies and soccer training. Like Tiffany, he is involved in some sports-related CIPs, trying to “return [his] dues in a way aligned with [his] passion”.

Learning for the Real World

When it comes to academic learning, both scholars have high praise for the broad-based and multidisciplinary approach adopted by NUS. Students get to tailor their learning experiences through a flexible modular system, and are actively encouraged to explore their interests thanks to the grade-free first year scheme.

Bryan, who studies Business Administration, says that he is enjoying the revamped curriculum introduced this year, which offers more specialisations and culminates in a direct honours degree.

“There is a good blend of theoretical knowledge and hands-on practice,” he notes, adding that business students often attend industry talks and seek out internships to become more “career-ready”.

Tiffany, on the other hand, is pursuing a Double Degree in Economics and Business Administration – a far cry from her background in science and linguistics. Friends often tease her for being “crazy” to take on not one, but two new fields of study. Still, she has no regrets.

“It’s a privilege learning within two diverse domains that have always sparked my intellectual curiosity,” she explains. “I’m also in the University Scholars Programme, which challenges me to examine subjects I would not usually be engaged in, such as physics and sociolinguistics. Integrated together, these have helped me achieve a more crystallised big-picture understanding of the world.”

With the know-how gained, she hopes to pursue a career helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to grow, and eventually start her own social enterprise clothing chain.

Bryan Quek Jun Ming

Bryan Quek Jun Ming 
NUS Sports Scholarship

Student, Bachelor of Business Administration

“I feel that university is the best time to venture out of your comfort zone and explore opportunities”

Living, Breathing Community

Beyond the classroom, both Bryan and Tiffany relish the close-knit community spirit and colourful social life on campus. Playing to his strengths, Bryan represented TeamNUS in the annual Singapore University Games (SUniG) and is proud to have played a part in bringing home the soccer cup to NUS.

During his downtime, the lanky goalkeeper can be found relaxing with his “family” of friends in Sheares Hall. “I’m grateful to them for guiding me through the difficult transition from army to university life. They really helped me settle down and made me feel that NUS is home,” he says.

Meanwhile, Tiffany has taken on a leadership position in the NUS Economics Society. Inspired by the “amazing” time she had as a freshman – she attended five different orientation camps prior to entering NUS – she is now keen on creating just as meaningful an experience for her juniors.

“There is a multitude of events constantly taking place in NUS, be it exam welfare giveaways, arts festivals, or sports competitions like the popular inter-faculty games. It’s a truly vibrant community!” she enthuses.

A Journey of Growth

To aspiring scholars looking to follow in their footsteps, the intrepid duo have some words of advice.

“Don’t be afraid to pursue your passion, even if it may not seem to have any tangible benefits. I believe that I got the Global Merit Scholarship not because I was particularly smart or outstanding, but because I showed a genuine representation of who I am and what I can do,” reflects Tiffany.

“As an NUS scholar, you play an ambassadorial role in promoting the university and inspiring your peers. Having a positive growth-mindset is important. Constantly challenge yourself to improve, and remember that success is not achieved through inherent talent, but through deliberate practice,” concludes Bryan.