Sunday, July 1, 2007

Admission into NUS this year (2007)

There has been a lot of argument over why so many outstanding Pakistanis applying to NUS have been rejected. People outstanding enough to have gotten into places like Yale, UPenn, Cornell etc. have been rejected by NUS. My first thought was that NUS may be trying to increase it's "yield" - something American universities are known to do. It involves rejecting applicants that are too outstanding to actually join the university, since the university expects applicants would definitely get into better universities and reject their offer only to spoil their yield. Yield of a university is obtained by comparing the number of admission offers made, to the number of applicants who actually accept these offers and join the university. Universities like MIT and Harvard usually have a very high yield because almost no one rejects an admission offer from these universities.

However, it appears I was wrong about NUS being self-conceited.

For those unfamiliar with Chinese culture, every 12 years is considered to be the year of the Dragon. The Dragon year is usually related to a rise in birth rate and it shows in the figures too! People born in years 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000... are referred to as "Dragon babies" and it so happens that the graduating students from Junior Colleges this year in Singapore (A Level) are mostly born in 1988.

The case being made by the Singapore university trio (NUS, NTU, and SMU) is that there are more applicants this year than any of the previous ones, and despite the increase in places of admission available at these universities, it is still not possible to accept all the kind of students that would usually have been accepted in previous years. This, plus the fact that the quality of applicants has increased significantly this year once again.

As already pointed out in an AsiaOne article (pasted below), this may not be a reasonable excuse because male Singaporean students, after graduating from Junior College, have to complete their two-year National Service under Singapore Law. So what the universities are dealing with, this year, is just half of the Dragon baby cohort.

While prospective students search for a consensus on the reason why so many people are being rejected this year, NUS continues to advertise heavily on MSN, in trains and elsewhere, enraging rejected applicants and parents

As much as I have come to know personally, I have developed some theories as to the numbers of reasons why NUS is rejecting applicants:

1. No A Level results. International students who have yet to take their A level examinations in this term are getting rejected despite having straight 'A's in their O level and high scores in their SATs. Apparently having incredible A level results is the only criterion for gaining admission into NUS this year. If you bothered yourself with taking SATs just so you could enter NUS a year earlier, your efforts have gone to waste. You must spend a year at home before joining NUS. Yes, you are free to lose those extra pounds or pick up that sport you always wanted to learn.

2. Late application. Note that this does not mean you applied to NUS after the deadline had passed. It only means that if you applied earlier you may have gotten in. "First-come, first-served" seems to be a policy that has been adopted by NUS Admissions Office this year. I only say so because some people were accepted while others were rejected when they had exactly the same grades and were applying to the same faculty/school. The only difference observed in such cases is that the ones who applied earlier were the ones who got in.

3. No GP taken. GP is the AO Level General Paper that is almost compulsory for applicants to NUS. Previously, people who didn't take GP were always free to take the university's Qualifying English Test (QET) after arriving, but this year's applicants haven't been offered such a leeway.

Here's what they're saying in the media:
Average grades? Getting into uni is a squeeze
By Jane Ng - May 30, 2007
The Straits Times

A RISE in the number of university applications this year, partly due to the Dragon Year cohort, has resulted in those scoring average grades being squeezed out of a varsity spot.

Dragon Years, being particularly auspicious in the Chinese Calendar, are usually associated with a spike in the birth rate.

Mr See Chee Wee, 55, a retiree whose letter was published in The Straits Times Forum page yesterday, said his daughter, who had applied for arts and social sciences, had been rejected by all three local universities despite scoring grades of A, B, E and a C for General Paper.

'She has met all the criteria for entry to a local university. Not all students are outstanding, you have to be realistic. You can't say there's no space. If I buy a ticket for a movie, there better be enough seats for me,' he said.

'If I had enough money, I would send her overseas and not argue. Now I will have to mortgage my house. You're marginalised in Singapore if you don't have a university degree,' he added.

Replying to queries, the three universities said the sheer number of applicants, coupled with an overall increase in quality, has left those with average grades out in the cold.

Said a Singapore Management University (SMU) spokesman: 'It is likely that, depending on which degree programmes this particular applicant has applied for, she does not meet our admission requirements on an overall holistic assessment.'

SMU assesses its applicants based on their academic credentials, co-curricular activity records and performance during an interview. At SMU, 39 per cent of A-level applicants scored A, B and B or better in their results compared to 30 per cent last year. At the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), 35 per cent more applicants had at least three As this year than last year.

The increase in quality has meant universities were more selective in choosing applicants. For instance, the National University of Singapore (NUS) Law Faculty considered only those with three As for its interview and test.

NUS received a total of about 34,000 applications for around 6,600 places; NTU got 35,000 applications for 5,850 places; while SMU received about 12,900 applications for 1,485 places.

At NUS, 15,700 A-level school leavers from the Dragon Year cohort applied, an increase of 2,200 from 13,500 last year.

Dean of admissions Associate Professor Tan Thiam Soon pointed out that even though the universities are dealing with the Dragon Year babies, the number is not as large as parents imagine because only the A-level girls are entering university this year.

The Dragon Year boys will be admitted only in two years' time, after national service. Those who entered polytechnics will also enrol in universities later.

Universities also say they have beefed up enrolment to cope with the expected increase in applications.

For example, NUS has increased its overall enrolment by 200 spots across all its faculties, while SMU has a new law degree which will take in an additional 82 undergraduates.

An NTU spokesman pointed out that applicants applying for a particular programme should have good grades for related subjects: 'For example, a candidate wishing to pursue Communications Studies should have a good grade in the General Paper.'

Students who have yet to hear from the universities about their applications said they don't have high hopes. One, who scored B, C and E and applied to the NUS Arts and Social Sciences Faculty, said: 'I don't think I stand a chance, I will probably start looking at overseas universities now.'

You can download a PDF file to view this and other articles. (Right-click and Save As)
You can click here to read another article where NUS explains its admissions policy.


Aesa said...

i have a cousin who dint get in. and her grades r better than wat mine were wen I applied.

Nabeel K said...

For a thriving university it is supposed to get harder to get in each year. It's just that this year it's been considerably harder than usual.

Won Jang said...

Interesting stuff, but would you really care about NUS if you got admitted to Yale, Cornell or UPenn (based on the premises that there is non-academic constraint factor that makes the applicants prefer NUS over the U.S. univs.)

Ahsan Amjad said...

it always happens..nus admission policy is flawed...its difficult to get in for those who havent given a our batch some candidates from AC who were better than the majority of the pakistanis eventually admitted were rejected bcas they didnt have A levels results n were from ac...dont know y but its tougher to get in for acians

Regina Escobar said...

I had a diplomat friend from MFA who said that they are actually meaning to have at least 25-30% foreigners in every university classrooms.

Nabeel K said...

For financially needy applicants, the amount of financial aid offered by the university matters a lot, as do the living expenses, which are higher in the US. You meant similar "non-academic constraint factors", Won? I guess if someone got into Yale (which has a need-blind admissions policy), they would definitely choose Yale over NUS, but if they don't get into NUS they would certainly be shocked. It's what happens when people get rejected by UPenn and get into Harvard. It's mind boggling.

Ahsan, I agree, their admissions policy is just weird. I mean, if GP is so damn important, then what about those PRC people who get in with such poor English? They actually have a formula they use - you should check out this web article:

Regina, such a policy would make NUS an awesome university, don't you think? I think people should be happy about it. But then, it's international students who are getting rejected. And from a government's point of view, "Singaporeans first" should be their slogan. I think it is.

Won Jang said...

Well, in U.S. university entrance it often happens (and for that matter almost everywhere else). People who get rejected from "mid-level ranking" universities get accepted into Ivy League's and all. We have to remember the practice of "yielding" of mid-level universities ... where they deliberately reject top-level applicants, because in the end they will get accepted and enter Ivy Leagues, so there's no point in accepting them and decreasing the yield rate (which is the number/percentage of successful applicants that actually enroll). This is a practice that universities actually admit to doing!

Xubair Muhammad said...

Regarding GP

High ranking British universities dont even consider GP in thier admission procedures.
If someone is getting straight As in an English based examination like Cambridge O/A Level he sure understands English.
He does not need to give this stupid GP to demonstrate his profeciency in English.

I had an A in Cambridge O Level English which I guess is much better than a C in GP. It is really annoying to know that I got rejected just bcz i didnt give GP.

Why does NUS+NTU put so much stress on GP when they r still offering QET as an alternative?

If someone has given SAT or IELTS or TOEFL and has an outstanding score, will he still be at a disadvantage compared to someone with a B or C in GP?

Nabeel K said...

Won, I think yielding is the first thing I mentioned in this post =)

Xubair, are your questions directed to the NUS Admissions office? Because as students we can't say much about these things. And if we do say something, it is only a matter of opinion and can be disputed (as there could be other opinions). Here are my two cents:

NUS and NTU offer QET for people who can't take O/A Level exams or don't have British systems in their home countries - people from China for instance. Now given that you haven't taken GP but you are outstanding in every other respect and so are 1500 other people, who do you think the university will choose? I think they would need something like GP that can become a tool to differentiate amongst applicants. The problem is, as the number of applicants rise, the quality of applicants rises and slowly the university becomes harder and harder to get into.

If someone has taken SATs, (not IELTS or TOEFL, mind you, as they are very basic) they should be at an advantage, but going by the old score range, 1400+ was what NUS considered to be good. Again, the issue here is, the SAT scores won't be taken into consideration (much) if you have your A level results available at the time of submitting your admissions application. And yes, as per my belief, SAT II scores are more highly valued than SAT I scores. (Here I should mention again that these observations I made are according to the previous SATs before they moved on to the current system - out of 2400 rather than 1400, and chopping out Writing from SAT II.)

Ali Cheema said...

If NUS simply rejected a hell of a lot of people, I wouldn't have a problem, but I find it hard to fathom their admission policy sometimes. Clearly, doing your A-levels is a massive advantage, which really shouldn't be happening. Though some rejections would surprise me, it is quite often the acceptances that are as surprinsing :P.....And the first-come-first-served has to go if it's still in place. The time I applied, people started getting acceptances in February, which is two months BEFORE the application deadline. That is clearly unfair.

runinwild said...

I dont know any applicant with high SAT scores rejected by NUS!

Nabeel K said...

987 : 22000+

That's the official ratio of the sum of international students admitted, to that of the total number of international applicants - in ALL THREE universities [NUS, NTU, SMU]

*Lilian* said...

frankly, i think the admission process is sucky too... I got in but i know of ppl hu got better grates but din get in. Im in law so, yes, they put lots of emphasis on GP there but i know ppl hu got full marks in SAT. I feel bad for them. And the idea tat just coz u r better coz u have good results is just plain stupid...

Bilal said...

Errrr......2130>>SAT1 , 2400>SAT 2>>>>>SAMI TAHIR>>>PAKISTANI>>>lives in BLOCK 23 LEVEL B2 ROOM A>>>PGP :p..........nd as for "first come first sereve basis"........NO, because 17 Pakistanis came this year and half of them had applied in december and january, although the admissions opened in mid october and i know a few of my friends with good grades who even got rejected after they applied in mid-october..............and as for the GP criteria.....out of the 17 only three had given GP before coming, the rest gave QET,so that assupmtion is wrong too.

Nubeals said...

Bilal, I really think you should clarify what you mean by "good grades" because if it is O level grades or school mock examinations you're talking about, it really doesn't matter much. Also, I don't think we should start naming people here. Surprisingly this forum has become very popular and I'm sure the Office of Admissions has visited this post and seen the comments.

My observation for this year's cohort is that most of them spent a year in Pakistan after taking their A level exams before coming to NUS.

And excuse me for being incredibly anal, but you "take" tests or exams. You don't "give" them. Your professors or teachers or boards are the ones who GIVE exams and tests. You, the student, merely TAKE them. =)

Nabeel said...

But don't you think one guy in 17 is such a small proportion. And yes don't forget that he attended the IPhO this year and only a handful of NUS applicants come in that pool. IMO not more than 30 or 40 IPhO attendees can apply to NUS each year and the actual figure would be much less. So his is a special case and it perfectly is coherent with what is mentioned about the UAS in the Straits Times article mnetioned in the above post.
And then we all agree NUS's admission policy is flawed. If there is any consistency in the admission procedure then it is that if any 4 A applicant applies early(I guess within two months of applications opening up) then he/she gets in. Simple as that. The rest depends on the role of the die :(

Bilal said...

hahaha yea 'give' or 'take' u get the meaning good grades I meant above 6 A's in O-lvls and 4 A's in A-lvls.......Yea you are right, that almost all of us spent an year else where before coming here.....but may be its just the fact that the admissions office admitted too many pakistanis last year so they might have cut down the quota to what it was previously. I mean if you compare the intake of this year to the number of pakistanis in the third or fourth year, then the number of pakistani's admitted this time seems quite OK....doesn't seems like a big problem to me then :s.....yes but the fact remains ke A-lvls is being given a lot of preference.

Anonymous said...

What about the number of sittings the subjects were taken in?
NUS allows subjects taken in two sittings only...(within a span of 12 months)