Frequent Questions Answered – Part One

With help from the United Stated Education Information Center, we have come up with a list of the most frequent questions about American tertiary education and here we aim to address them to help foster understanding of the wealth of educational opportunities that exists in the United States.

Q: Is this University “recognized” in Singapore?

A: The Singapore government does not formally recognize or not recognize any schools outside of Singapore.  The broad guidance is that so long as the school is regionally accredited by one of the six regional accreditation bodies in the United States then it is a bone fide institution.  For those looking to go into engineering, medicine, dentistry, architecture, or law then you will need to check with the professional bodies in Singapore that keep lists of approved schools.

Q: Is this university “good”?

A: With over 3,400 universities in the United States and numerous competing rankings publications this is a complex question.  The short answer is that some universities are better than others and all universities have specific strengths and weaknesses.  When choosing which schools to apply to, the strengths of specific programs at the school must be taken into account as well as the general “name brand”.  For example, a student looking to study media and communications would be better going to a school like Syracuse that has an exceptional program even though it is isn’t in anyone’s general top 10 list.  Generally speaking, so long as it is a regionally accredited four-year college then the education will be sound, otherwise it will loose its accreditation status!

Q: Do I need to take the TOEFL/SAT?

A: Yes.  The SAT Reasoning Test is required for nearly every university and the SAT Subject Tests are required for some of the elite schools.  Taking the TOEFL is always a good idea as many Americans do not realize that Singapore is indeed not a province of China and English is the medium of instruction.

Q: Can I get “exemptions” for my A’ Levels or Poly Diploma?

A: Generally speaking, yes.  However, the amount of credits or exemptions awarded will vary widely from school to school with the universities setting their own policies that change often.  The better the school is, the fewer exemptions will be awarded.  If you are in doubt regarding a specific school, then check with the admissions office on what  the present policy is.

Q: Can I start at one university and then transfer to a “better” school?

A: In theory, yes; in practice, no.  The best schools normally only accept as many transfer students as they loose to attrition and drop outs.  Thus, a school like Columbia University will only accept a handful of transfer students each year from hundreds of applications.  Large state-funded schools  have a mandate to accept transfer students from the community college system but local residents will be given preference over foreign students.

Q: Can I go to university with just my O’ Levels?

A: Yes.  Students with strong O’ Levels and good SAT scores can gain admission into many excellent schools.  However, the Ivy League schools and those in the University of California system require A’ Levels or a poly diploma for students in the local system.

Q: Are private universities better than public universities?

A: No.  Some public schools are among the best in the world and some private schools are horrible.