Local and private universities - neither here nor there

This query comes from a student:

I am sorry if this was asked before, but I am really confused and distressed now. All my JC classmates have received offers from NUS, NTU, SMU or SUTD, yet I have been rejected by 3 of the above 4, one hasn't got back to me yet. Does this mean I have no choice but to study at a private university? I think the school fees for private unis are much more expensive than public ones, and I don't think my parents can afford to pay. Please do advise. :(

The Response:


There are options for you to consider, depending on your conviction towards your personal education and financial background.

Retake Your A-Levels

If you truly sense that a particular faculty in a certain university is the right one for you, where you can both effectively benefit from and contribute towards it, you will find the quiet resilience to find sustaining solutions to overcome obstacles in the one year of re-revision to re-sit for the A-Levels exams.

I took a young man and lady through their private A-Levels exams last year; one scored ‘B’ for Biology while the other emerged with ‘A’ grade. Both experienced the raw value of determination and resilience throughout the process, but perhaps the one who scored ‘B’ learnt some refined life lessons that many adults may never consider. Please see here (to be downloaded as attachment) for the student’s recent letter to me, on her struggles and reflections before, during, and after re-sitting for the A-Levels exams. See here for testimonials from both students and parents of one student.

You can also see thoughts by my acquaintance, Eric Chng, on his personal thoughtful views to another male student struggling with re-taking A-Levels exams.

Financial Support

As far as possible, A Levels should be the last set of exams a student needs to be directly forking out of her pocket with regards to educational fees—her subsequent tertiary and post-graduate education and support should be sponsored based on excellent A Level grades. Respectable sponsors should be pounding on your door to offer scholarships, and not the other way round.

But if you wish to immediately embark on a university program (e.g. in a private university), and need the financial support, banks do offer tuition fee loans to students. Some will only charge interest upon the student’s graduation. Do reasonably well during your tertiary studies to qualify for undergraduate bursaries and scholarships.


A successful person often has options. Sometimes, the greatest regret is the calculated risk that we did not take. You will do well to solemnly bear in mind your responsibility to others and self as you consider your options.

I wish you good health ahead.:)

Duncan Ang

(Senior Councilor: May 2013 - December 2020)

Answered On 25 June 2014