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The Next Step: College

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

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Congratulations! You have finally graduated secondary school and you are about to venture into the next big chapter of your life, college! Kickstarting your dream, planning your future career, widening your social circle, having fun… Wait a minute. Which college should you pick? There are so many choices out there! On top of that, how do you even apply?

From kindergarten to secondary school, a lot of our choices, especially when it comes to our education, were made by our parents and we simply follow the path chosen for us. This time around, you are to make a choice that affects your entire life, which is why you should know the basics of choosing a college that suits you.

The cherry-picking process

If you have already figured out what field to venture into, it is time to make a list of colleges that are known for their expertise in the specific field you are interested in. All you need is Google and a notebook for this. Websites such as EasyUni and EduAdvisor are solid platforms for you to check out, but you could always utilize other platforms for this. If you are not sure of what to study yet, look at Pre-U courses that are more flexible.

Once you have compiled a list of your ‘targeted’ colleges, visit the official websites of the colleges, as it is where you would get the most information about them. Also, head to education fairs or open days to talk to counsellors and lecturers from the colleges. It would be great to speak to the lecturers as they can provide clear insights for you to decide which course suits you best. You could also opt for virtual open days arranged by the institutions.

Now, if you are interested in applying for public universities or polytechnic schools, Malaysian Matriculation and TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) are great choices. You can apply through UPUOnline, a public institution registration department under the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE). Often, your secondary school would encourage you to apply for these choices and provide you with information as well.

College accreditation

You will always want to pay for quality education. An accredited college and course will ensure that for you. All officially recognised courses are registered under the Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA), a body established in 2007 to regulate the standards of all higher education programmes as stated in Act 679 of Malaysian law. You can use Malaysia Qualifications Register (MQR) to determine the accreditation of a college or course.

The quality of a course balanced under MQA’s set standards will be similar to modules taught by other institutions. Hence, it makes transferring easier when you wish to continue your studies at another university. While a college’s reputation is something we often consider, the authorization of it is just as necessary.

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Environment check!

If you do not want to regret your life choices, do inspect your campus’ environment. After all, the comfort of your surroundings should not be overlooked as you will be spending years on campus. Reach out to colleges through the provided contact information and schedule a physical appointment with them. Ask for a tour around the campus to look at the facilities, and observe the social environment of your future college. Alternatively, look out for university open days!

Of course, due to the ongoing pandemic and the restrictions in place, you can look out for virtual tours and events, if offered by the institution. Many universities hold online events now and then, giving prospective students the perfect opportunity to understand how people interact at the institution.

Another tip is to browse through college-related social media pages to find out the atmosphere of the campus. Besides, talking to someone who studies there is amongst the best ways to visualise what campus life is like. Again, speak to a lecturer to gain insights into the social environment and culture of a school.

Applying and NOT breaking the bank

A round of applause for you if you have already determined your college choice. It is time for enrollment! Application and enrollment should be easy, as it is done under the advisor’s guidance. To be safe, bring your guardian with you during this stage. Don’t forget to bring your important documents with you! That includes your SPM/IGCSE certificates and your identity card.

Looking for financial bursaries? Scholarships are often separated into three types, namely institutional scholarships, corporational scholarships, and student loans. Institutional scholarships are offered by your selected institutions, depending on how well you score on your SPM/IGCSEs. On the other hand, corporational scholarships are granted by external companies. It is rarely seen, and the beneficiaries are normally required to work for a certain period under these companies. Besides, the application process is tricky as it needs to be acknowledged by your institution. Lastly, student loans. The easiest way to apply for one is with PTPTN, through your college’s guidance. Note that PTPTN is only applicable for Diploma, Degree, and selected Postgraduate studies. If you score first-class honours for your Degree, you will be free from repaying the loan.

Do keep track of the payment method offered by the institutions! There are varying payment methods available, some require you to pay monthly, some by semester, and some annually. Make sure you choose the one that is most suited for your financial situation. Remember to pay on time to avoid extra charges.

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I am afraid...

Starting college also means getting out of your safe haven. For almost anyone entering a new social setting, one main concern would be finding new friends. Rest assured, you will eventually make friends through group assignments, projects, and extracurricular activities.

Of course, tertiary education is hectic. Therefore, time management issues become a common fear around starting college. Well, scheduling is something that takes time for most of us to learn. That is one of the benefits of going to college! Through coursework and studies, you get to work on your soft skills like time management, problem-solving and critical thinking. Through this, you will only get better at it. If you need tips on balancing between work and rest, check out this article!

Being young and short on money, budgeting becomes a common concern among us. This could simply be aided by tweaking our habits. If you are short on money, take public transport, plan out essential expenses, and get a side hustle. Your future self will thank you for practising personal finance planning.

For those who are studying away from home, you might feel lonely, homesick and detached from your surroundings. As the saying goes, “friends are the family you can choose,” so look for a healthy support system from where you study. Remember to contact your family and friends when you miss them!

Now that you are well equipped with the fundamental ins and outs of entering college, go on and have fun and chase your dreams! Good luck with your new beginnings. Trust the process, and you will be alright.

By Erica Loh


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