One year ago, in January 2016, I applied for Exchange abroad and was accepted. This was one of the most exciting moment of the year for me and I had been talking about my upcoming new adventures to everyone I know ever since. Now, we are in January 2017 and I safely landed in Singapore. This implies that everything went well and I am now a good source to talk about the whole application process. Yeah! Hopefully, this post can be useful for my fellow McGill students, especially the ones considering applying to the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore! The application process was extremly long so hopefully this post can help you.
For this, you will need to plan in advance. For the 2017 exchange application period, the deadline to apply is January 15th. The application process opens up in November, but I was told there is no advantage into applying early as the evaluation of the application is done after the deadline. So, my recommendation is to start looking early, but then to really take the time during your winter break and beginning of winter semester to prepare everything and apply at the beginning of January, maybe a week before the deadline.
The available list of schools to apply for can be found here. Definitely do your research properly before applying. I am a Computer Science and statistics Student, so it was really important for me to attend a school with a big computer science and/or mathematics department. Also, be careful that you do speak/read the teaching language in the university you are applying for. In Singapore, courses are taught in English, but it may not be the case if you applied for a school in China for example. If this is your case, you will have to fill a Language Proficiency Form and submit it to Service Point. Another factor to consider would be the period of teaching. Not all schools has the McGill system (September-December for Fall or January-April for Winter). If this becomes an issue, you may consider the year long exchange. I didn’t have this problem and simply applied for one semester abroad for Winter (or academic semester 2 as they call it here). Be careful of each countries’ system. Also, McGill recommends strongly going on exchange during a term that is not your last year so that you will have enough time when you come back to finish all your courses properly and to have all your credits processed before your graduation.
Apart from school, another issue you may consider would be the monetary needs. Countries like Singapore have a similar living cost as Canada, with housing being more expensive and food being less. European countries are known for having high living expenses. In general, just make sure you have the funds before choosing your dream destination. Also, do notice that McGill offers a Mobility Award of 1500$CAD to all students going on exchange. If you will be going to one of the U21 schools, you may get even more funding. I think there is a special application for that, like an essay to write. The Mobility Award needs no application and you only need to check on the form when asked if you want to be considered for one. Also, one of the biggest advantage of going on exchange is that you will pay the same tuition fee as the one you pay for McGill. If you are originally from Quebec, this is a pretty sweet deal. 😉
To be eligible to apply, you need a bare minimum of 3.0 GPA. If you do not have this grade, then consider talking to your advisor before applying as there is an application fee of 150$ and it would just be sad if you paid that amount for nothing. University assignations are based on GPA and statement of purpose, so if you have very low grade, you should probably chose universities that are not too popular to increase your chances of getting in. The most popular schools are: Melbourne, Sydney, UHK, Edinburgh, NUS, and UCL.
In total, you can apply to four schools and will have to rank your preference for each school. The application will also ask you to find eight courses you will strongly consider studying over there. McGill has a website with all the previously accepted course equivalency list. You don’t need course approval yet as you are only applying right now to many different universities. The reason they ask this is to make sure you did proper research for the courses you can take there and have a list of what you may want to take. Keep this list aside because you will need it again later.
The application is done from Minerva (McGill website for any administration stuff). You will need to write a Statement of Purpose explaining why you want to go to the each university you are applying for. The statement of purpose should be approximately half a page. This is an important step as your acceptance in the program depends solely on this and your grades. So be ready to do a lot of research about the school and explain why you want to go there so badly. I don’t remember if the host university will read your letter, but I know for sure that McGill will. So be careful on explaining why McGill should send you over, what you can offer to the host school and then bring back to the McGill community. I talked about sharing my experiences and encouraging my fellow students to apply too (hehe, doing it right now with this blog post!)
Within 2 weeks after the application deadline, you will see on your Minerva application whether you had been accepted by your Faculty (I am in Faculty of Science) or not. The person in charge will read your statement of purpose, see your grades, approve your application and rank you accordingly. While some applicants will be assigned by Faculty-specific places, others will have to go through the lottery. I believe my application (and most science and art students’ applications) went through the lottery, aka an algorithm to assign students. McGill has a specific algorithm to assign students to host universities and the ranking decides on the order each applicant is processed. From what I was told, the algorithm makes multiple round of decision. For round one, they will look at each student ranked 1 by their faculty and try to assign a school based on their top 4 choices. If nothing were assigned, they put the student in a queue and move on to the round 2. Each university normally has a quota of 6 students although it depends on the supply/demand of each year. When the algorithm went through every student, it then tries to assign students with no university to ones with available places. The students with no assigned school at the end may process to round two. Statistically speaking, 70% of students get their first or second choice.
The official nomination is released by the end of February. You will receive an email telling you to go check on Minerva and accept the offer. Now, you officially have the status of “nominated” for exchange at X university.
Before Official Application
Before you receive any news from NTU, you can already start preparing in advance. Make sure you have a valid passport. Canadians don’t need a visa to enter Singapore, but it may be different if you hold a different nationality. Also, NTU will specifically issue a Student Pass which will allow you to travel in/out of Singapore and visit other countries. More about this later. Another thing you may consider looking into is course approval. The thing with NTU is that it does not publicize its outlines so it will be extremly hard to start planning ahead for course approvals. Although advisors from the science faculty recommends preparing in advance, my friends who went to NTU before recommend just waiting for the start of classes to submit the course approval forms. As long as the course title and content are similar, it will not be too hard to get course approval. If you are uncomfortable with this approach, you can try emailing the teachers or past students to get hold of course outlines. Also, do notice that a few of the courses are already approved thanks to previous students who went on exchange before you.
Wait for your email to arrive! Each school will have different time frame so do not worry about it. It will definitely come (I remember mine arriving at the beginning of September which is a bit late compared to m friend who got hers at the beginning of summer). When the email arrives, it implies filling up an application form for the host university and have a course plan ready (I remember I needed a list of 10 courses). Have an electronic version of an OFFICIAL transcript, a passport scanned and a picture of yourself in passport size format. It is a simple process and I remember having to get a signature from Service Point. If this step is done properly, you can except to receive an an official enrollment letter for the beginning of November.
Receiving E-Welcome Package
In November, you will receive an E-Welcome Package from NTU which includes your official enrollment letter. You will have to fill a few more forms about your health situation, either you want dorm accommodation, etc. It will also explain the application process for the Student Pass, which costs 30$. Within a week after you apply for the Student Pass, you should be receiving an official IPA letter you will need to bring with you to Singapore.
In late November, you will receive a list of approved courses from NTU. I got 8 of my 10 courses approved. If needed, I could also ask for more courses. It is recommended to have at least 6 approved courses so then when you register for courses later on, you have flexibility. After all, courses may overlap in time period or some courses may not interest you after you start attending them. In late December, you will receive a list of courses you are registered for. I was registered for 5 courses, but I intend on dropping one and only having 4 courses for my exchange semester. To do so, you will have to wait for the Add/Drop period. You will use STARS Planner to create and visualize a possible schedule. However, registration can only be changed on the STARS site, which only opens up during the Add-Drop period for Exchange students.
Furthermore, at the beginning of December, you should be receiving a letter telling you if you received residence allocation or not. In my case and the cases of people I knew, we all got a hall allocation. It may not always be the case, but from what I heard, NTU built a few new buildings this year which is why the chances of getting a room is higher.
Other Things To Remember
Here is a TO DO list of things to take care of before going:
- Buy airplane tickets
- Have visa/passport/ICA letter so you can enter Singapore
- Buy health insurance (you may opt to go with the SSMU’s Student Care program)
- Find accommodation (I received dorm assignation, but if it is not your case, you may want to hunt a roommate on the Facebook groups)
- Complete a Travel Registry Form on Minerva.
- Tell your bank you are leaving (most banks don’t need this, but just in case you may want to)
- Get all your vaccinations. Singapore needs at least the Hepatitis A shot. Other ones suggest for South Eastern Asia countries are: Diphtheria, Hepatitis B, Polio, Tetanus, Tuberculosis, Typhoid and Rabies. My recommendation is to take an appointment with the local travel clinic to go over what you have and what you need before traveling.
- Print all documents you will need (passport, IPA letter, enrollment letter)
Here is a list of things to take care of when in Singapore:
- Buy SIM card (or find a way to have a number in Singapore)
- Set up a Bank Account
- Change Currency (at least enough for transport and maybe one week of food, etc)
- Recharge NETS card to be able to take public transport
That’s all for now! This was really long to write =_= Anyway, just make sure you read each email you get properly and act accordingly (sign everything, pay everything!). Don’t be too worried and everything will go smoothly I am sure! McGill organizes an Exchange Prep event in November and I would strongly recommend to attend if you want to meet other students going to the same destination as you do!
That’s all for now, but I will definitely post more this year about my experience. Exchange is a huge part of my 2017 year so I want to share my experience on this blog for anyone who may be curious to learn more.