Gwyn Reviews: the NTU Counselling Centre

Mental health in youths is the In Thing now. There’s been a proliferation of ground-up and top-down initiatives targeting this issue in the past year, with even the Singapore government publicly committing to progressive improvements (albeit not reforms). This leads us to the questions: what resources are available, and are they adequate?

For me, there was one FREE resource under my nose I’d neglected for the longest time: the school counsellor. Yes – after more than four years in university and pursuing two psychology (!) degrees, I finally reached out to the NTU University Counselling Centre (UCC). This post will describe my experience seeking counselling services from the NTU UCC.

Sections to be covered (Ctrl-F to skip to a section directly, e.g. [1]):

[1] Why people don’t always seek help
[2] Booking the appointment + waiting time
[3] The actual counselling session

Even though I visited a university counsellor, I expect the overall experience to be generalisable, so youths of other ages and institutions may still find this post applicable. Students not from NTU/uni may skip [2], though I’d still recommend you read everything.

My goal here is to encourage help-seeking on my readers’ part: if you feel like you’re facing difficulties with your mental health in any way, go to a professional if you can. Don’t wait until your stresses boil over and you find yourself in a state of burnout (speaking from experience).


[1] THE PREAMBLE: WHY PEOPLE DON’T ALWAYS SEEK HELP

Considering I’m a psychology graduate, it’s ironic how I’ve never seen a counsellor. I mean, I’ve studied under clinical practitioners. Hell, I took a counselling module once, where my counselling skills were assessed. (Minor flex: I was the “top performer” in the cohort for that module. But look at where I am now. So.) Either way, I’ve never been a client.

That’s not to say I never considered the prospect of seeking help – I just never got around to doing so.

The point is: there’s a gap between intention and action that many of us find ourselves stuck in. You know (from the indelicate “oh mental health is superrrr important and we shouldn’t neglect it” narrative that we’re bombarded by) that seeking help is good, but… you just can’t seem to bring yourself through the steps to get there.

Granted, not everyone has the energy or time to seek professional help. There exists a multitude of (valid) reasons people don’t. Here are mine in the past that I cycled through at my convenience:

  • I am busy / I have too much work / I don’t have time / it’s too much of a hassle
  • It might not help me / I could just talk to my friends or family 
  • It’s too expensive* (high-SES private therapists can go up to $180/h)

*So I found a free service. Baby steps, my friends.

Tl;dr: in deciding to seek help, you must believe that the value you’re receiving is worth the investment you’re making. In describing my experience with counselling below, I hope to demonstrate the value that counselling can bring. It will not solve all your problems – but it might get you closer to addressing them.


[2] BOOKING THE APPOINTMENT + WAITING TIME

Send help, am suffering

What prompted me to request an appointment was a stressful episode midway in the semester. Long story short, I felt that I wasn’t living up to my unattainable standards and doing terribly compared to my peers. A common experience, I guess, but with sufficient intensity to shut me down for three consecutive days – a significant amount of time when you’re running on weekly deadlines. Then, I saw an email advising students to seek help at the UCC if they needed it. LOL. This whole scenario reads like a comedy advertisement.

The appointment request form is on this page (login credentials required), but you can email the UCC at ucc-students@ntu.edu.sg or call 67904462. Getting to the request page is NOT an intuitive process (take note NTU); from a Google Search of “NTU counselling”, you need a minimum of four clicks on the correct links to get there.

The specific order is Student Intranet > Student Wellbeing (under Student Services) > Counselling > Making Appointments (Students) (under Student Wellbeing) – like how many Student Wellbeings do I need to see before I get to my destination LMFAO.

hello sgsecure? i am insecure

The intake call

Surprise, surprise: the appointment booking form I filled was not, in fact, for the counselling appointment. It was for an intake call. They contacted me through my email to arrange a call, and after some back and forth, we agreed on a timing. Anyway, they forgot to call me at the stipulated timing on the day itself, and I had to write in after a 15-min period of radio silence to remind them.

The intake call is a means of gathering initial information about the client through a series of questions (for the nitty-gritty, read here). The lines of enquiry that stood out to me were:

  • Any current issues/life transitions/symptoms experienced in the past month
  • My reason for seeking counselling; what I expect to get out of counselling
  • Any intentions for self-harm? (They were particularly meticulous about this)
  • Existing sources of social support I could draw upon

Naturally, I wanted to see the counsellor ASAP, but they informed me that the next appointment wasn’t available until a month later. I remember responding: the semester would have ended by that time – what would I have to talk about then? Can’t be helped, the caller essentially replied. It was crunch time for them because everyone gets stressed around the exam/assignment period. So, ironically, the time when students are most vulnerable is precisely when they are least likely to get opportune help because the centre can’t cope with the demand.

OK, well, whatever. I booked the appointment for the following month and promptly forgot about it. Later, I had to postpone it for another week because I had an urgent deadline that cropped up, which was a hassle. The other thing about UCC’s booking system is that it is internally and manually managed. There is no convenient online portal that you can log onto – like that of polyclinics – to book or reschedule appointments. You have to write/call in to deconflict and haggle for the timing that works best for you AND them.


[3] FINALLY, THE ACTUAL COUNSELLING SESSION

24 for me but same same

Counsellors, therapists, and psychiatrists

Before we proceed, a note between the differences between a counsellor and (psycho)therapist because there is a common misconception that they are the same. If you’re wondering where clinical psychologists are, they fall under the umbrella of therapists. Finally, neither counsellors nor therapists are psychiatrists, who are specialised medical doctors and the only ones that can prescribe medication for mental disorders. (Confused? This resource may help clarify.)

Therapists undergo more specialised training focusing on diagnosis and treatment, and minimally require a Master’s to practise professionally. Counselling does not require a Master’s, though there is a certification requirement of a few hundred hours of supervised training. The above does not mean one profession is better than the other – it just means they address different needs of the client. A counsellor is well-equipped to handle immediate problems causing distress and is a resource bank of coping strategies that the client can draw upon during trying times.

Think of counsellors as the “first line of defence”. If your symptoms are severe such that a counsellor’s assistance is insufficient, your case will be escalated to a psychologist or psychiatrist for further attention. But for many, seeing a counsellor will be enough. I think of counsellors as similar to GPs. We all get sick once in a while, and so seeking regular check-ups is a good habit to cultivate. But sometimes we have severe or recurring symptoms beyond their expertise, and that’s when they refer you to a specialist.  

Nice to e-meet you

I opted for an online call because I didn’t want to travel down to Pulau NTU. Ah, the joys of technology! My counsellor was randomly assigned to me – I didn’t get to choose. I won’t disclose her name for privacy reasons, but she was sweet and approachable. And a great listener.

We started in an open-ended fashion, where she invited me to share what I’ve been up to and any challenges that I’d been facing recently. I’m a great rambler (ideal client type), so I wasted no time and jumped straight into rattling off all my problems. Throughout my monologues, she remained highly engaged, interjecting appropriately during my pauses.

When I shared my chronic belief of never being good enough, she gently guided me to elaborate and interrogate the causes of this belief. Examples:  

  • When did I start feeling this way?
  • Is it really feasible to be the best at something (all the time)?
  • How do I deal with situations when I do not meet my expectations?
  • What is my relationship with myself?

As I attempted to answer these questions, I found myself exploring dusty places in my mind. I realised I possessed thought and action patterns that I had simply accepted as normal and automatically used without noticing their impact on me through the years. It was a pleasant surprise when her questions decentred me, throwing me off my usual line of self-talk, and pointed me in new directions to explore. It was exciting.

What I really liked was the new perspective that she offered to the things I took for granted. It’s easy to believe that we know everything about ourselves – after all, we live with the voices in our heads 24/7. And I’d already had extensive conversations with my loved ones and mentors before about the struggles I faced. While they are indubitably a valuable source of social support, I stopped learning anything new about myself from those repeated conversations at some point. So, gaining an outsider’s perspective was illuminating.

Problem-focused coping is my passion

Before ending the session, she provided me with a few coping methods to try over a few weeks. She mainly proposed journaling with specific adjustments. I mentioned that I have a habit of reviewing my day in writing, so she commended me (LOL) and recommended further minutiae I could try. Namely:

  • Write down the events of the day. Next, identify and label the emotions I experienced – positive or negative. Then validate them: was it reasonable to feel this way, given the circumstances? Would others have felt the same in similar situations?
  • If there are negative thoughts, create a separate column to reframe them: rewrite them as valuable takeaways to learn from.
  • Write one positive thing about myself every day (basically gratitude journaling), e.g. “I am proud of myself for powering through the day!”

You might think these sound commonsensical. I’d already learnt all of it before, and I know that these are helpful in theory. The thing is (again): it never occurred to me to practise doing these things. She reiterated that I don’t have to be ambitious or perfectionistic about this whole journaling endeavour: start small and build up slowly. The same goes for mental health, really – it’s a process.

Finally, we scheduled our second appointment for a month later, since one hour was grossly inadequate to work through two decades of self-doubt. Afterwards, she emailed me a cute diagram with tips on cognitive restructuring.

i will NOT break down today

UNTIL THE NEXT APPOINTMENT…

In summary, I would rate my experience as:

  • Appointment process: 2.5/5, as mediocre as me, needs improvement
  • Counselling experience: 5/5, exceeded expectations, would recommend to all

I firmly believe that counselling is a resource that everyone deserves and should use to better their well-being. I say this based on my experience seeking counselling and as a psychology graduate. The good news is that there are now many free counselling services available (see the end of this post for a list of community resources), and one’s educational institution is a great place to start.

Ultimately, my hope is that seeing a counsellor can be as normalised as going to your GP for a physical ailment. Fortunately, with mental health awareness steadily increasing in Singapore, that doesn’t seem such a far-off goal now. That being said, there’s always room for improvement… but that’s a story for another time.

Wishing you all wealth and health and that you will meet the counsellor who helps you flourish and be your best self! 

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Update (4/1/22): Dr Lim from the University Wellbeing Office commented on this post with further resources for NTU students!

Thank you for promoting and your championing of mental health and wellbeing for our youths. Regarding my suggestion to include a link for the students, you could consider this: https://ts.ntu.edu.sg/sites/intranet/student/dept/uwo/resources/Pages/default.aspx (NTU student intranet under UWO webpage). This page has different categories of self-help and will encourage exploration of the different resources and services available to the youths.

APPENDIX: USEFUL COMMUNITY RESOURCES

Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service
ec2.sg
[Live chat] Mon-Fri: 10am-12pm; 2pm-5pm (Closed on Public Holidays)
e-Counselling Centre

Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH)
1800 283 7019; 6283 1576
Toll-Free Helpline from 9am-6pm on weekdays (except public holidays)
counselling@samhealth.org.sg
A helpline for all mental health-related matters

Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT)
https://www.chat.mentalhealth.sg/get-help/About_webCHAT/
6493 6500 / 01
chat@mentalhealth.sg
webCHAT operates from Tues to Sat, 1pm-8pm
Provides a confidential and personalised mental health check for young persons between 16 and 30 years old. CHAT is NOT a counselling or crisis service

Touch Community Services
1800 377 2252
Mon to Fri from 9am-6pm
TOUCHLine Youth Counselling Service

Care Corner
1800 3535 800
Daily from 10am-10pm (excluding public holidays)
Toll-free Mandarin Counselling Hotline

National Care Hotline
1800-202-6868
Provides emotional and psychological support to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

IMH Emergency Help Line (24h)
6389 2222
Urgent intervention for those experiencing acute difficulties in their mental health

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) (24h)
1800 221 4444
pat@sos.org.sg
Facebook Messenger (6pm-6am on Mon to Thu and from 6pm-11:59pm on Fri)
A 24-hour suicide prevention helpline to provide emotional support for those in distress

Mental Health Services Resource Directory

*The above are unabashedly taken from a school email, no shame, thanks NTU

Gwyn Reviews: the Cuddle™ Cool 2.0 Weighted Blanket

Are you WEIGHED DOWN by your enormous responsibilities in everyday life? Do you ever feel like you could SINK INTO THE FLOOR and stay there forever? Look no further, for you can now replicate this EXISTENTIAL HEAVINESS even in SLEEP… except that this time you will relish every moment of it.

you don’t have to deal with life if you’re unconscious.

Yes. I took the leap of faith and bought a weighted blanket online during a recent sale. I’ve been meaning to do it for a long time (since I came across a Reddit post swearing by it years ago) but never got around to it until now. And it seems like I’m not the only one whose interest is piqued by this revolutionary technology! So you guys are going to get exactly what you want: a review of my experience with my new weighted blanket from Cuddle Beddings. (…I guess you could say I am weighing in with my opinion… LOL).

Note that I was not sponsored for this post – it’s written entirely volitionally, if only because 1) I love to sleep and I find it super fun to discuss sleeping and 2) my fans asked for it and 3) I have nothing better to do. But Cuddle Beddings is welcome to invite me to join them as a brand ambassador or upgrade me to Forever VVVIP status anytime. (Don’t worry – I will be sure to tag them 300 times on social media to drive home this once-in-a-lifetime invitation for them.)

Below are the main points I’ll be cover-ing.

  • The blanket (price, dimensions, weight, look, texture, etc.)
  • User experience (pros and cons, thoughts)

THE BLANKET – LAY IT ON ME, BABY

The blanket I got is named the CUDDLE™ Cool 2.0 Weighted Blanket from Cuddle Beddings on Shopee. Tbh I just swiped it because it came up on top of my search listings for “weighted blanket” and it had the word COOL in it (you know those fabrics that promise that icy sensation… I CRAVE it). It comes in all shapes and sizes (literally) – there’s a variant each for kids(?!), super single, queen, and King-sized beds. For adults, the weight ranges from 6-11kg. All are grey in colour but it doesn’t matter to me since most of the time I will spend with it is in darkness anyway.

I got the Queen-sized (accommodates 2), 7kg. I paid ~$165 after discounts, but as of this post, it’s retailing at a base price of $228. You’ll be paying minimally $200+. Included in the package was a “free” quilt cover. The whole blanket can fit three of me, so it’s sufficient for two people plus some extra room to wiggle around. It’s stitched in a way that divides it into many equally-sized squares, apparently to ensure an “even distribution of weight”. I’m not sure how it works, but I can testify that the weight feels evenly distributed to me when I drape it over my Tired Body.

As for care and hygiene, the rule of thumb for weighted blankets seems to be to avoid washing the blanket itself, because it may mess up the materials. Instead, wash the quilt cover regularly. (Update: I asked CB about this and they say it’s OK to machine wash it. I’d still avoid doing so though.)

here’s what CB (oh well) claims goes into the bedding material.

Oh look, they have a Cuddle (Sizing) Guide too. I would’ve gotten a lighter one if I could, but the minimum weight for the queen-sized is 7kg. A casual guide for my readers based on my experience: if you’re xmm-sized, get 5-6kg at most. I’m 42kg and 7kg is pushing it, though not suffocatingly so. If you’re guy or a tall/beautiful/thriving lady, also start off with 7kg. A few other (male) reviewers have commented that 9kg is heavy even for them. Also, the heavier it gets, the harder it is to lift and carry around. The weight clearly has implications for your sleep too, which I will explore next.

bought something fit for a Queen but the crown is too heavy for me??

USER EXPERIENCE

The night I received the blanket, I was so excited I jumped straight into bed with it. I didn’t even bother putting on the quilt. And BOY were my lights knocked OUT good. My whole being dissipated into a void. I woke up feeling like I couldn’t move (more so than usual), but in a sickly pleasurable kind of way. Like I wanted MORE.

oh my god.

After my first night of fitful sleep, I decided to try sleeping with my ordinary unweighted blanket over the next few days to assess if the weighted blanket made any difference. I only managed to do this for 3 days, because honestly, the temptation to return to CB was too much to resist. And that ties into my first major point about weighted blankets – once you start using them, it’s hard to go back. For better or for worse, you’re in for it once you try them. Some people liken this to an addiction. It has the same effect as discovering bubble tea, I guess.

Here are some observations based on my flawed A-B-A-B experimental design.

How does the blanket feel?

(At this moment, typing this section below, I am lying on my bed with the weighted blanket up to my shoulders for maximum immersion.)

When you get under the blanket, it takes a few moments to “flatten”. What happens is that the blanket will mould itself to snugly fit your shape. This means air pockets are minimised and most of your skin will be in contact with the blanket or your bed. It’s warmer compared to a microfibre blanket, which is what I used before. I wouldn’t say it’s cool though. It can get quite warm under the blanket because there’s less room for air to circulate. I keep myself close to the edge of the blanket at night so I can flap it quickly in case it gets too warm.

Also if you’re wondering, given its name: compared to an ordinary blanket, it does mimic the feeling of a cuddle. Of course, it can’t fully replicate the warmth and comfort from your live/breathing/snoring crush, but it gets pretty close, and does it better than a bolster (or a blowup doll, whatever your preference).

i am a toasty cinnamon bun.

Did it help me sleep better?

I fall asleep faster for sure. The overall effect feels like something is lightly pressing down on your whole body, but in a friendly, coaxing manner, lulling you into dreamland. You know that trippy state when you’re falling asleep but not quite yet, where reality warps and it feels like an angel is coming to take you to heaven? This blanket extends that feeling by getting you there faster, so you can languish in that state for just a while longer before you drift away into nothingness.

The downside of this is that it’s harder to wake up. I have long-running issues with snoozing and getting out of bed on time, and the introduction of the blanket only exacerbates my oversleeping habit. The reason for this is that the pressure of the blanket has a calming (paralysing) effect on your muscles i.e. you have to exert more willpower to summon them back into your command in the morning. For example, I intended to wake up today at 10:30am to work on this post, but I only sat up at 12pm. So there’s that – if you’re unsure of how heavy you like it, err on the side of caution and get a lighter blanket, so it’s easier to kick off in the morning.

On sleep quality – I don’t feel more or less refreshed waking up, compared to an ordinary blanket. My dreams were also unaffected: I continue to have visions with talking fish heads garnished with a looming fear of failure. Or sometimes less exciting ones. The evidence is unclear on whether weighted blankets in general help with insomnia and other disorders that affect sleep like anxiety. There’s anecdotal evidence, yes, but it’s not a panacea as their advertisements appear to promise. You’ll need more than a product if you want to fundamentally transform your sleep quality (like a commitment to regular sleeping hours, less screentime at night, getting medical treatment for respiratory problems, you know, things that actually require effort).

IN SUMMARY: IT’S WORTH ITS WEIGHT

Whether a weighted blanket is right for you depends on how you define better sleep. If it means falling asleep faster, a weighted blanket might just be your new best friend. If you’re expecting to wake up like a supermodel in like what, a Kotex ad, probably not. But you will at least enjoy going to bed more with a weighted blanket.

Long story short, I am Super Satisfied (5/5 stars) with my purchase of this CUDDLE™ Cool 2.0 Weighted Blanket from Cuddle Beddings. It’s one of those things that you could live without but concretely improves your quality of life once you start using it. At first glance, the price is enough to make you think twice, but it qualifies as a good long-term investment since I’m expecting to use this for years to come. After all, considering I’ll spend at least a third of my life in bed, I might as well enjoy the time there. With that, I’ll see you guys in my dreams where I’m rich and famous…

goodnight, sleep tight, & don’t let the bed bugs bite.

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a review of IDS Skincare… by a skincare noob (#2)

Welcome back to Gwyneth’s conquest towards her #BeautifulBareFace. My journey is a three-part series detailing my collaboration with IDS, and this is the second post. If you’re new, head on over to the first post where I detail the skincare regime they initially prescribed me and my skin’s subsequent response.

This round, I will recap my second visit to IDS, which included adjustments to my skincare regime and a luxurious facial worth as much as my soul. I will also review my skin condition after 4 weeks of exclusive commitment to their products, because I am now a Changed Woman who can commit to healthy habits.

Mandatory disclaimer: I received products and services from IDS in exchange for this review. Nonetheless, I will strive to provide a fair evaluation of what worked for me and what didn’t, where applicable. Although I am a skincare noob, rest assured I compensate for it with my research skills.

Select Page 2 below to continue reading.

How to Win the NTU Star Wars… and other FAQs

I get a lot of questions from juniors in NTU. But I only have so many hours in a day, so I made this FAQ which should serve to answer most of your questions. I will continually update this list as new questions come along. If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

For more quality content like this, subscribe by entering your email under the “VIP Club” section on the right side of the page! Or follow me at @gwynethtyt directly for more clownery and live updates. I’ll see y’all soon…

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How do I win the NTU STAR WARS?

Here’s what worked for me (I got virtually every mod I wanted as an undergraduate).

Prepping for War

  • Split your modules into three plans.
    • The first two plans will ONLY have your cores and major electives. GER-Cores come under here too.
    • The first is your plan A, and you should populate it with your first-choice modules. Make sure they do not clash and that you do not have more AUs than you should have (people who hoard modules are trash). If you want to maximise your chances of getting the mods you want, consider selecting those with less popular tutorial timeslots. At least you’re in the module – you can swap indexes later.
    • The second is plan B, which contains the modules that you’re willing to settle for – there should be no overlaps with A. Plan B’s actually optional, because even if you lose the first round, you can play the waiting game to get all the modules you want eventually.
    • The third plan, the “essential afterthought”, consists of everything else – GER-PEs, UEs, or ICCs/BDEs as they now call it. Speed does not matter for these modules because ballotting, so just take your time to rank and submit after you’ve recovered from the initial shock of submitting Plan 1 and 2.
  • Use time.is – the STARS system is well-aligned with it.
  • In your free time or let’s say about 20-30 minutes before the actual war, practice holding the button from around XX:XX:55 onwards and release just as the clock turns to XX:XX:00. The system will indicate to you the time – if you’re in the “next minute”, you’ve succeeded. Practice releasing as early as possible while not being too early, because a mistake later during the actual bidding will cost you.
  • Sit really close to your Wi-Fi source, or use a desktop PC (those ethernet-wired ones). It worked for me, especially with the latter, but it might be a placebo effect.
  • Load up the page about 10 minutes before the actual timing and keep loading your modules in intervals of 30s. I am paranoid so I was loading every 15s LOL. This is so the page doesn’t expire by the time you submit your mods.
  • I read online that some people use two devices i.e. a computer and their phone to bid at the same time. I think that is hilariously dramatic and I did not need to do that, but whatever works amirite?

The What War?

  • When you submit Plan 1/2, another page will launch asking you to rank the modules. You do not need to rank the modules. Just locate and select the button at the bottom to submit.
  • The page may freeze. DO NOT close it. That’s what I did once when I panicked and I lost big time. Just wait, even though your heart wants to jump out of your chest and your mind is SPINNING.
  • … [processing] …
  • If you win, congratulations! No further action is required on your part. Do your little victory dance, submit Plan 3, and text your friends.
  • If/when you lose, DO NOT PANIC. Do NOT launch your email application in a fruitless attempt to complain to your school office – they will not be able to do anything for you at this point.
    • Speaking of which, keep an eye out for emails from your admin. They will usually be around to resolve any cohort issues (but not your individual ones, so don’t waste their time).
    • More slots for your modules are likely to be released periodically through the remainder of the day. Some say it is 5-10pm, but check back every 15 minutes anyway. It’s not as if you’ll be able to focus on anything else.
    • If you have a group chat with your coursemates, start posting your deets to exchange mods. First-come-first-serve!

The Aftermath

  • Contrary to popular opinion(?), THIS is actually the stage where I got most of the modules I wanted.
  • Sometimes I wrote to the office and pulled the 2nd major/exchange card (scientia potentia est, ladies and gentlemen).
  • Most other times I simply waited for the add/drop period and camped religiously at the STARS planner page. I would check back every 30 minutes or so waiting for people to drop the modules through the first and second week (esp. following the first lessons). I checked during class, outside class, when I woke up, before I slept. I usually got my modules by the end of the first week. Yeah so kinda anticlimactically, for me it was really just patience and persistence that sealed the deal.
  • I know some students write directly to professors, but it depends on the prof’s personality. I never used this method because I didn’t want to inconvenience others (the admin who has to accommodate extra slots, and the other students and professor who may have to bear the brunt of an overloaded class) and I don’t like it.
  • Even if you don’t get the modules you want, try something else and you might find yourself in for a surprise! I do have modules I regret taking (everyone does), and I can’t help but wonder what if I experimented and found something else in the process? You never know.
  • Be kind to your fellow peers and help them out. You never know if they might return the favour. People are more prone to helping friends when it comes to this kind of thing like swapping modules and all.

Check out my guide to NTU Psych Modules here.

Other FAQs

What’s the average grade for module X / FYP?

Assume all modules, including FYP, follow the bell curve. This means that your performance is graded relative to how your cohort did, rather than the absolute score you got on your assignments/exams. Let’s say you got 40/50 for a recent test. It’s a 80%, but if the cohort average is 45/50 then you’re unlikely to be getting an A for that test.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is normal_curve-1ftn8yh.gif
pictured: a representation of the normal distribution, or the “bell curve”.

The next question you might have is: how many % of students get a certain grade? Well, nobody knows, because it is not disclosed for obvious reasons. My PERSONAL guess (so don’t quote me to the office) of the grade proportions are:

  • 15-20% of students will get any A (A+/A/A-).
  • 70-75% will get any B (B+/B/B-).
  • 10% get C and below or dabao.

A further EXAMPLE to illustrate. Referring to the diagram above, most students will get a B+/B (the blue regions). A smaller proportion of students will get A- and B- (e.g. the red regions). The smallest proportion of students will get A/+ and below B- (yellow). So on and so forth. Again, this is only an example.

Suffice it to say: the average is a B+. You are most likely to get a B+. “But I am a genius and work really hard,” you lament. Sure – you’re still most likely to get a B+, based on the principle of regression to the mean. My estimate is a B+ because I notice most people around me in HASS graduating with a Distinction, which is a cGPA of 4.0-4.49. It may also be a B in certain courses. Finally, note that a minority of modules (smaller classes?) may be exempted from the bell curve. Nothing’s ever for certain in this murky bureaucracy.

There’s a variant of this question that I also get: is the bell curve steep? Huh? Bell curve differs meh? I don’t know. I assume all modules are curved in the same proportion. Surely there must be some guideline, or students in different schools would be graduating with different proportions of honours.

For more information, see this post written by the incumbent NUS President Prof Tan Eng Chye for an illustration of how the bell curve grading system works.

Is X course/module competitive? (Or: what’s the vibe of the course?)

Yes, it is. It is competitive. I mean, what answer were you expecting? Students fight tooth and nail every year to secure a spot in your course at NTU, NUS, and all the other universities. Why would you think that it would get easier after you’re admitted? But that doesn’t mean you have to be [only] a slave to the rat race. Make the best of your time by focusing on discovering yourself and pursuing what you love.

Do you have Past Year Papers to share?

Past year papers of all courses in NTU can be accessed here (under E-Resources). If it’s not available there, it doesn’t exist. To the NTU Psych students reading this: the Psychology programme does not provide PYPs. Thank you.

Are NTU and NUS different? Which one should I choose?

Nah, not to me. Tbh I bet people couldn’t tell the difference between a NTU and NUS student, ceteris paribus – they’re “functionally equivalent”. (Fun activity to try the next time you’re in a group interview – “Guess the Uni!”) The biggest inter-university difference comes with SMU imo, because students there are trained to make themselves heard. You might hear some casual comments like “NUS is more rah rah” or “NTU is more laidback” but dig a bit more and you’ll find that there are no specifics to these statements. The two universities are more similar than different. But which university do the really outstanding students pick, you ask? Neither – they’re overseas in the US or UK under government scholarships ASLDJSKFJS

Pick the course that you’re more interested in, not based on the abstract “culture” of the school. See my NTU vs NUS Psych post for a comparison of the two programmes.

Is Uni as stressful as poly / JC?

Uni is like Poly+. Same thing at a higher difficulty. More stressful, because the cohort has been further “pruned”. To underestimate the poly students in uni is to make a mistake. We’re very good at what we do, or we wouldn’t be here, because the bar is higher for us.

I feel like JC is a long-distance marathon while Uni is closer to a series of sprints. I think the stakes are higher for the A levels because you basically only have one chance to make it or break it. In Uni you arguably have multiple chances, and the system is a lot more flexible than people give it credit for (e.g. S/U, dabao, 1st sem invulnerability). Not sure about the stress, but JC students are free to leave their comments below.

a review of IDS Skincare… by a skincare noob (#1)

Everyone wants good skin, and I am no exception.

And so on the fateful day that IDS(!) reached out to me for this collaboration, I took on the challenge towards achieving a #Beautiful Bare Face. This will be a three-part series, and you are reading the first post. Here, I will chronicle my initial visit to the legendary IDS and review the skincare products they recommended me.

The big question: So, did my skin improve? The answer, for now, is a tentative yes – but why take my word for it? See for yourself and decide!

Mandatory disclaimer: I received products and services from IDS in exchange for this review. Nonetheless, I will strive to provide a fair evaluation of what worked for me and what didn’t, where applicable. Although I am a skincare noob, rest assured I compensate for it with my research skills.

look at how they sparkle! OwO

A brief about the test subject before we begin:

  • My goal is to have a Beautiful Bare Face (BBF hereon). I aim to function without makeup as much as possible. Currently, I use makeup only for important events, which is at most 6-8x a month (not even on dates – my man has to contend with my natural beauty). Everything else is filters and facetune.
  • I don’t have good sleeping habits (see: eye bags). As a maximiser, I masochistically occupy myself with multiple responsibilities, e.g. research, doing an internship, leadership responsibilities, and writing this blog. So, sleep is a luxury. This also means I spend the bulk of my time exposed to blue light from screens, which could spell trouble for both my sleep and my face.
  • I don’t (didn’t?) have great skincare habits either. Admittedly, I know a lot less about skincare than I should, considering my face is my asset. Hell, I don’t have good habits in general. Read on to see me get lectured by Dr Ian… (sniffle)

Select Page 2 below to continue reading.