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While Waiting For University

While Waiting For University

• Daphne Kwok •

Surely Starbucks is not the only way to spend time after ‘A’ levels?

Besides working as a part-time barista at Starbucks for eight months, there are many things one can do to make even more productive use of time! Scholarship Guide suggests the following list of activities for recently graduated pre-university students who often undervalue or overlook such options in exchange for income-generating jobs. These activities are targeted at value-adding (oh, not this word again!) to and stimulating one’s intellectual and social capacities, in the hope that one would notch up at being a more well-rounded individual during the long break.

Enrolling In Online Academic Courses
At any one point of our schooling ­career, don’t we all wish that we had the liberty to attend classes whenever we want to and enroll only in the kind of courses we like? Online academic courses allow us to do just that; learn only about topics of personal interest at the comfort of our own home and schedules.

  • edX. One of the most established platforms for such courses is edX, which is founded by the world’s top two universities, Harvard University and MIT. Along with other reputable schools, edX offers a myriad of courses, some of which provide verification certificates upon request. There are also virtual classrooms where a student can pose questions to a group of international coursemates.
  • Udacity. Udacity has courses specially tailored to current workplace skills, such as programming and computer science. This is arranged with the ultimate aim of increasing an individual’s competitiveness through the acquiring of a ‘nanodegree’. The courses range from introductory programming to developing android and video games. Credentials from Udacity are often recognised by industry leaders and employers!
  • Coursera. Among the three, Coursera has the biggest variety of courses and partners, which even includes museums, The National Geographic Society and The World Bank. Transcripts in many different languages are available and certificates can also be given upon completion of courses. If you are just a browser looking for general online courses that may pique your interest, Coursera is a safe place to start.

Learning At Community Centres
Community centres (CCs) are not merely places for the elderly to kill time. ­Unknown to many, they provide numerous fascinating courses and host a series of interesting activities for both the young and old. Certain centres have Mandarin pop songs club, karaoke club and xingyao group to cater to those with a passion for singing. At the same time, there are more exotic and unconventional interest groups such as in wine appreciation and Argentine tango.

Not only those, CCs also conduct personal make-up and balloon sculpturing workshops. You can also learn bridge, mahjong, cooking and ukulele-playing at the CCs. As you are yet to be financially independent, isn’t it nice to enjoy their heavily subsidised courses, tours, excursions and parties?

Volunteering

Singapore may boast of a high standard of living with most people living ­comfortably. This makes it easy for people to ­overlook the presence of the ­disadvantaged in the country. Fortunately, ­numerous social welfare institutions have been established to surface the plight of the underprivileged while addressing their needs.

We are all familiar with institutions like Salvation Army, Singapore Cancer Society and Singapore Red Cross where one can volunteer. However, there are also certain less well-known organisations that are badly in need of volunteers. You can check them out at:
http://thesmartlocal.com/read/volunteer-sg or http://www.healthnetcafe.com/community_sharing/be_a_volunteer.html

Developing Life Skills
With only a few more years to adulthood, it is definitely beneficial to pick up some useful life skills before you get swamped with university commitments. Some skills that will certainly come in handy in life would be:

  • Financial planning and management
    As a future professional, it is necessary that you understand about financial planning, especially when financial products become increasingly diverse and available. You will surely be making investments later in life, and it is never too early to learn. How does the stock market work? How about futures, bonds, forex, bitcoin and real estate?
  • Website making
    More people are creating websites or mobile apps as a way to express themselves, get in touch with others or to push for a certain cause. Businesses cannot afford not to have websites to reach potential customers. In university, you can use a website to present and share about your project. A personal website featuring your accomplishments such as designs, published articles, videos of talks you have delivered, etc to supplement your CV will definitely place you at a different level.Do you know one does not require programming knowledge to create a website? Within just one afternoon, one is able to create a simple and complete website. There are online website builders like Wix, Jimdo or Weebly that do not need software installation. They allow you to drag a slideshow, a block of text, images, videos (even from Youtube), into the website, and you are ready to publish.
  • Software skills
    Are you already familiar with common programs like Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, Photoshop? Learning these skills now would save you the time of groping around when you need to use them in university and at work later on. There is no need to master them; knowing the basics will keep you sane when the serious needs arise.

Travel
More often than not, travelling provides lessons that can never be learnt within the classroom. Venturing into foreign lands not only allow you to be immersed in other cultures, but also make you a more confident person and offers many opportunities for self-discovery. Overseas, you are forced to be independent and resourceful. You may even pick up a foreign language.

Pursue Your Interest

Have you ever had to put on hold your pursuits like painting or music due to the lack of time and too many commitments in school? Now that school is finally over and will be so for eight months, there is no better time to rework or pick up your interest again. Otherwise, learning a new skill or pursuing a new area of interest such as golf, photography, video editing or even cooking is considered time well spent too. Follow your passion and start working from there. As compared to an internship, showing the initiative to work on something on your own may present an equally, if not more, convincing case to potential employers about your passions!

Find A Related Internship/Job

Look for part-time work or internships in the career line that you want to pursue. For example, if you want to pursue Law, get an internship in a law firm. You may even offer to volunteer for a week or two if there are no openings. Try a diverse range of jobs; it may make you rethink what you had earlier wanted to do. There will hardly be anymore chances at getting freedom of this extent again, so it is most wise to spend this time exploring different options available for your future.

In a nutshell, there are countless activities one can choose to do after ‘A’ levels and the above list offers but a few options. Ultimately, the main aim of this article is to expose readers to more alternatives besides the conventional part-time jobs or internships that they can take on after ‘A’ levels. Scholarship Guide hopes that it has given you some ideas for your consideration!