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Transitioning into NBS: Fundamentals for the Freshies

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As the title states, this is a guide to getting into the swing of things here at Nanyang Business School (NBS). It can hardly promise that you will get good results after reading it. What it can do, however, is to provide suggestions on how one can get himself into the pulse of university life and improve his chances within the highly competitive nature of the school.

Nanyang Business School


Firstly, congratulations on being admitted into NBS. It is certainly not easy considering how the cutoff has been increasing over the years. You have done well for you ‘A’ Levels or Polytechnic and certainly deserve a pat on the back. However, it is a completely different ball game in NBS. You will learn very quickly why it’s not always that easy to get that A, and how even getting close to full marks for your coursework does not guarantee a good grade for your final result. Nonetheless it would definitely have been a unique experience by the time you graduate.

Now to start off the guide proper!

1.      NBS FOC

This is hands down one of the most exciting events you will have in your university life. All your future NBS classmates (& competitors) gathered together for many days of fun-filled activities. It is an excellent opportunity to get to know the people that you will eventually see and work with for the next few years. You will be forced to step out of your comfort zone and really immerse yourself in all the activities.

“But I’m really shy…” 

Don’t be! People go there as strangers, and part as friends. When school starts, many of them will also be in your classes. It definitely pays to know more people as you get to talk to them about stuff you are unsure of, or simply chat about anything else. Besides, it never hurts to know more people; you may even bump into each later in working life.

In fact, some NBS students end up hanging out with their FOC friends for all their 3/4 years. It is definitely possible to make friends in tutorial classes, but the setting is very different from making friends at a camp. Futhermore if you already have friends prior to the start of classes, you will have a tendency to stick with them.

 Now for the very practical/mercenary aspects of NBS FOC:

  1. You get to befriend seniors who will be the ones who give you the compiled notes. Trust me. The notes are a lifesaver in modules like business law.
  2.  You get to know which people are the smart ones in your Orientation Group (OG). This is evident when you all talk about schools and results(especially those in double degree!). Stick with them when school starts, and you can feel re-assured that your projects will be of a certain quality.
  3. If you intend to run for Accountancy & Business Club positions, simply joining the NBS FOC will amplify your chances of getting in by several times. Not only will your own OG vote for you, they can also persuade their friends to vote for you, and your seniors during the camp will also vote for you.
  4. If you are single, you can meet your potential soulmate there!

FOC is an awesome experience that should not be missed. Some people have an impression that it is a waste of time, but the benefits are definitely immeasurable. It will go a long way in helping you survive the time you will spend at NBS/NTU.

2.      NBS Welcome Day

So you eventually decided to go/not to go for the NBS FOC. Then should you go for the NBS welcome day? The answer is a resounding yes! The NBS welcome day is a feeble attempt at replicating FOC & only lasts a few hours but similarly, you also get to meet new people and learn about school stuff from the Student Leaders(seniors).

The crucial difference, however, is that a sizeable number of your first year NBS classmates will be in the same welcome day group. Unless you decide to change classes, it is more probable than not that these will be the same people you hang out with for the first year (and very likely subsequent years). If you are terribly afraid that you will be a loner in your university days, then the NBS Welcome Day is a must go.

Inconveniently though, many hall camps take place during welcome day, which means you may have to consider skipping a few hours of hall camp to attend the NBS welcome day (if hall camp happens to be in school at that time then it is less trouble; the problem is that some of them may be halfway through amazing race/other activities that are outside school). Your hall seniors will tell you that Welcome Day is useless. Don’t be taken in. Hall may be your home for a year, but you will be in NBS for three. A feeling of alienation will set in when you turn up in class for the first day only to find out that everyone else already knows each other from Welcome Day.

Lastly, they give a pretty cool goodie bag (the laptop cover basically) as well!

NOTE: Freshies already have their classes allocated to them, but you can choose to waitlist yourself for classes you want. This is a risky move though, because this is the first year the new “waitlist” system is going to be used. I dare not speculate how it will turn out, but essentially you may have to drop the index number you currently have, and waitlist yourself for the requested index number that will be allocated at the end of each day. If you can find a willing person to swap with you however, then all is good. That is rarely the case with the more popular classes. 

If you do choose to waitlist, the worst possible outcome is that you lose your original index, and be unlucky enough to not get the waitlisted one. The school will ensure that you have a placing for that module, but it may ultimately end up being a timing/professor not to your liking. Furthermore, if you choose to change classes, you won’t be seeing the same faces as your Welcome Day class. 

That being said some people still choose to change classes because the timing is absolutely horrible or the professor is extremely bad at teaching. These are real and legitimate concerns, but proceed with caution nonetheless.


3.      Make friends in the first few lessons!

Assuming you decided not to change your classes, the next thing to do would be getting to know them! You can easily tell who are in your classes by using the photo gallery function in edventure when you click on your tutorial/seminar class.

NTU Blackboard Photo Gallery

When lessons have started, try and seek out those who seem to appear in many of your classes and talk to them about eating lunch together etc. Sometimes, the tutor will assign you your project groups so you will automatically be given the chance to interact with new classmates. In other instances where you can choose your own project mates, try as much as possible to do it with different people.

If you already had friends from JC/poly in that class, it is very tempting to stick close to them as we generally prefer hanging out with people we are familiar with. Don’t do it! You are missing out on a lot of opportunities to make new friends in university! The first few weeks are very, very crucial in determining who you will hang out with for the next 3 years. Because by the time you reach year 2, you will have to add courses on your own; and most people eventually plan the timetable together with their friends so they can be in the same classes/project groups.

It is often said that in NBS, it is hard to make friends after year 1. To a large extent, this is true because you will already have friends from welcome day/hall/foc/cca and therefore see no need to get to know more people.

The first few lessons provide an excellent opportunity, use it well!


4.      Class Participation

There is actually another detailed article on class participation, so this section will be rather brief. Simply put, carefully observe your prof to make an inference of how the class participation will go. If he ticks names off the list, you better speak. If he does not even remind you of class participation marks, you can assume you will get around an average grade. Some profs will send you an email about your class participation halfway through the term so you can get a gauge of how you are doing.

I have encountered talented classmates who can get A+ for the final grade without even speaking a word in class, a true testament to their prowess. But for the majority of us who are not so muggerish/gifted, it’s probably wise to contribute to the ongoing discussion every now and then.

5.      Presentations

Most, if not all of your NBS modules will require to you to make some form of presentation to the class. It varies not only from module to module, but even from professor to professor.

Common examples of presentation requirements include:

1)      Presenting answers for the tutorial questions (usually accounting and law modules)

2)      Presenting on a topic that has been assigned to your group (IT, communication, and marketing modules)

3)      Debate (management accounting)

Presentations are not that hard to do well in, but there are some things you can do to ensure that you are well-prepared.

For presentation of tutorial questions, try and double-check your answers with your friends/seniors who may have done the same questions last semester. Depending on who the professor is, some of the questions may be different; other professors make only minor modifications to the questions. But for those questions that are similar, this would be a good time for you to correct any mistakes in your slides before the actual presentation day. It is a good learning opportunity and saves you the embarrassment of having your prof point out your errors in front of the class.

When presenting on topics that you have been assigned to, there is really no fixed way to do it. Simply trawl through the internet for as much info as you can find, and present it in an easy-to-read manner. It definitely helps if your slides look sleek and compact, but ultimately the content is that which will take up the majority of the marks. Also useful to quote statistics and figures as it will make your argument stronger and more defensible.

For all presentations, it is important to project an image of confidence when speaking because that can significantly affect the way you are assessed. I have encountered classmates who went up and kept giggling to themselves (no idea why), and ended up with a poor grade for not looking serious. Others just read off the slides and thus did not leave a particularly favourable impression. You don’t exactly have to be completely serious when presenting; what is more important is that you are able to get your message across to the class and therefore seem to have a firm understanding of the topic.

Occasionally, some groups like to insert gimmicks into the presentation, such as having quizzes for which prizes are awarded. I can’t really give an opinion on this, because it largely depends on what you are presenting and who your prof is. The important thing is to make it relevant to what you are presenting.

Lastly, presentations are an excellent avenue as an audience to get class participation marks!

6.      Projects

Ok this is a tough one because the grades you will receive are rather unpredictable. I have had profs who gave most groups an A- to A but also profs who gave an average of B. Some of the projects I thought were pretty good were given a lousy grade, and vice versa.

It doesn’t help that each module has a unique grading style. The prof may be the one marking your project, or it may be a prof from another class. Then after that, the module may be moderated across the level(or so they say), or not. And most of us will never know what our “moderated” project grade is.

To get a feel of how well you did, just try to find out what grades the others got. It may not even be accurate because as mentioned above, this result may be subject to further adjustments across the level. I will definitely feel sad if I got a B for a project, at the same time I also avoid feeling overjoyed with an A.

Generic tips to doing well include having multiple references in your report (as it is evidence of research), having a clear structure in the report with a content & cover page, using statistics and figures to support your argument, and ensuring absolutely no errors(grammatical or otherwise) in the report. The last point is particularly important because some professors get very peeved by them.

7.      Exam Prep

It is time for the finale! When preparing for the exams, ensure that you are completely familiar with the concepts in the course. Some professors have a habit of testing very small topics which you would never expect to come out, so you must be prepared to meet challenges like this.

That being said, the best way (in my humble opinion) to gear yourself for the exams are to have frequent contact with your friends/classmates who are also mugging for the paper. You absolutely have to clarify with them any content you are unsure of. More often than not, I try to re-assure myself that it will not come out for the exams, but it is precisely because that content is difficult that the professors like to put it in the final paper. Never ever take the path of least resistance and only study the easier topics; in my short 2 years at NBS so far, I have been burnt more than once by this.

If your friends are not sure either, seeking out the professor for consultation is (obviously) the next best alternative. The professors I have encountered thus far are more than willing to help. For short queries, you can just leave them an email and most will reply you promptly. If you have a lot of questions, ask for and set up a time for consultation. Some of my classmates don’t want to clarify things with the professor because they are too afraid or shy. Don’t be like them! Always keep in mind that you are aiming for a good result, and this means having not a single doubt when you enter the exam hall.

At the same time, it is important to do Past Year Papers because they give you a good feel of what types of questions will be asked. Some profs who are a bit too slack have a tendency to set similar questions, but most nowadays avoid doing this and you can expect a wide variety of questions to come out for the exam. The best way to approach this is, as I touched on above, is to make yourself very familiar with the content. When you are thoroughly proficient, it becomes easier to adapt your knowledge to answer the question. Nonetheless Past Year Papers can still be used to determine areas which you have to work harder at.

8.      Holidays! Or not

So the exams are finally over. Regardless of how you felt the papers were, there is absolutely no point thinking about it. It’s time to party and enjoy yourself. However, I personally feel that this break (more relevantly the summer break) could be used to do an internship.

If you are one of the many undergraduates who have lofty aspirations of securing a bank job when you graduate, it is essential that you have plenty of internships to beef up your resume. In fact, internships will compensate many times for an average GPA. Try to get an internship in a financial institution because you can then aim for bigger banks when you do your professional attachment in year 2.

Of course, if you have other dreams, the break would also be a wonderful opportunity for you to pursue them. Spend this time to think about what you really want to do in life and see how you can try your hand at it. It is not uncommon for people to realise halfway in university that accounting (or any of the other business specializations) is not what they want to do. I have classmates who are determined to start their own businesses, classmates who want to work as diplomats, and also those who wish to become teachers. Don’t let what you are studying restrict your decisions; there is a whole world out there.  And definitely avoid being like the author of this guide who spent his holidays doing nothing substantial and now regrets the activities he could have spent the time on.

Closing Remarks

By the end of your 3 years in NBS, it would likely have been a life-changing experience, for better or for worse. Most people have a bittersweet feeling when they leave school, though just as many are thrilled by the prospects of entering the workforce(and finally earning $$$). It is also during these 3 years that you get the encounter a wide variety of people, from class-participation hoggers, to overzealous presenters, to the downright weird groupmate. Take it all in good stride and you will do well.

This neatly sums up the guide and I certainly hope you have taken away something from it!

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User contributed article by Wesley

Wesley is final year Accountancy student at Nanyang Technological University .

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Wesley is final year Accountancy student at Nanyang Technological University .

4 thoughts on “Transitioning into NBS: Fundamentals for the Freshies

    1. Hi Christy,

      I’m not sure if it’s the same for NBS, but for the engineering faculties, we have faculty clubs (like the CEE and MAE clubs) that have exam committees that create past year paper solutions. These solutions are sold at the respective libraries. You might want to check with your seniors to see if NBS has this as well.

      These clubs also have solution sets for elective modules as well. For example, the CEE club create solutions for the Accounting module papers and can be purchased at the CEE print shop.

      Keep in mind that these solutions are written by your seniors and have been known to have a lot of mistakes so it is always wise to check with your tutors when in doubt. They’re very approachable and always willing to help if you need to have any doubts cleared.

      I hope I’ve managed to clear some of your doubts! All the best in your studies Christy!

  1. Really helpful guide! So glad that I chanced upon your website!! 🙂 Please do write more of them, I will be sure to read them all! 🙂

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