Choosing your degree: Ma, I want to be a hairdresser.

I remember telling my granddad and mum that I wanted to be a hairdresser and sweep hair off the floor. (That isn’t even what a hairdresser does but let’s move on.) Now I’m a lawyer. Suffice to say, we don’t know what the heck we want when we’re younger.

This article is important. This is probably the most important article you will read. I have heard from countless of classmates/friends/family that their degree either 1. Wasn’t something they liked 2. Wasn’t something that helped their career 3. Wasn’t something they found was worth the money.

You want to undertake an undergraduate degree. But you have no idea what to study, where to study, what you want to do after you graduate, what career you want to be in.

The list of questions is endless. But first, we have to decide on what you want to study, before we can move on to harder questions.

I can guarantee you that pretty much everybody has felt that fear when deciding what to study in their undergraduate degree. So don’t panic.

Here are 5 questions you can ask yourself to figure out what you want to do with the next few years of your life.



A.  What do you like?

i) What do you WANT to study?

  1. One piece of advice that always stuck with me was this: you will never be the best in your field if you don’t like whatever it is you’re doing.

2.Don’t undermine what passion does. People who enjoy their subject do way better at it than people who don’t enjoy their subject (assuming equal natural aptitude for that subject).

ii) What subjects are you currently studying that you LIKE?

iii) Do you like to read and write? Do you prefer calculations? Do you like debates or exact answers?

1.Do you sway more towards qualitative or quantitative analysis? This can help you decide whether you want to be in the arts stream or sciences stream. E.g. if you prefer exact answers, you won’t enjoy the slightly less exacting science of writing essays.

B. What are you naturally better at?

i) To give you an example of this: I chose to do Design Technology (DT) for GCSEs. I was terrible at DT, and all things that required me to do precise practical work, art, and design. But I chose it because I LIKED it. I switched from DT to Geography after one term. Basically, don’t just choose something you like to do, because you may suck at it, and being lousy at something is not fun. So on that note, don’t immediately cross out doing subjects you are good/great at but is not your favourite subject.

ii) List your academic strengths/weaknesses.

  1. NB This is a list not of what you like but what you are GOOD at.


A. What subjects are you currently studying for your pre-university course (A Levels/IB/AP)?

i) For example, most universities require you to have studied Chemistry and/or Biology to apply for medical school. Most Maths courses require you to have done Maths, and some preferably Further Maths. Engineering most likely require Maths and Physics. Research what certain degrees require you to study at GCSE/A Level before you pick your GCSE/A Level subjects.

B. Some degrees require certain GCSE grades. Most of the time at least a C is required in Maths and English.

C. So if you’re a keen bean and you’re reading this article before you’ve started your O Levels or A Levels, be sure that you choose the right subjects to prevent doors being closed when you choose your university degree.

D. If you’re not sure what you want to do, it’s safe to AVOID ‘softer’ subjects, like Photography/Media/PE/Business/Law (for A Levels this isn’t even recommended for those applying for a law degree) /Sociology, if you’re aiming for a traditional career path.


A. Some career paths are really straightforward and require you to have a specific degree. Whereas some career paths accept a range of different degrees.

B. If you want to be a doctor, you HAVE to study medicine. There’s no way around it.

C. But if you want to be a lawyer, you can do the conversion course (GDL) after doing any degree you want. However this is not a viable option if you want to practise in Singapore. They don’t accept the GDL so you would have to read Law in university (and at certain universities only:

D. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you can pretty much do whatever you want, but Business or Economics might give you a better foundation.


A. Sometimes what you may learn in a Mathematics degree is nothing like what you’ve been doing in your A Level/GCSE Maths subjects. Or sometimes, I feel like I only like doing a subject because I’m good at it? But when it gets hard I don’t like doing it anymore? HAHA. So make sure you think about why you really like that subject first before you use it to base your degree choice on it.


A. Sometimes your university may allow you to transfer to a different degree course. This might be an option, though quite uncertain. You would probably have to email the university to confirm the possibility of this.

B. Sometimes you can do a double degree or a joint honours degree, e.g. History and Politics, Law and Business, you get the idea. Sometimes certain universities offer a joint honours but others don’t. This may be something to further consider.

C. Sometimes certain professions don’t require a specific degree, e.g. you can do a conversion course (the GDL) from any subject to practice as a lawyer. Other examples are media or business.



Quintessential Consultancy

Studying Medicine

Editing Essays – Part 1 (Medicine)

Here, we share with you common pitfalls and improvements that one can make to an essay with help and advice.

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Note the use of “gratifying prestige” and *no recognition of the long and arduous journey of medicine”. Here’s what an improved essay draft could look like:

edited essay

#medessays #consultancy #quintessentialedu #essayconsultants #educationconsultants #medicine #medicalstudents

oxford graduation photo



If you’re visiting this site, it’s more than likely that you are completely frustrated by the applications process (which is complex, obtuse and varies across university and country) to overseas universities; you are uncertain about your chances; you have a vague idea of what you want to do in future but you are not sure if the universities and courses you are applying for will get you there; you need someone to tell you whether taking the SAT a 4th time matters to admissions officers; and last but not least YOU HAVE NO IDEA IF YOUR ESSAYS ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK. OH AND DON’T FORGET THE DREADED SPECTRE OF INTERVIEWS.

Bianca and I found ourselves in the same position, but in different years, amidst our frantic studying for upcoming prelim/ GCE “A” Level exams, and the challenge of coping with the insanity of applications, exam preparation, and some semblance of a social life. And still getting decent amounts of shut-eye. After our very own messy, crazy application process, we are proud to showcase our flaws and the things we amazingly did right, our perspectives having been through UK and US overseas education, on this humble website. We have also gotten our friends to contribute articles based on their unique experiences, and hope that this will be useful to you.

At the heart of the matter is the personal journey that you are about to embark on. This is just the beginning. But the beginning has a huge impact on the end outcome, which is your starting job post-graduation and the amount of enjoyment you derive from the period of life most people would regard as one of the most enjoyable periods in their lives. When you are a university student, you are finally old enough to make your own choices while young enough to recover from your mistakes; you will learn how to integrate with new cultures and add the finishing touches to a still-unformed personal identity; you will learn how to cook and clean for yourself (hopefully) and become a responsible adult, eager to make your mark on this world.

On our end, our motivation for writing this blog is to let you know the pitfalls we went through when we were your age, so that history may not repeat itself. Our perspectives are necessarily coloured by our experiences with universities, localities, scholarships – these experiences do not extend to generalization across all people. Loathe it or love it, what we write are with the best of intentions – we hope it may add some value to your own decision-making matrix as you embark on the next phase of your personal journey.

andrew                              bianca

Bianca and Andrew, 2015

P.S. Please email us if you have any queries, we will try to address them at

UK vs US University systems

US vs UK Education System

I am privileged enough to have studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford and a Masters in International and Development Economics at Yale, hence I have gained some perspective on the differences between the UK and US education system. My sister and friends also studied at top American universities (UC Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, etc) so I was always eager to find out the similarities and differences between the two systems.

To summarize:
Although the US universities ask that you submit a course preference in your Common Application, there is considerable freedom to select your courses, provided you meet the basic prerequisites. To graduate you need to complete around 30-40 courses, the compulsory ones being the courses required to complete your major, and electives. If you are feeling hardworking, you may also find the time to do a second major/minor.

For the UK, particularly Oxbridge, you spend all your time going in-depth into your course of study. If it’s Physics, all you do for 3 years is Physics. You may attend lectures for other fields of study such as Economics, but given your own course requirements, you will probably not have enough time. And attending lectures without doing the coursework and having someone to moderate your learning is probably ineffective. Trust me I have tried it – and it’s hard to keep the motivation up when there isn’t a way to measure your learning outcomes.

It seemed to me that the core modules in the US tended to be much easier than the core modules in the UK; however that should be caveated by the fact that the most difficult elective modules in the US are of such a high level that only the best will be able to handle it. The issue is one of selection: you can graduate with a high GPA if you select easy modules. And many a student will be tempted to select this option. However, I believe that college education is meant to train your mind and develop your thinking processes, so do avoid the urge to select easy courses to artificially pump up your GPA. Employers, based on my experiences and the experiences of my peers, look at the headline i.e. which university you graduated from. It is more rewarding to challenge yourself by going for more difficult courses, surrounding yourself with the best and brightest, than to aim low.
After I graduated from PPE at Oxford, my masters in International and Development Economics at Yale was a breeze. That was how difficult PPE was as a course. I attended perhaps half the tutorial lessons at Yale and 1/10th of the lectures and spent a lot of time travelling to New York, Boston, Miami, California to visit friends, and to Peru, which was my first sojourn into Latin America. This was because after my first semester, I had almost guaranteed that I would pass my masters (requirement: 1 Distinction, average of High Pass out of 8 modules; 1st Semester grades: 3 Distinctions, 1 High Pass). Unlike the UK system where the grades are determined by a final examination, the system of continual assessment allowed me to relax a little after I had achieved good results in the first semester, and to pursue interesting off-topic elective modules such as “Culture of Postwar Japan”. As someone who is an avid reader of Japanese authors such as Haruki Murakami, this exposed me to many other literary icons and their unique styles of writing. I also enjoyed watching videos of movies made by the legendary Akira Kurosawa.

To end off, as someone who’s always been keen on a broad based education in classics, literature, culture and the sciences, if I could turn back the clock, I would probably have chosen an undergraduate education in the US, and then specialise by doing a masters in the UK in economics or finance, instead of the other way around. To make the best decision about your university education, you need to understand the type of person you are, and how you like to learn. I hope this helps to clarify some of your doubts and if you need someone to talk to, please email
Cheers, Andrew

University Applications Seminar 2015

Thank you all who attended our seminar on 15 Aug 2015!

If you missed our seminar, do not worry, you can leave your details here and we will arrange a free consultation for you!




15 Aug (Sat), 1030am – 1230pm.

ERC Institute Lvl 8 (Hip Hop Room)
30 Prinsep Street [How to get there]

Registration has closed, arrange for a free consultation here instead!


1000 to 1030 – Registration
1030 to 1115 – Presentation on UK and US applications, and local medicine/law
1115 to 1145 – Panel discussion/Q&A with consultants
1145 to 1215 – Small group discussion/mingling with consultants

Consultant Panel

Andrew – Oxford, Yale
Shyam – Oxford, Columbia
Ben – UChicago, Berkeley Economics and Law lecturer (JD, PhD)


Join us on 15 August 2015 and find out how to ace your applications!

How to get there
30 Prinsep Street, 188647
ERC Institute, Level 8

5 mins walk from either Dhoby Ghaut MRT or Bras Basah MRT

ERC location