For students who have completed their SPM, there are obviously many (and often confusing) options available to the students. Most of the time, I would encourage students with good results to pursue their 'A' Levels, STPM or other equivalent courses and examinations before enrolling into universities. I have often voiced out against the fast-track commercial ploys
of private colleges offering 3+0 or even the 3+1 degree programmes.
However, there is "another" route to further education which I have not dealt with, largely due to prior unfamiliarity with the "mechanics", that is pursuing the American Degree Programme through the local colleges. Thanks to a enlightening post
by Chuah Shu Guan, readers (myself included) have now got a better idea of what it offers. Briefly:
The American Degree Program (ADP) is NOT a one-year pre-university course even though you can use your SPM cert to enroll in the program. Once you enter the program, you are already pursuing your degree, as the name of the program implies. An American degree takes approximately 4 years of full study to complete. I say approximately because the duration of which you will take to finish your undergraduate studies depends on how many subjects you plan to take in one academic year. If you take more subjects than the norm throughout the academic year, you would probably complete your degree faster, and vice versa.Read the full article for a better idea of what ADP offers for students in Malaysia. Readers may also want to download a well-written ADP prospectus offered by Taylor's College on the programme to have a better understanding of the local programmes.
However, before readers decide that the above is a credible programme to be enrolling into after the SPM, I'll like to offer some words of caution with regards to the ADP. It is extremely important for prospective students (not just of the ADP programme, but any programme) to be aware of all the pros and cons with regards to the route to tertiary education which they choose to undertake. That way, any choice made will at least be done with eyes wide open.
But before I proceed to elaborate on the cons of the ADP, let me first put forward my basic assumptions in any of my "critiques". There is a common perception amongst Malaysians that everything "overseas" is better than "local". That means that any overseas degree is better than the ones obtained locally, whether with our public or private universities. What's more, many regard studying in the United States is the very best option, irrespective of the universities attended.
I would like to just categorically state that the above assumptions are absolute nonsense. The above only holds true at the perception level of employers who do not know any better, and these are typically not the large quality organisations or multinational corporations whom prospective graduates are often attracted to. I have conducted my fair share of interviews and received many many resumes, many of which are "graduates" from foreign universities. Most of the time, I'm absolutely unimpressed with the quality of the output from these foreign institutions, including those from the United States.
The reason is very simple. While the United States (US) hosts some of the top universities in the world, dominating some 30-40% of the top 200 universities by any rankings table, it also probably host some of the weakest and dodgiest institutions. Many of these colleges with nice sounding names are not any better (to be polite) than our own local universities.
This brings me back to my point with regards to the ADP offered by the local colleges in Malaysia. If one is to conduct a cursory overview of the US colleges which are "partners" of the ADP programme, many are not listed anywhere near the top 120 universities in the United States. Hence, while students might find that the list of universities accepting ADP students "extensive", the number of universities worthwhile gaining entry may be extremely limited.
As an example, lets review the list of 266 partner universities of Inti College which is largely similar to the other colleges offering the ADP - Taylor's College, Nilai College and Help University College.
Out of the 266 institutions listed, only 3 (1.1%) are in the Top 30 and another 7 (2.6%) in the Top 50. 23 (8.6%) institutions are ranked between 51st and 100th, while 11 (4.1%) ranked between 101 and 124. 5 (1.9%) are ranked Liberal Arts Colleges. A whopping 217 (81.6%) colleges are unranked and are mostly regarded as Tier 3 and Tier 4 schools. I have used the commonly cited U.S. News 2006 report on America's Best Colleges.
I've taken the liberty to provide the listing of colleges which are ranked in the Top 120 in the United States below.
- Cornell University (13)
- University of Virginia (23)
- University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) (25)
- LeHigh University (32)
- University of Wisconsin-Madison (34)
- University of Illinois (Urbana Champaign) (42)
- Tulane University (43)
- University of Washington (45)
- Pennsylvania State University (University Park) (48)
- Syracuse University (50)
- George Washington University (53)
- University of Miami (55)
- University of Georgia (58)
- University of Pittsburgh (58)
- University of Iowa (60)
- Purdue University (60)
- Rutgers, New Jersey (60)
- Ohio State University (Columbus) (60)
- Texas A&M University (60)
- Stevens Institute of Technology (70)
- Indiana University (Bloomington) (74)
- University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (74)
- Michigan State University (74)
- Marquette University (85)
- Iowa State University (85)
- University of Missouri-Columbia (85)
- University of Tennessee (85)
- University of Tulsa (93)
- Augustana College (94)
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln (97)
- University of Kansas (97)
- Illinois Institute of Technology (97)
- Texas Christian University (97)
- University of Massachusetts (Amherst) (104)
- University of Dayton (104)
- Drexel University (109)
- University of South Carolina, Columbia (109)
- University of Oklahoma (109)
- University of Missouri-Rolla (109)
- Northeastern University (115)
- University of Oregon (115)
- Washington State University (120)
- University of Utah (120)
- University of Kentucky (120)
Liberal Arts Colleges
Hence based on the above listing, in theory, if you were to perform well for your 2 years of ADP, one should be able to qualify for Cornell, Virginia or Michigan. However, it is likely to be useful for students to request for statistics of students qualifying for the Top 50 schools in the above list to obtain a better perspective on the success rates of the private colleges. For instance, students hoping to enter the top 20 universities in the US will not be helped by a college which was only able to send 1 student to Cornell in say, 3 years.
- Mount Hoyloke College (23)
- St Olaf College (55)
- Beloit College (60)
- Knox College (73)
- Gustavus Adolphus College (73)
Furthermore, I'm always suspicious of a college which tries to cater towards students with such diverse abilities from Top 30 potential to Tier 3/4-type universities. If the bulk of the students were only able to qualify for a say, Tier 3 university, then it's unlikely that a top student will receive the extra attention and quality teaching necessary to take him to the next level and qualify for the top institutions.
In addition, if you are a top student and have high ambitions to enter the top universities of the world, the above ADP will not help you secure your places in the Ivy Leagues or other top institutions.
Even if you are not a top performing student, do take meticulous care to ensure that you do not choose a college or university which isn't any better than some of the local universities, for example those in Tier 3 or 4 in the US - unless of course, you are specifically interested in that institution.
Hence, on paper and prospectuses, the ADP sounds like a good programme and takes only 4 years to obtain your degree after your SPM. However, the truth is, much like the twinning programmes which I have provided my opinions earlier, students interested in the programme needs to be extremely selective. And once again, if you are a top performing student, you should be setting your ambitions higher and seek the route to qualify for the top universities in the United Kingdom and United States, instead of taking the easy route and settling for less.
Note: Once again, I'm expecting criticism that I'm too obsessed with rankings. So I'll reiterate here again, that it is my firm belief that while rankings are never going to be biblical truths, they do provide an essential guide to students to roughly gauge the quality of an institution. It is difficult for anyone to argue that a Tier 4 institution for example, is better than one ranked in the 50s.