Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Introducing Top US Universities & Colleges

Descartes Education Counselling Centre (DECC), a non-profit organisation will be organising a talk by former and current students from some of the top universities in the United States on getting into these schools.

The panelists will comprise alumni and students from Ivy League universities such as Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale and Cornell, as well as other top liberal arts colleges such as Swarthmore, Middlebury, Bates and Colby.

Therefore all students interested in top universities and colleges in the US for undergraduate study or those who are still figuring out what to do for their tertiary studies, come join us for the talk at:
Introducing Top US Universities & Colleges
Date : 25th July 2009 (Saturday)
Time : 11am-4pm
Venue : Auditorium, Sunway University College
Confirmed panelists include:
  • Nathaniel Tan, Harvard University ‘03
  • Yeoh Chen Chow, Cornell University ‘05
  • Hwa Yang Jerng, Bates College ‘03
  • Emily Chan, Colby College ‘11
  • Ng Eng Han, Dartmouth College ‘10
  • John Lee, Dartmouth College ‘11
  • Andrew Loh, Swarthmore College '10
  • Anand Pillai, Northwestern University '04
  • Joan Low, Middlebury College '12
  • Lim Su Ann, Columbia University '12
  • Philip Loh, Olin College '13
They will share their personal experiences with the US education system – a system that reputably produces very employable graduates and world leaders with great competency and capabilities. They will also provide interested students with valuable information about selecting the right university, obtaining financial assistance, completing application forms and other practical information on gaining places in these schools.

Students will also learn about the unusual perks and opportunities offered under the US education system (foreign study programmes, self-designed curriculums, freedom to explore personal academic interests, etc.), aspects of a vastly different culture, and student life. To top it off, we have an interactive session, where you can mingle around and talk with the students and alumni yourself personally.

All are welcome and attendance is free.

For more information, please contact Ms Teh Joo Shin @ jshin48 (at) gmail (DOT) com.


Anonymous said...

How come only expensive places? Singapore more affordable. Can you get NUS and NTU?

John Lee said...

They aren't expensive if you get financial aid, which is what many of us (Nat, Eng Han, myself, and a few others) did.

Anonymous said...

Can I do this "jump airplane" the moment I arrive at USA?

Can I spend $X amount of money coming to USA, studying and living there and then work there,earning back $Y amount of money where Y is greater than X before returning back to Malaysia?

I want to extract $USdollar$$ out of USA's economy.

Anonymous said...

Any chance of including Stanford on the list? Thanks

Anonymous said...

Can someone do a financial aid compare for US, UK, Singapore and Australia studies? Thank you!

Anonymous said...

John, RM vs USD is very different in costs than RM vs SGD.

John Lee said...

Financial aid is in USD, mind you. It's also quite common for financial aid to cover lodging, living expenses, books, etc. in addition to tuition.

abang said...

John is USA student? I am NTU student.

Singapore if you take tuition grant, it is a straight 60% free money off your tuition fees. The remaining 40% can be borrowed with no interest until you graduate. If you get the ASEAN scholarship, the 40% is also free.

Living expenses in Singapore not expensive also. NTU provides hostels in NTU and free bus travel around in NTU. I think NUS is the same. So travel expenses minimum.

Plus NTU and NUS degrees are recognise for work in USA. So I can pay SGD, earn USD and spend RM. Better combination than the spend USD option.

How does it work out in USA?

John Lee said...

It depends on the individual university and your family's income, but if you are a middle-class Malaysian, you will probably not have to pay any tuition fees at many of the Ivies (Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, and possibly a few more). Most of these universities will also cover at least some of your housing fees and living expenses. Most keep loans to a minimum, and they are almost always interest-free until you graduate. Some universities like Princeton do not even loan you money; if you can't afford it, then it's free.

And it isn't just the Ivies who provide financial aid; many liberal arts colleges like Bates, Mt Holyoke, Hamilton, Williams, Amherst, etc. have almost as generous financial aid policies. Research universities like Wesleyan and MIT also have very competitive financial aid packages.

Anonymous said...

John Lee, oh...John Lee... you should tell them all, all those ignorant Malaysians emerging from their coconut shells, that the moment you set foot onto USA's soil, that there are two camps in the world, one where one die of obesity and another one where one die of starvation.

Choose your pick....

We need all the young Malaysian-trained capitalist agents that we can get....

Grace said...

Hamilton college too, provides a pretty delicious financial aid package. John, how do u select the panelists? i am on a mission to increase the malaysian population in Hamilton because as of now, there's only been one alumni and one student (me)..the school's just not quite in Malaysia's radar yet..

Anonymous said...

@ John

Wesleyan is not a research university, it's a liberal arts college at Connecticut.

In fact, I am surprised that Wesleyan is not included in the panel since it is one of the top liberal arts colleges and it offers the Wesleyan Freeman Asian Scholarship.

Julie said...

We should encourage Malaysians to go to top Universities. Why are you guys trying to get Malaysians to go 2nd and 3rd rate Universities in USA? Bate, Mt Holyoke, Hamilton, Williams, Amherst! OMG.

Sounds almost like another BM policy to send scholars to country specific instead of merit specific Universities.

Japan, Singapore have better Universities than those 2nd rate USA Universities pointed out here. In fact, they match the Ivys through and through. There must be a screening process to ensure this doesn't become a fish market to trade students' future just for some people's zest.

peng said...

Julie, I'm not sure where you've heard that Williams and Amherst are 2nd or 3rd rate institutions!

No, they are not "Universities" per se, and so you haven't seen them on major rankings. Maybe that's why you have never heard about them and that's understandable.

But those liberal arts colleges offer top-notch educations. Admissions are also incredibly competitive.

I doubt it'll become a "fish market" since students who decide to apply to LACs (and are actually able to get in) should have done their own research and made up their own minds.

Julie, i do hope you would do some research of your own.

John Lee said...

No offense, but simply Googling the institutions you've never heard of would tell you quite a bit about what they are and the kind of people they produce. While most liberal arts colleges are not good for graduate studies (if they even offer graduate programs), they can often provide a better undergraduate experience than big name research universities like Harvard or MIT. Even Goh Chok Tong wound up at Williams for his Masters.

Re Wesleyan, I categorise it as a research university because it has quite a few significant graduate programs. Most liberal arts colleges have limited or no graduate programs.

BTW Grace I'll shoot you an email about the panel.

Anonymous said...

I graduated from a so-called "top" liberal arts college. Then, I tried to find a job in Singapore and Malaysia, albeit as a foreigner, and found my degree to be essentially useless. Unless employers' mindsets towards liberal arts education changes, it would be a hard sell to convince Malaysians to study at a top LAC.

Anonymous said...

And if you have been reading the American education papers, they are now saying that America has been focusing too much on liberal arts and too little on science and tech.

The new direction (or at least a good fraction of Obama's people) are calling for a re-focus away from liberal arts (some call it hot air blowing) back to science and tech.

@ anon 20/7 12.47 said...

And why should we send out kids to America's "top" liberal arts colleges when they cannot get employed after that?

Use USD to pay for education so our kids have to go to Singapore to earn SGD?

I rather send my kids to NTU and NUS, pay SGD and earn USD when they go USA for work! At least I know NTU and NUS students can find jobs in Singapore ir not the USA!

nimalan said...

Anon seems to have an obsession with Spore.

John, will you'll be covering graduate programmes such as law as well, or just undergrad?

Grace said...

it's not a competition. and no one is selling anyone anything. The 'screening process' julie mentioned should be the student's own research and conviction about where does he/she wants to go to college and what he is looking for in his college education. That is what talks like these are for.

It's way too easy to blame joblessness on that piece of 'useless degree.' LACs and 'top universities' are markedly different, but if nothing else, the least a liberal arts education could do for u is show you that the way forward is not just the one-tracked journey we've been conditioned to take.

John Lee said...

If you want to find a job with a Malaysian firm, don't go to an LAC. If you want to find a job with a multinational, a liberal arts degree can't hurt you, and almost certainly helps. The value of a degree from some second-tier liberal arts colleges is debatable, but it's really funny that someone would think a degree from Williams or Amherst is worthless. One of our panelists actually majored in philosophy at a supposedly no-name liberal arts college and wound up working at a Malaysian bank.

We're not suggesting that a liberal arts education is for everyone. If you want a technical education or know exactly what you want to pursue, a liberal arts education is probably not the best idea. But for a lot of people, it's something worth at least considering. The point of the liberal arts is to expose you to a variety of things, so even if you do math or engineering, you still study some social science and languages -- and vice-versa. That's not something to dismiss casually.


Unfortunately it's hard to get graduate students to speak since they don't exactly get the summers off, so we won't be covering professional or graduate programs.

Anonymous said...

anon 20/7 12.47 chiming in again:

I do have to agree though with John regarding financial aid. At several top LACs, international students are evaluated on a need-blind basis. However, schools may be less generous with financial aid in the short-term due to endowment losses at the top LACs. Bottom line: Interested students should be aware of the costs, but shouldn't consider them to be a deal-breaker.

Returning to the topic of career paths - I think a liberal arts degree alone does not carry much weight professionally, at least in Asia. However, a liberal arts education with a relevant postgraduate degree (JD, MD, MBA, PhD ect) can be a powerful combination. JD and MD programmes in S'pore and Malaysia are in their nascent stages, so I suppose these routes are only viable for those willing to go back to the US for advanced studies.

John, I am also somewhat heartened to read that there are more LAC alums/students that I initially expected in Malaysia.

echo82 said...

Julie, Williams and Amherst are amongst the top 5 liberal arts colleges, on par with the Ivies. Bates, Mt. Holyoke and Hamilton are within the top 25 LACs. They are most definitely not 2nd or 3rd rate schools. I would advise you to do some research before posting caustic remarks which only serve to highlight your ignorance and "katak di bawah tempurung" mentality.

echo82 said...

Re the fourth comment, as far as I know, Stanford does not offer financial aid for international students.

WY said...

at least someone noticed that the universities represented are mostly liberal art colleges are produced broad graduates - but certainly limited in terms of technical expertise.

Some lesser known, less expensive options are the larger state universities and technical universities:

1. purdue uni
2. michigan ann arbor
3. university of california(s)
4. georgia tech/virg tech
5. illiois universities
6. washington state
7. southern california uni
8. all the state universities (florida, kentucky, ohio, massachusetts, hawaii etc).
9. some state polytechs

LAC is over-rated in the states.

John Lee said...


It's not for want of trying to get speakers from the technical/research universities. We tried to get people from UMichigan and MIT as well, but they were unavailable.

I'd also dispute the claim that state universities are usually cheaper. I think it's telling that most of the Malaysians I've known who went to state universities were not self-funded but on local scholarships from JPA, Khazanah, etc. State universities charge almost the same fees as private universities for out-of-state students (including Malaysians), and offer them much less financial aid than liberal arts colleges and private universities because they prioritise the people of their state.

Having said that, if you can get into a UC or UMich, or even any other state university, more power to you. But I think you'll find your financing options a lot more limited than at these institutions' private counterparts.

Anonymous said...

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Where one goes depends very much on the options one has. Usually when a student apply, he/she should choose from top, realistic and backup colleges. What is top in quite obvious eventhough the answer varies.
However, if you want to be, say, an engineer and plan to stop after the first degree, you better get into one that offers strong engineering degrees, and in many cases (e.g. EE in UC Berkeley), you need to get into the right department before entry.


Azaam Fazli said...


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I have got an Idea by this site - but I don't think that its good enough.

Thank you for such a post.... I will try to get something out of it.

Thank you

orangutan said...

Hi JohnLee and Grace Liew,

I am EXTREMELY interested in HAMILTON COLLEGE, i've been looking up on it for a pretty long time and its definitely my number one choice of liberal art college!

I was soooo delighted when I found out that Grace is a student in HAMILTON! Could you please please please contact me so that i can find out more info from you about hamilton???? i may be applying ED2 this december to hamilton and askin for financial aid. >.< so dats probably the difficult parttt.

aside from that, im from Sabah and im a Kadazan, so hopefully my minority race could give me an edge for my application. Im currently takin my Alevels in singapore - transferred there 4 years ago. and taken my SAT - 1410 first time; retook in October and hoping to pull that up to 1500 this time round.

pleaseeeee help me out. :)

my email address is .



raidenneo said...

i'm close to finishing my foundation in CIMP(canadian international matriculations programme)locally in malaysia. i wish to further my studies in psychology, preferably in the U.S. do you have any suggestions and/or guides that you can give to help me? i'm really lost about continuing my studies to the university level. i'd appreciate your help! thanks!

Cheng Yin said...

Hello! I am Cheng Yin.I came across this post when I searched liberal arts education. I had just finished A levels and am applying to the U.S.
So I would like to get in touch with you, the panelists to know more about the colleges.

Hwa Yang Jerng, Bates College ‘03
Emily Chan, Colby College ‘11
Andrew Loh, Swarthmore College '10
Joan Low, Middlebury College '12
Philip Loh, Olin College '13

I know this post is quite old but do email

I am very grateful for your help!

I look forward to your message. Thanks! =)