Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Advices and information from Senior Recommer, Smilehoe! ^_^

Here is the reply of Smilehoe, a senior Recommer to me due to my dilemma at my previous post, and I think it is worthwhile for me to post it up here to be shared with everyone due to its great and effective information to me. He's an actuarial student in UM(University of Malaya) and here it goes: 

Hi Nicholasng925,
First of all, I think that the effort you put in considering and researching on actuarial science is impressive. I didn't know as much as you do while I was at your place.I'm not an engineering student so my advice would be lopsided, do take it at face value and make your own judgement. 

We will talk about a few scenarios,
Case 1, No A-levels,
I think alternatives are pretty limited. Form 6, A-levels or other Pre-U courses at more affordable institutions. You can again aim towards Act.Sc. while doing those courses.

Case 2, A-levels or other Pre-U, but no scholarship for overseas degree
As you have mentioned, NTU and NUS are good alternatives. High government loan available. Though NUS offers twinning programme, there might be some issues you need to sort out beforehand, i.e. admission might be harder, and the funding of the two years in Aussie. NTU on the other hand, won't much of a burden if you take Sg government loan.

Apply to UTAR, UKM, UM or other local universities. Local universities do accept A-level qualifications. Some A-level students have in fact been accepted to UM actuarial sc., but I can't guarantee whether the chances of getting in are the same.

On quality wise, Utar, UM and UKM don't differ much. The path to fellowship depends much more on the student than the institution. Utar and UKM have students who take SOA papers at incredible rate. And UM does not lag too far either. So don't turn out the option on Utar, it's a reasonably viable path and as long as you persist, you'll turn out equal with your overseas counterparts.

Take the risk, do A-levels and apply to overseas unis. If you are accepted at an Ivy-league or equivalent institute, JPA will sponsor your studies (I hope I'm not wrong on this). And even if you don't want, certain universities do not charge tuition fees. Those with need-blind policy of admission usually are tuition free. Some European universities do not charge fees either. So do check them out. And don't give up on scholarships application while you do your A-levels.

Actuarial sc. may be intimidating due to its exam oriented nature and various claims. But as with every other subject, it is as easy or as hard as you want it to be. I don't see law, medic, engineering or other professions easier than act. sc. Others can't tell you if you make it or not. Granted, there's still a lot of hard work but that what dreams and life are about. 

One thing to note is before you choose a career or course, factor in the future working environments too. Engineering will be related to site or lab work depending on specialization while act. sc. will be constrained to an office cubicle (*Note rough generalization). So do think about it as well.

Still, if you were determined to pass professional exams, long hours of study are absolutely necessary. It can become unbearable especially once you start working. Dropping out halfway is not uncommon. If you want to know more, I suggest you visit here and interact with the community there. There are many accounts on study life and challenges an actuarial student faces. 

All the best.

Below was my reply to the helpful senior for his information:

Hi Smilehoe! Thanks a lot for giving me such an insightful reply in the thread. In fact, you have given me lots of useful informations about local institutions' actuarial programmes about their lecturers and the rate of students taking SOA papers, and I knew that UTAR actually have a few students who passed 6 SOA papers successfully. Most importantly, finally i knew that local universities(UM, UKM) do accept A-Levels students, although those who apply them by using A-Levels result might have slightly lower chance to succeed.

About the NUS's twinning programme, I think you were referring to the Bachelor of Social Science(Actuarial Science) in collaboration with ANU. However, I prefer NTU more as like you have said, I shouldn't be facing much problem if i take Singapore Government's loan. However, I won't stop there just yet before trying out to research on US, Europe universities as you said, and maybe Australia universities too; And I do know that some of the US universities have need-blind policy and will grant some scholarships and financial aids to international students given the fact that their parents' monthly income does not exceed certain amount, which most of the medium income families in Malaysia probably won't exceed it. I think i have to start doing my researches and scholarship application while I do my A-Levels.

Yeah I do realise that Actuarial Science is indeed intimidating due to the exam oriented nature, but I just believe that I am able to do it, and hopefully i do. I totally agree that is what make up life and dreams! Oh, and I think i prefer office environment more than at the sites, factories or labs. In fact, I can sit at a particular place for hours, and even half a day, doing my studies or facing the computer! Opps~ :P

Lastly, I really want to thank you for introducing the actuarial forum to me, and I have registered it straightaway once i knew it from you. I don't know how to reply you, but only to say thank you for giving me so much useful information about actuarial science and most importantly clearing my questions and doubts. I really appreciate it, and thanks a lot. Good luck to you too! =)


  1. a few things you should know.

    if you study in Singapore at NUS/NTU/SMU, whether self-funded or as the recipient of a university scholarship, you will be bonded to work with a Singapore-based company (of your choosing) for 3 years, because international students receive a tuition grant from the Singapore government. Also, SMU offers BSc Econs with Actuarial Science as well.

    Except for UPenn, none of the other Ivy League universities offers a programme in actuarial science, due to the liberal arts educational philosophy in the US. Of the very few need-blind schools in the US (Harvard, Princeton, MIT, etc), none of them offer an actuarial science degree. Many of the good schools offering ActSc degrees in the US are state universities, which are cheaper than private ones but in general offer almost no financial aid to internationals.

  2. Hi Anonymous,

    Thanks a lot for telling me these extra information about Singapore and US universities and scholarships available. For Singapore, personally I don't mind working with any Singapore-based company and it would be great if I get to work there. I prefer Singapore more than Malaysia though.

    For US universities, I do realised that the Ivy League university that offers Actuarial programme is only Upenn and no other university. Upon reading to your information about those state universities that are offering ActSc degree don't offer financial aids to internationals generally, well that's the reason I don't really want to study in the US without any sponsor. Plus, US universities applications are tough and complicated; And SAT/ACT test are needed as a prerequisite for the admission. I prefer UK and Australia more though.

    Thanks anyways for giving me extra useful information and I really appreciate it. All the best! :)

  3. Personally, I think that if you have your mind set on actuarial science and you don't want to dabble around in other subjects you may not be interested in, an education in the US isn't really for you. The UK system gives you a much more focused education, which is arguably better when training for a profession.

    Regarding the complexities of the US application process: these are just hoops you have to jump through, and whether or not you're willing to do it definitely depends on how much you like going to the US. There are plenty of guides and resources online to help you out though.

    Good luck with your higher education plans.

  4. Hi anonymous, thanks for clearing my doubts again and I think I would prefer UK and Australia more, due to the liberal arts educational philosophy in the US. However, US is still considered as the best country for its actuarial programmes though. Maybe I should check it out too, since I can just cope up with anything including World History.

    About the complexity of US application process, yep I knew some websites that provide sample essays and links to those seniors who have gained admission into US universities successfully, and from there I can find the guides and resources about the application process. A game named "FreeRice" is good for those who want to take their SAT in improving the English vocabulary too!

    Thanks anyways, and I would surely do adequate researches regarding my higher education plan. Good luck to you too! :)

  5. hello nicholas. first of all, just so you know, i chanced upon your blog from the bank negara scholarship thread. after reading through few of your posts, i realised we have A LOT in common and i'd like to share em with you. i am intending to pursue actuarial science too, but unfortunately enough, JPA decided to supercede this course. *sigh* after weighing my options, i finally chose engineering (general). well, the decision came about because i thought that was the closest i could get and since i have a keen interest in both maths and science (especially biology too), i've decided that probably engineering will be the right choice. yup, i practically dumped my dream of getting a FIA behind my name. at that point, i didnt think of choosing SCIENCE as my major. didnt think it was possible. once i complete my foundation for engineering, i think i will have my options narrowed to financial engineering/chemical engineering/biomedical engineering. what do you think? did i make a right move? well, i wasnt SURE about the actuarial path and wasnt OVERLY into it, and i think i can do both ways. besides, what qualifies you as an actuary does not depend on the degree you hold, but the number of papers you passed. therefore in the future, IF i still intend to be an actuary, i'll try the papers out. oh yeah, another coincidence is that... i actually considered MCKL too if i don't get JPA. i almost enrolled, but my parents urged me to wait. if i dont secure the JPA scholarship, then i'll be taking my A levels and resume my dream to be an actuary. yeah. that's all, just thought i'd like to share it with someone. i need some opinions too, and you seem like the right person for it. thank you in advance. btw, i'm a girl. so, no electronic engineering for me! haha! nice meeting you too.

  6. Hey Anonymous! Thanks for sharing your experiences here and nice to meet you too! First and foremost, I'm really glad that someone have actually the same interest as me and a lot in common with me; And believe it or not, I did think about choosing Engineering(General) and Economics too for JPA scholarship application, before decided that I should choose Science instead, cause I'm also interested in Physics and Maths. For your case, I think you have did a right move, and Financial Engineering would be nicest among the other two courses, cause Financial Engineering involves lots of Maths, Finance and Economics topics too, in which it is more related to Actuarial Science as compared to the other two courses.

    However, if you like Biology so much, I think you can choose Biomedical Engineering too cause you should do something based on your interest. Yes, if you want to be a qualified actuary, you can take professional actuarial exams anytime in future. By the way, hope that we could successfully secure JPA scholarship which would be announced this week.

    A few questions for you:
    1) Are you a BNM scholarship candidate too?
    2) Do you have financial constraint which you would need tuition waiver scholarship from MCKL?
    3) What is your Recom username and do you have Facebook? (I can talk to you much easier.) =)


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