Is NTU Communication Studies for me?

by | Sep 9, 2021

Interested in studying mass communication? You might have heard that NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information is ranked sixth globally and first within Asia.

Building of wee kim wee school

To the average person, taking a degree in mass communication sounds like a lot of fun. You get to work with influencers, meet lots of new people and possibly even appear on TV or radio.

Sounds enticing? Totally.

But if you’re a freshly-graduated JC student with no experience in media, this might sound really daunting too. Don’t worry, I was once there too, you can check out this NTU freshmen guide to keep yourself up to speed with what you need to know!

Here, I’ll be sharing some of my experiences in NTU Communication Studies as a current Year 3 student. Hopefully, my experiences will help you decide whether NTU Communication Studies is really for you!

People using their phones

Communication studies is a social science that studies how messages are communicated and understood.

This ranges from one-to-one conversations between people to mass-scale communication (e.g. radio, where information is communicated to many people at once).

Sounds incredibly vague, right? Well, it is!

Communication studies cover a whole range of industries — advertising, public relations, broadcast (like radio or TV), journalism, market research, and the list goes on.

As you can probably tell by the name, it’s a pretty general degree! This might be a concern to some, but more on that later.

Why did I take communication studies?

The story of why I chose this course is rather…interesting.

In secondary 3, my mom told me one day, “You know there’s a course in NTU that makes you watch K-dramas for homework?!”

The course in question was indeed NTU Communication Studies. And as a huge koreaboo, I was obviously excited.

This planted the initial thought of studying communications in my head!

Later on in JC, as an avid social media user, working in social media looked like a lot of fun.

I watched a lot of YouTube — The Smart Local, NigaHiga and Michelle Phan were a few of my early inspirations. I had also dabbled in video editing and photography and thought I could put these skills to good use.

Clearly, I was drawn to the shiny, exciting life that mass communication promised. This is a nice segue into some common misconceptions that people have about the course.

Common misconceptions

1. It’s ALL FUN (and no work)!

partying in a club

Sourced from @wkwsci on Instagram

PLEASE don’t be ignorant and idealistic like I was — communications is not all fun and games!

For example, remember what I said about being inspired by YouTubers? I have so much more respect for every filmmaker and video content creator after entering this school.

Yes, it is exciting to learn how to use fancy film equipment for filmmaking modules. But there is so much behind-the-scenes work that goes behind a video that is rarely ever talked about.

First, you conceptualise the video, then create the storyboard, write the script, plan various shot lists, get permissions to shoot at your chosen locations, plan the shoot schedules, prepare all your camera and sound equipment…the list goes on.

Aside from the hands-on modules, you will still need to take a substantial number of “study” mods. Statistics, writing and communication theory core modules are compulsory for every freshman.

Communication studies is much more “chim” than you might think! It’s very closely related to psychology, because in order to get people to understand the message you put across, you need to know how they think.

It is definitely NOT just writing, taking photos and designing things that look good. It is doing these things in a way that will communicate your message effectively.

At the end of the day, no matter how much you love writing, making videos or designing things in your free time, you’re still pursuing a degree. You cannot expect to get a degree by putting in the same amount of effort as you would a hobby.

A JC Kid’s Perspective

For most JC kids, the first year will be really challenging, because you don’t have the luxury of time to master the skill required in the module.

Previously, you studied for two years for one major exam; now, you only have 13 weeks.

Not to mention that you also can’t memorise and regurgitate for exams anymore. Rote learning will not do you much good because most assessments focus on application, which you cannot memorise.

Try to really understand what you’re learning instead of blindly memorising! It’ll serve you better; trust me.

Most modules also don’t give you a lot of room for ungraded practice. For example, there was once I only had one practice to write a news article before having to submit a graded assignment.

Because most JC kids lack the experience that their poly counterparts have, the learning curve will indeed be steep, especially for the more hands-on modules. Examples include the infamous Image Sound Production (teaches the basics of filmmaking) and most writing modules.

In summary,

You have been warned; you will be thoroughly disappointed if you think going to NTU Communication Studies is a walk in the park.

But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom! In my years here, I’ve studied new things that have been really fulfilling and valuable to me.

I realised filmmaking isn’t really my thing, at least not professionally, but I do enjoy cinema studies. I also found that, unlike the typical WeeKid, I really enjoy theory modules.

Also, the modules with the most labour-intensive projects are also the most rewarding, because you see the final product and realise how much you’ve grown. So don’t shy away from discomfort!

There are also many more opportunities to have fun at the events that WKWSCI organises! Just don’t expect to not study at all.

2. People dress really over-the-top and are super loud.

For the most part, not really!

Regarding clothes, there will be those students who really put in effort into their dressing and glam up for everyday school. But usually, people just wear what’s in trend.

As long as you look presentable, you won’t stick out like a sore thumb, so don’t worry too much about dressing. A basic T-shirt, jeans and sneakers is good enough for the average day.

The only other time that people really dress over-the-top is during Theme Week — a staple WKWSCI event where students dress up in crazy garb according to the theme of the day. (To see past Theme Weeks, check out @wkwsci on Instagram)

Literally, you can come in full cosplay and no one will bat an eyelid. Prizes are solid and you’re sure to receive loads of compliments on your outfit!

If you’re ready to invest in a sick wardrobe, check out these 20 vintage stores in Singapore.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of drawing attention to myself so over the years I’ve gotten lazy to participate. But try it at least once, coordinating outfits with your friends and taking cute pictures for the gram is pretty fun!

As for loud people, there will definitely be a few “popular” groups that everyone recognises because they’re loud and rowdy. Also expect to be schoolmates with famous people, such as influencers, actors, etc. because after all, NTU Communication Studies is a reputable school.

There are also a significantly higher number of extroverted people than average. But there are also the quieter ones, and they are no less talented than their extroverted counterparts!

If you’re quieter by nature, don’t be intimidated by loud people; after all, they are still humans. As long as you’re sociable enough to make friends or say hi, you’ll be fine.

And if that’s still uncomfortable for you, I understand. But sometimes a simple “Hi, what’s your name?” can secure you a project group in modules where you don’t know anyone else!

3. People are superficial.

True. There are indeed superficial people, and there is a substantial amount of drama that goes on in the school.

However, there are bound to be superficial people in every course, not just this one!

If you want to avoid the superficial crowd from the start, make the most of the orientation period.

Also, friend groups are formed quickly, so make full use of the first two to three weeks of school where everyone is mingling to find your people.

Another important point — all because someone is loud and dresses well doesn’t mean they are superficial! While it seems like all they care about is fashion and the hottest trends, try talking to them a little more.

From my experience, I’m usually pleasantly surprised by how down-to-earth these people are.

4. Mass communication is a useless degree.

A table full of laptops

I know that on Reddit you’ll find many people who regret studying mass communication because it’s “too general”. But remember — every company needs a communications team.

As a professional communicator, you can literally go into any industry you like! Fashion, beauty, tech, automobiles, you name it.

The digital marketing industry which is expected to continue thriving in the future as one of the top industries in Singapore is also a popular hotspot for graduates.

Most salary figures in this section have been eyeballed from the available job titles in MOM’s Occupational Wage Table(s) 2020. Additional sources are hyperlinked accordingly if the jobs aren’t found in this source!

There are four main tracks:

Broadcast Media and Cinema Studies

This track includes filmmaking, production and all things broadcast-related.

Common career paths include scriptwriter, television presenter, producer and video editor. From my experience, most people who choose this path work in production houses after graduation.

Average salary: $3,000 to $7,000

Strategic Communication for the Digital Age

This track includes advertising, marketing, public relations and the like.

Common career paths include advertising/marketing/PR executives or account managers. You can either choose to work in an agency (i.e. brands hire your company to outsource their work) or in-house (i.e. brands hire you directly).

Average salary: $3,200 to $9,000

Journalism and Media Policies

This track includes all things journalism-related — online journalism, news writing, photojournalism, etc.

Common career paths include journalist, reporter, correspondent, writer for online publications.

Average salary: $3,500 to $8,000

Data Science and Media Studies

This track includes communication research and academic studies.

Common career paths include market researcher and academic researcher.

Average salary: $3,200 to $10,000

Differences between NUS CNM and NTU WKWSCI

wee kim wee school

Many people ask what the difference is between NUS’s Communications and New Media (under Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) and NTU Communication Studies.

While WKWSCI is usually seen as the “superior school”, don’t strike off NUS CNM from your considerations!

The most fundamental difference is: NTU WKWSCI is a school, while NUS CNM is a faculty under FASS.

This means that WKWSCI has a lot more free reign to create and plan their own curriculum, while CNM is still under the authority of FASS guidelines.

These are the key effects:

WKWSCI is much more specialised.

WKWSCI offers many more hands-on modules that teach you about the industry. While CNM does offer such mods as well, there are far fewer and they focus more on communication research and theories.

Typically, more hands-on mods means that WKWSCI students are more prepared for the workforce if they choose to continue doing mass communication after graduation.

WKWSCI students have to take a total of 16 communication studies modules over 4 years, while CNM students only take 9 over 3 years. The rest of their modules come from other majors.

So you can see why WKWSCI students are more specialised.

It’s easier to change your mind in CNM.

While going to WKWSCI means that you’ve committed to studying communications, in FASS you can declare your major later on.

So if after a few mods, you decide communications isn’t for you, you can choose something else.

Personal experience in NTU WKWWSCI

Here, I’ll share some miscellaneous thoughts I have about NTU Communication Studies that haven’t been addressed above.

Schedule

After completing your core mods, you can choose what mods you want to take, so your timetable depends on what you pick.

If you don’t want class on Fridays, then don’t take any Friday mods — you have free reign!

Honestly, it’s the outside-of-class stuff that takes up more time — project meetings, doing assignments and catching up on readings.

But it is definitely possible to balance personal and school life with good time management skills.

Competition

Very present. If you’re a JC kid, you will be competing with people who’ve had years of communications experience (I.e. the poly kids).

But even they tell me how difficult university is for them because it’s more academically rigorous (i.e. need to study more). There are also higher expectations of them because they have experience.

So don’t worry too much! It’s a relatively healthy competitive environment, enough to make you grow but not to the point where people become selfish.

Internships

If you have the capacity during summer break (3 months), try to get at least one internship before the compulsory internship in Year 3 Semester 2.

No matter how much you learn in class or how practical your projects are, the working world is still different.

However, that’s not to say classes are irrelevant. Class experience has definitely helped me assimilate into my internship much more easily because I can see what I learn in class in practice.

The importance of writing skills

Writing is inescapable — almost all mods involve some sort of writing component.

If writing isn’t your strong suit, you might want to at least brush up on your grammar rules before school starts.

Start by taking up a freelance writing or editor role on platforms like Fiver and/or Upwork to gain additional experience!

What to think about before applying

Before you rush to choose NTU Communication Studies as your first choice, ask yourself: Why do you want to study communications? Which part of communications are you interested in?

Do some research about the tracks available in the school, ask around during open house and any seniors you know who’ve gone to WKWSCI.

That being said, don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what you want! Everyone starts somewhere — don’t be afraid of joining NTU communication studies with no experience.

Just keep an open mind; it’ll be a steep learning curve, but you will definitely get better over time.

I hope this has helped you gain a better idea of what studying NTU Communication Studies is like! All the best for choosing your degree programme; you’ll be fine, don’t worry too much!

If you’re interested in NTU sociology, here’s a graduate sharing her perspectives on a sociology degree.

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