The 2021 Ultimate NUS freshmen guide with 21 tips

by | Aug 19, 2021

S/Us, UNivUs, ModReg… do these terms sound alien to you? It has only been a few weeks since university started, but with so many programmes to keep track of, it might be hard to balance your new student life.

StudyRamen has prepared the ultimate NUS freshmen guide for you to prepare for (and enjoy) the university experience.


uNivUS is a relatively new addition to the plethora of apps that NUS students are recommended to use. It provides a lot of useful information and functions for students, let alone freshmen.

With COVID-19 restrictions in place, NUS facilities are only open to staff, students and guests. Hence, some places require you to show the NUS Safe Pass on the uNivUS app before you are allowed to enter.

The uNivUS app also provides you with other functions such as checking your exam results and declaring your vaccination status.

Apart from the other 20 essential student apps, this app would make your life in NUS a lot more convenient; we at StudyRamen highly recommend NUS freshmen familiarise themselves with its functions.

2. Map your modules

Every major has its prerequisites, and being in certain faculties might mean there are compulsory general modules for you to take.

In order to keep track of all the required modules, we recommend freshmen map their modules for the current and upcoming semesters.

This allows you to also plan for scenarios such as applying for the overseas exchange programme, or if you wish to take a Leave of Absence.

Mapping your modules across your 4 years can be done via an Excel spreadsheet 

Note: We are not sure who the original creator is, but do let us know if you do so we can credit them!.

There are some templates available for you to use that are typically shared in NUS Telegram channels!

3. Plan your modules using the NUSMods website

nus mods website

Worried about how packed your schedule would be when taking certain modules?

Well, look no further — NUSMods is a student-run NUS module planner that allows you to plan your weekly schedule and keeps track of your exam dates.

This website is the equivalent of planning your NUS timetable; you can use it to plan a 2 or 3 day work week, leaving yourself with “free” days to catch up on work or rest.

Bonus Tip: Go to NUSMods Settings, and turn on Beta mode. This allows you to plan modules for future semesters (with regards to Tip #2).

4. Check Student Reviews of Modules

plainjane reviews

Sourced from NUS

Another important factor to consider when planning your modules would be having a basic understanding of how lessons will be conducted.

There are various websites and blogs such as Plain Janes Reviews dedicated to reviewing modules.

They usually include anonymous reviews that describe their experience with the module, and sometimes include tips on how to perform well.

Some reviews also recommend what UEs (Unrestricted Electives) you should take.

Looking at such student reviews would help guide you in your freshman year to cope with the module’s workload.

5. Keep track of the NUS academic calendar

Make sure to keep track of the academic calendar for the year.

NUS releases their academic calendar annually, with important information on school holidays, deadlines and exam dates.

6. Familiarise yourself with the ModReg system

NUS uses the ModReg system for students to register for their modules. Priority for certain modules is based on a student’s Priority Score, which is determined by factors such as the student’s seniority and their choice in major.

ModReg is extremely important for NUS students, and NUS has compiled a list of resources and information to guide freshmen on its use here.

7. Familiarise yourself with the S/U system

You have probably heard NUS students heatedly discussing which modules they should S/U. We have included a brief introduction and some advice for freshmen to better understand the S/U system.

NUS has a “grade-free scheme” in which every student (except certain degrees such as Law) can choose to remove the grades of certain modules from their CAP.

Every student is allocated 8 S/Us for all 4 years, 5 of which have to be used in freshman year.

Although it may seem ideal to use all 5 in your freshman year, we recommend taking the time to weigh this decision as it might make your CAP volatile in the following years.

Only certain modules can be S/Ued. Before choosing to S/U a module, it is recommended to calculate what your CAP would look like before and after.

The decision to S/U depends on various factors, but the general advice for freshmen is to S/U modules below a B or B+.

8. Use the NUS CAP Calculator

To aid your decision regarding which modules to S/U, you can use the NUS CAP Calculator to see how your CAP changes with the S/U option.

9. Access academic materials using NUS Libraries

Writing essays and doing research for reports is rather stressful if you do not have access to academic databases. NUS provides a library database that grants you institutional access to various scholarly publishers such as JSTOR and Taylor and Francis.

For increased convenience, you can even use NUS Libraries as a proxy bookmarklet. When you visit a site that requires paid access, all you have to do is click on the proxy bookmarklet and reload the page to gain access.

Bonus Tip: With big brain access comes big brain energy. If you wish to expand access, you can also try downloading the Libkey Nomad Browser extension to access more articles.

libkey nomad

10. Access the NUS VPN

This is another tip that is especially important for freshmen: the NUS VPN is especially important for students who have online lessons and will not be on campus.

Certain online NUS services such as can only be accessed via NUS WiFi or VPN.

11. Access to Microsoft Office

Hefty university tuition fees are often a bane for most of us, but the silver lining is that it usually comes with paid access to various software.

In this case, NUS students have access to the Microsoft Office applications such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Teams.

Bonus Tip: NUS has access to various software, including Mendeley that helps you with your referencing.

Our general advice is for freshmen to refer to this list of other software that NUS students have access to.

12. NUS Concession Card

Specimen concession card

Sourced from NUS

Other NUS perks include its concession card, which allows you to enjoy subsidised rates for public transportation and other student discounts.

The application fee is $8.10 and only full-time undergraduates are eligible to apply for the concession card.

13. Keep track of NUS discounts

NUS student card

NUS canteens and food joints typically offer discounted prices for NUS students and staff.

All you have to do is flash your NUS student ID to stall owners as proof (pictured above).

A convenient way of ensuring that your student ID is with you at all times is to put it in a lanyard.

14. Download the NUS Campus Bus app

NUS Bus campus app

Freshmen or not, you will need a physical guide around NUS — that is where the NUS NextBus App comes in handy. You can use the app to track bus timings and routes.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, you need to flash your student ID to the bus driver before boarding the NUS Campus Buses. So keep your student card on you at all times!

NUS bus campus app

 15. Join NUS Telegram Chats

Another avenue to access NUS-related information (other than this university freshmen guide) would be to join the relevant NUS telegram chats.

There are channels available for university-wide updates, and chats for specific faculties to share information on upcoming events.

NUS tele channel

Most of these chats can be found via a simple search on Telegram, or via other social media platforms of the faculties.

They occasionally include useful tips for freshmen, and some even allow you to reach out to seniors for advice.

Here are some NUS telegram groups to join:

Bonus Tip: Join other NUS-related channels to enjoy perks such as food discounts or paid surveys!

16. Switch to online payments

Most local eateries have switched to online payment, and NUS is not an exception. NUS eateries and shops largely accept e-payment such as PayLah, GrabPay and FavePay.

If you are not used to e-payment, you are missing out on ways to save your money.

For instance, using certain e-payment platforms allows you to accumulate points that can be redeemed as vouchers or discounts.

17. Check your NUS email regularly

While this may seem rather obvious, it is all too easy to just ignore our email notifications and, in a matter of a few days, find our mailbox completely flooded.

Harry potter receiving mail

Sourced from books.str

Unlike Harry, who was all too eager to receive mail, having an influx of emails in university is not ideal.

COVID-19 circulars, academic updates and student promotions are often sent via email. Thus, make it a point to check your email regularly!

This is especially helpful as school emails might include tips or advice specifically for freshmen at the beginning of the semester.

18. Find Study Spots in NUS

NUS has various study spots for you to pore over your lecture notes. For instance, there are tables scattered across various faculties to grant you some time to study in between lessons.

There are also various libraries in NUS that you can study in such as the Central Library (located in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) or the Yale-NUS library.

nus library

Sourced from wikimedia

The Central Library has been renovated recently, and now provides study booths fit for larger groups for you to study with your friends.

The Yale-NUS library has beautiful views, but non-Yale-NUS students can only access the library until 6 pm.

Opening hours and access to libraries may differ and change due to COVID-19 restrictions, so check before you go!

Some study areas in NUS have to be booked in advance; you can use these rooms for a more private mugging session, or to hold project meetings.

Bonus Tip: The Commons rooms in UTown i.e. Mac Commons provide iMacs and other kinds of desktops for you to use if you wish to give your eyes a break from squinting at your laptop screen!

For other exciting places outside NUS to study in, check out these 7 Cafes to study in.

19. Gym / Fitness Areas in NUS

If you feel too overwhelmed by work and wish to take a break, you can use the various gyms and fitness amenities in NUS. NUS has football courts, swimming pools and squash courts available for booking.

Fitness areas in NUS

Sourced from NUS

Bonus Tip: When COVID-19 restrictions ease, try out the UTown infinity pool for some picturesque views!

20. Understand NUS Hall / RC Culture

nus hall residence

Sourced from NUS

If you are a freshman staying on campus, this might be old news to you.

Nonetheless, this serves as a useful tip for freshmen who may wish to apply for campus housing in the next semesters.

There are 7 halls available in NUS; Eusoff, Sheares, Kent Ridge, King Edward VII, Raffles, Temasek and PGP House, which each have their own unique culture.

There are 5 RCs (Residential Colleges) in NUS; Ridge View Residential College, College of Alice and Peter Tan, Residential College 4, Tembusu College and University Scholars’ Programme. Similar to halls, each RC has their own culture.

What is the difference between hall and RC?

For hall, first-year stay is usually guaranteed, in order to secure future stay, you have to be actively involved in hall life and CCAs.

While for RCs, first-year stay is guaranteed, but it differs slightly from halls; RCs require you to take certain modules that can replace your faculty’s required modules. Ensuring future stay depends on completing the RC modules and your participation in RC life.

Why you should stay on Campus?

Staying on campus has numerous benefits such as enjoying shorter travelling times and enriching your life in university. You also have more chances to meet seniors who can provide you with tips and advice on surviving your freshman year.

Nonetheless, research should be done before applying to halls to ensure that you can vibe well with its people and culture. You also need to ensure that you can balance these extracurriculars on top of your academics.

More information on the halls and RCs can be found here.

Bonus Tip: If you stay in hall / RC, you are usually given a sticker or lanyard with the hall / RC logo — paste the sticker on your student card, or use the lanyard when you are buying food on campus. Certain restaurants such as The Royals Bistro at UTown give extra discounts to those staying on campus!

21. Check out NUS CCAs

If you wish to make friends outside of your faculty and outside of campus living, you can explore the various CCAs that NUS offers. CCAs are not compulsory for university students, and attendance requirements vary across the CCAs.

The clubs range from sports to performing arts and even cultural appreciation. Information on the various clubs are usually announced at the NUS Student Life Fair, which will be held live via YouTube this year.

Bonus Tip: New clubs are formed regularly. Check your email or Telegram channels for updates on these new clubs and their recruitment!

Bonus Tip: We recommend freshmen to try out more clubs in their first year while the workload is still relatively manageable in comparison to your later years.

Are you ready to ace this semester?

Studyramen meme

With StudyRamen’s Ultimate NUS Freshmen Guide, we hope you feel better equipped to enrich your university experience.

Keep a lookout for future articles on how to survive and thrive in other local universities!

In the meantime, do check out 6 Notetaking Apps to complement this NUS Freshmen Guide.

You can also join the StudyRamen telegram channel and follow our Instagram for more student-related content.