The ultimate SMU Freshmen guide: Stop sucking at school

by | Sep 20, 2021

“Hey, let’s study at the fish tank today!” You want to study…in a fish tank?
“I need to get my 4.3 GPA!” Wait, Isn’t the maximum 4.0?

Fitting into a new institute can be an anxious and bewildering experience. That is why we created this SMU freshmen guide to help you start on the right track.

Familiarise yourself with places around the school, your benefits as an SMU student, and some useful SMU lingo to get a head start in your freshman year!

Where to find SMU Study Spaces

The most essential information SMU freshmen need to know is probably where they can study.

SMU Library

Kwa Geok Choo library

Picture of Kwa Geok Choo Library
Sourced from SMU

To start off, SMU has two libraries – Li Ka Shing Library and Kwa Geok Choo Law Library, that can cater to 1000 and 300 students respectively.

Both SMU libraries tend to be packed at times so to avoid a futile trip, a tip is to check the occupancy level before going.

SMU libraries are not accessible to the public; you will need your student pass to enter, so you won’t be able to plan study dates there with your non-SMU friends.

Group Study Rooms

Group Seminar room

Next, Group Study Rooms, commonly known as GSRs, can be found all around the school. These air-conditioned private rooms make a great place for project group discussions and study sessions.

Seminar Rooms

Seminar room

Sourced from SMU

Besides GSRs, larger student groups also book seminar rooms to study together. These rooms are great for rehearsing with your group members before the actual presentation too!

Fish Tanks (SMU Study Lounges)

SMU Fish tank

Sourced from SMU

‘Fish Tanks’ earned its name because of its round, glassy appearance. They are study lounges that can be found in the basement and on the first level of the School Of Economics/School of Social Sciences.

SMU Connexion

SMU connexion

Sourced from SMU

SMU Connexion is the artistic building beside the School of Law with cosy study spaces. There are rooms and booths there available for booking, but you can also find study spots taken on a first-come, first-served basis.

Lastly, when you need a break from SMU, consider this list of cafes in Singapore you can study in put together by StudyRamen!

How to book SMU Facilities

SMU has an online facilities booking system that makes booking GSRs and seminar rooms very accessible and hassle-free.

For freshmen who have never booked SMU facilities, here are a few useful things to note:

Co-bookers

To prevent hogging of rooms, every booking requires a co-booker. To book a GSR, you will need 1 co-booker and to book a lecture room, you will need 2.

Booking Credits

Each student’s booking credits are reset to $4500 credits at the start of every academic year; the remaining balance from the previous year will not be brought forward.

GSRs are priced around $16 to $21 credits per hour and seminar rooms are around $50 to $100+ depending on capacity and whether it is a peak or non-peak period. The total price will be split among the bookers.

User Guide

SMU user guide to booking

If you have trouble navigating the system, the booking site has a video guide and user manual under ‘help’ to assist SMU freshmen.

Where to find food in SMU

You will never run out of food options since SMU is conveniently surrounded by malls, but this does not dismiss the fact that there are many eateries worth checking out in SMU itself – which may be kinder to your wallet!

A full list of SMU food can be found on the school website, so this freshmen guide will focus on introducing a few frequented eateries.

Bricklane: Alcohol & Donburi Bowls

Li Ka Shing Library | #01-22

Bricklane: Alcohol & Donburi Bowls

Sourced from Kenboru Instagram

In no particular order, first, we have Bricklane. Now, who doesn’t love having a bar on the school campus?

Bricklane only sells alcohol after 5 PM. During the day, you can grab one of their Japanese donburi bowls that were originally from the popular Kenboru which recently relocated to Bricklane!

Onalu: Acai & Bagels

School of Accountancy | #01-11/12/13

Onalu: Acai & Bagels

Sourced from districtsixtyfive

Next, if you are bored of usual rice and noodle staples, why not check out Onalu for some fresh Acai and Bagels? I heard they serve good coffee too.

Tea Party: Pasta

tea party

Sourced from burpple

School of Economics/Social Sciences | #01-74/75

We also have Tea Party serving pasta that usually comes with a cup of ice lemon tea. They are popular among students for their affordable pricing; around $5 for both the pasta and drink.

Canteen Bistro

Canteen bistro

Sourced from Canteen bistro

Finally, there is Canteen Bistro who is known for its value-for-money Omurice. Where else can you find such a substantial serving of Omurice at $8?

Franchises

Besides food exclusive to SMU, you can also enjoy famous food and beverage franchises like Yakun, Subway, Gong Cha and Starbucks on campus!

Although there are no seats at SMU’s Starbucks outlet, you can always grab your favourite latte and book a GSR to enjoy your coffee while you study!

Which MRT should I alight at to get to SMU?

Situated in town, SMU students can conveniently access school using any of the four MRT stations – Bras Basah (Circle Line), Bencoolen (Downtown Line), Dhoby Ghaut (North-South/North-East/Circle Line) and City Hall (North-South and East-West Line).

If you are clueless about which station to alight, this SMU freshmen guide has some tips for you!

On rainy days

On days that are pouring, you may want to take to Bras Basah or Bencoolen because they both have sheltered exits that lead directly to the basement of SMU.

School of Economics/Social Sciences

If you are coming from the North-South line, walking to SOE/SOSS from Dhoby Ghaut station, instead of waiting for the train to Bras Basah that has erratic interval timings, could save you a few minutes.

School of Business/Law

SOB/SOL is only a 5-7 minute walk from City Hall station. If you are coming from the North-South or East-West Line, you may want to try out this route!

Does the SMU Clinic provide free consultation?

SMU clinic

Yes, medical fees charged by the SMU clinic are claimable, but did you know that ‘SMU Clinic’ is not only limited to the one on our campus?

As an SMU student, you are entitled to unlimited, free regular outpatient treatment at all polyclinics and authorised panel clinics. Other services like specialist care and hospital and surgical treatments are also covered but have certain limits.

To find out more and learn how to process your claims from the relevant SMU Clinics, refer to SMU’s insurance partner’s official website.

How to use SMU Printing Services?

SMU uses a cloud-based printing service which makes printing easy and convenient. Printing stations can be found in every school and at SMU libraries.

For freshmen who do not know how to get about this, you can click on ‘User Guide’ on the SMU Printing Services page for a step-by-step guide to get your documents printed!

How to make use of the SMU Library Database

As University students – no, Wikipedia is not acceptable for research. To find reliable sources of information, tap on SMU library’s resources of close to 200 databases!

Citing reliable sources of information is necessary for University as it will help boost the credibility of your essays and impress your professors.

Besides academic journals, you can access unlimited and premium articles from news channels like The Economist and The Straits Times’ too

Useful IT applications for SMU freshmen

Tired of 40-minute Zoom sessions? SMU students enjoy premium Zoom accounts so you can now Zoom as long as you want!

Aside from Zoom, you can also access other useful applications and premium accounts by following the right steps when creating your account.

Here are some instruction guides to IT applications we think will be useful for SMU freshmen:

  1. Zoom Premium Account 
  2. Microsoft Teams Account
  3. Microsoft Office 365 Applications
  4. Qualtrics Premium Account
  5. Adobe Reader

SMU Notebook Tender

All matriculated students qualify to purchase from the SMU notebook tender where you can find Windows and Mac notebooks at discounted prices.

Other key benefits include a 3-year warranty, on-campus IT support, and the provision of a loan set if repairing takes more than 8 hours.

SMU Scholarship and SMU Bursary

Financial assistance options, SMU Scholarships and Bursaries, are open to Singaporean citizens, Permanent Residents and international students.

If you are intending to apply, be mindful of application windows and avoid missing the deadlines!

Here are some resources SMU freshmen would find helpful:

Financial Assistance Scheme Finder

Add filters to tailor your search to find the SMU Scholarship/SMU Bursary most applicable to you

Financial needs calculator

SMU CCAs

With over 150 clubs and societies ranging from Sports Clubs to Functional Student Bodies, you’ll definitely find something to achieve your ideal SMU freshman year!

To find out more about SMU CCAs, attend ‘Vivace’ – SMU’s annual CCA fair where students share their passion for their work and showcase their skills through performances!

SMU Grading System

The SMU grading system is rather different compared to other universities in Singapore like NUS and NTU.

SMU Award System

Firstly, for graduation awards, I’m sure we are all familiar with words like ‘First Class Honours’ and ‘Second Class Honours’ but have you heard of Summa Cum Laude?

Unlike other local universities who adopt British grading systems, SMU uses a Latin award system that is practised in the United States, and this is how they are ranked:

SMU GPA Grading System

Next, to see how your GPA is calculated, refer to the table below.

What is a 4.3 GPA?

If you have heard seniors joking about aiming for a 4.3 GPA (or maybe they’re serious, but can’t relate…), that is because, under SMU’s grading system, students who attain an A+ are awarded a more-than-maximum, 4.3 grade point.

Professors give out A+s very selectively, reserving them for the best students who excel in every component. While it takes a lot of effort to achieve, it can help pull your GPA up significantly.

Ultimately, the maximum GPA is still 4.0, which means if you attain a 4.1 GPA, it will be rounded down to 4.0.

How to bid for modules on SMU BOSS

If you are confused about bidding, StudyRamen has covered SMU BOSS in-depth in another article.

SMU-X Modules

SMU-X modules are modules you bid for on SMU BOSS like every other module, except in SMU-X modules, students take on real-world projects and work with corporates, non-profits, or government organizations.

They are known to be heavier in workload, hence freshmen tend to avoid them if they are pre-assigned heavy content modules.

However, as the saying goes, hard work pays off and besides getting that real industry experience, it is easier to get an A grade in SMU-X modules too.

In general, SMU professors can only award A grades to 35% of the course, subject to unique circumstances.

For SMU-X courses, that limit is raised to 50%, allowing students a higher chance to score an A.

SMU professor and module reviews

Afterclass website

Sourced from afterclass.io

SMU professor and module reviews can be found at AfterClass, a platform where students post their experiences and advice on modules they have taken before.

As freshmen, you may be curious to know what your professors are like, but it is recommended to take professor reviews with a pinch of salt since they can be subjective.

Does SMU have S/Us?

For those who are unfamiliar, S/U stands for Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grade.

When students say, “I want to S/U this module”, it basically means to assign it a ‘pass’ grade and exclude it from your GPA computation.

SMU allows students to declare S/U for up to 2-course units (CUs), some time in their final school term, which they call ‘declaring as Exploratory Courses’.

Here are a few important things that are good to know starting from your freshman year:

  • Not all modules can be assigned S/U in SMU – core modules and compulsory modules are not declarable.
  • The modules you want to S/U have to attain at least a D grade and above.
  • Modules taken in the final semester cannot be declared, which means you can only S/U modules you have taken up to and including your penultimate semester.
  • A minimum of 21 CUs must be graded and counted towards your GPA. SMU will not allow you to utilize your 2 S/Us if you end up with less than 21 gradable CUs after doing so.

SMU Community Service Requirements

As part of SMU’s curriculum, students must clear at least 80 hours of Community Service. It is mandatory and your graduation can be delayed if this requirement is not met.

To clear these hours, watch out for emails from the Centre for Social Responsibility. They send out volunteering opportunities from various non-profit organizations and SMU student groups throughout the year.

Before embarking on your Community Service Project (CSP) journey, remember to complete your Community Service Units (CSU) on eLearn and submit an application on ONTRAC.

CSU can be seen as a prerequisite for CSP and it is recommended for SMU freshmen to complete them as early as possible.

SMU Internship Requirements

To graduate, we will also need to clear a minimum 10-week internship – you are allowed to clear it over multiple internships.

Although getting an internship may not seem as urgent for freshmen, statistics show that SMU students usually graduate with an average of two to six internships, so it is never too early to start!

Students can either source for their own internships or find one from the listing on ONTRAC. If you need help with sprucing up your resume, cover letter or interview skills, you may book an appointment with your career coach on ONTRAC.

Similar to community service projects, you’ll have to complete your Internship Readiness Modules (IRM) and submit an application on ONTRAC before you can officially log the internship.

Can local freshmen stay in SMU dorms?

Local students, including freshmen, can apply to stay in SMU dorms, although the SMU dorm allocation prioritizes international students since the school’s central location makes it convenient for most local students.

SMU’s dorm, Prinsep Street Residences (PSR, or commonly known as ‘Prinsep’), is an apartment-style dorm with each apartment housing up to 12 students, who either live in single rooms or twin sharing rooms.

Students staying at Prinsep have access to facilities like the basketball court and BBQ pits. They may also work on community service projects together and plan and participate in exciting activities like Prinsep’s Got Talent!

Is it easy for SMU students to get an overseas exchange?

Getting an exchange does not seem too difficult since SMU is enthusiastic about exposing students to global experiences, but there are a few factors that can affect your acceptance rate – the school you apply to, GPA, and CCA records.

Similar to regular university applications, different schools have different acceptance standards. These standards apply to exchange students too.

Top universities will have higher GPA requirements and less popular universities have friendlier GPA cutoffs.

To have a better gauge of your chances, take a look at last year’s SMU exchange indicative grade profile (click on ‘iGPA’ under the section ‘For Application’).

When applying for exchange, SMU students are required to send in their CCA records. However, I know of students who get their exchange choice despite having empty CCA records, so GPA is definitely still the main factor.

Hope you found this SMU freshmen guide helpful!

Did we mention making friends will make school life more fun and exciting? Here’s an exclusive tip: send this SMU freshmen guide to a fellow schoolmate to start a conversation!

To learn more about making friends, check out StudyRamen’s article,
“The science behind why you vibe with certain people”.

If you found this SMU freshmen guide helpful, follow us on our social media platforms – StudyRamen Telegram Channel and @StudyRamen on Instagram for more quality content!