University College London
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My university application journey
I applied to NUS Law & UCL. I was accepted into NUS after a written test and in-person interview, but chose UCL for its legendary alumni and strong legal faculty - which included judges, legal practitioners and famous academics. It’s pretty cool to be taught by the people who write your textbooks, or question those who had a hand in shaping English law about their thought process. As for the course itself, I wanted to read Law early on because I thought the subject matter was varied enough to keep me interested, and it was also viable for my future career - since law is a good stepping stone in any direction, be it legal practice, investment banking, consulting, journalism or academia and education. The application process for NUS was straight-forward; the test merely tests your ability to think methodically under pressure, and the interview tests that along with how well you can form an opinion of issues. For example, I had a discussion about climate change, where I opined a view that one of the interviewers seemed slightly hostile towards. However, I justified my reasons for this opinion tactfully, and it turned out fine. Just remember to be respectful. The application for UCL was done through a centralised database (UCAS) and involved the submission of a personal statement. You need to eloquently demonstrate your motivations for law within a palatable word limit; and what you have done to pursue this, or any experiences that demonstrate raw abilities that can help you in your legal studies. It was not that challenging, as I had the help of mentors in proofreading it for clarity and persuasiveness. I’m happy to do so for anyone who needs an extra pair of eyes to look through their statement.
Life after NYJC
Life at UCL has been a melting pot of so many experiences I could never have imagined myself being exposed to. Personally, I’ve been quite invested in legal competitions like debate, mooting and negotiations. The competitions are always fun because you get to face off against people from all over the world, so they come in bringing their own diverse experiences when you’re, say, debating on an issue like war or politics. You also get to travel for competitions! For example, I went to Bristol for a really short inter-varsity debate (we won hurhur), and just spent the rest of my time playing pool and making a new friend. Mooting has been especially exhilarating because of its novelty, and you get to feel like you’re inching towards becoming a full-fledged lawyer (although you’re really not, but it’s a very good way to consolidate your legal knowledge and practice advocacy before a judge eager to poke holes in your legal arguments at every turn). On the side, I’ve also had the opportunity to be on the committees of the London Blockchain Labs and the UCL Singapore Society, which have really allowed me to meet people I would ordinarily not have a chance to cross paths with. I’m also in the competitive volleyball team and law society basketball team, and have met people from Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong just from this! Outside of school entirely, I also run a fundamental finance class where I teach high school students the basic building blocks of business, as well as how the economy at large interacts with businesses. This can be as broad as defining what a good company is through financial moats, and as detailed as a breakdown of private equity. I have a strong interest in finance, so being able to share my passion with others has been quite rewarding.
One thing to note is that the career path begins quite soon after you enter university, so wannabe investment bankers can look to spring weeks in their first year and wannabe lawyers participate in first-year schemes. Personally, I’ve done a mix of both and it does help you understand what the firm is like - so be prepared to have to balance the career decision-making alongside your studies (or find out more before you come over! I didn’t really know what ‘Magic Circle’, ‘Silver Circle’ & ‘White Shoe’ firms were until I was educated). But, a caveat, even if you don’t get into these, it’s not the end of the world. I have plenty of seniors who still secured graduate positions by just being good at school and being active in societies.
My Future Plans
Ideally, I would like to practice corporate law in London or the United States. I would also like to pursue my interests in legal academia on the side.
Tips for Juniors
Be brave. No opportunity is too big, no goal is unattainable - seriously. You are not defined by what school you come from or what job your parents hold - unless you want to get to a place through the nepotism train, no one really cares. You can do anything you set your will to. You have to be able to see yourself in the role you so desire, even before you start the journey towards it. If you can’t, come to me - I’ll hype you up.
Be honest. How are you feeling right now? If you feel insecure, admit that to yourself and move on: “Yes, I am insecure right now about where I’m headed, but I will trust the process and keep working hard. As long as I know where I’m headed, I’ll get there.” I’m not naturally talented at a lot of things. But that’s an advantage, actually. Because of that, every day is a learning process because I’m so often reminded of how little I know. Discipline and hard work make the difference.
Be positive. Some days are better than other days. When the disappointment hits, tell yourself this ache will pass. You don’t want to be a Pollyannic, but you need a mantra that’s going to keep you going even when you think the tank is empty. Having been through show-stopping injuries and failed countless tests, I’ll tell you: you can pass all the time and let one failure wreck you: or fail several times, learn why you’re failing and be positive, and step right back up. You only need to be better than who you were yesterday, so don’t let the comparisons with others overwhelm you (I know how hard this is). So long as you learn, try and retry, success won’t elude you for long.
True friends. 2 years on, my best friend is still the guy I talked to on the first day of the DSA Headstart Programme. One of my best experiences in NY, performing for NYGHT, was single-handedly crafted by another close friend in 1731, who assembled the band. My closest circle of girlfriends are the girls from my class, and we’ve stuck through every small wave and major tsunami. Teachers, too, can be true friends - my tutors were great people who I enjoyed learning from, and still keep in touch with. You need people who see what you sometimes can’t, who believe when you don’t. I particularly love that the I can talk about anything with my friends - make-up, politics, sports, judgement calls on people. Having people who make you laugh, who inspire you, who challenge you, who understand you, this is a joy that I think everyone should experience. But you have to start with yourself - are you driving people away with your negative traits? Or are the people you’re drawing close those who just want something from you, because you want that from them too?
Lastly, be present. Never take a moment for granted, and try your best to make the best of what you have now. The future will come, but you’ll never get now back.