How to get into the National University of Singapore (NUS)

For Undergraduate (UG) and Masters (MS) degrees

The National University of Singapore (NUS) is a public research university founded in 1905, and is the oldest institution of higher education in the country.

NUS’ 150 hectare main campus is located in the southwestern part of Singapore; it also has other campuses that house the various schools, institutes, and faculties of the universities.

As many as 27,500 undergraduate students and 8,300 graduate students are enrolled in NUS. It has over 2,500 academic, including Nobel Laureate Konstantin Novoselov (joint winner, Physics Nobel, 2010).

The university’s list of alumni boasts heads of state and other top politicians including Mahathir Mohammed, legal luminaries, business leaders, and other celebrities.

NUS Rankings

NUS is ranked 11th in the QS World University Ranking Results 2020 and 34th in the Best Global Universities Ranking by US News and World Report.

QS and THE World University Rankings have adjudged NUS the best university in Asia and Asia-Pacific.

Undergraduate programs at NUS

NUS believes that knowledge and research can be used to improve lives. It offers students an innovative, multi-disciplinary curricula through 70 joint, concurrent, and double degree programs.

The undergraduate programs are offered through the faculties of Arts & Social Sciences, Business, & Accountancy, Computing, Dentistry, Design and Environment, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Nursing, Music, and Science.

The NUS also runs special UG programs such as concurrent degree, minor, joint degree, double major, double degree, and part-time programs.

Admission requirements

International applicants should have completed, or should be completing, high school (12 years of general education) by July of the year of their application.

Applicants with Indian standard 12 Central, ISC, State, and other board qualification should submit standard 12 exam results (or most recent high school results if they will only be completing high school after the application closing date) and a good pass in five subjects, including English (results to be submitted before June 2020 for the academic year 2020-21).

ACT with writing or SAT or SAT subject tests are not required, but students may submit ACT with writing and SAT subject tests; or SAT and SAT subject tests; or Advanced Placement score report to compete for undergraduate admissions.

For admission to dentistry, law, medicine, and nursing, an additional aptitude test is conducted in June for determining course eligibility.

Along with these admission requirements, there are subject prerequisites that you need to fulfil for admission to the program in which you are interested, whether it is a single degree, double/concurrent degree, double major, or minor program.

For example, for the single-degree mechanical engineering program, the prerequisites are Year 12 or higher-level pass in mathematics and physics or chemistry.

There is no selection test or interview, though some single-degree programs, such as dentistry and nursing, and all double/concurrent degree programs require them. There is also no university entrance examination for applicants presenting Indian qualifications.

Although excellence in academics is the single most important factor in admission decisions, a high level of achievement in co-curricular activities and leadership positions may also play a part in your getting the nod.

International Science Olympiad medals, top national awards, participation in sports at the national level, and top ranks in national competitive examinations such as IIT JEE may swing the decision in your favor.
However, achievement in school, class, or house level competitions may not strongly influence admission decisions.

How to apply

NUS stresses “understanding admission requirements” as the first step to submitting your application. Applications (the application fee is S$20, or US$ 14.67, or US$1 = S$1.36, as per the exchange value on January 30, 2020) can be submitted online (for the academic year 2020-21, the application opening date was October 15, 2019) along with supporting documents—high school examination result slip; school examination transcript, for example, Year 11 transcript; score report of SAT, etc., if applicable; documents giving full name and date of birth; and International Science Olympiad award certificate, medical report, and criminal record, if applicable. The originals of copies of supporting documents require to be submitted when the school term starts.

Application closing dates depend on your high-school application. For applicants with the Indian standard 12 qualification, the application closing date is March 31, 2020, for the 2020-21 academic year.

For students who appeared for standard 12 exam in 2020 and are awaiting results, the results can be submitted to the NUS Office of Admissions within three days of declaration of results. Internet print-outs are accepted provisionally, and the documents can be uploaded online.

Applicants are allowed to choose a maximum of five courses. However, the order of your choice will not affect your chances of admission to any of the courses. You will be admitted to the highest rank course that you have qualified for.

Admission Results & Decision

Application outcomes are released in batches. The last batch of application outcomes can be expected around mid-July 2020 for the 2020-21 academic year. If you are rejected, you can submit an online appeal in late May or early June.

Tuition Costs

The tuition at NUS varies according to the program chosen and whether the student is a recipient of the Singapore Government’s Tuition Grant.

For example, the annual fee for new international students admitted in the academic year 2019-20 for the year comprising two semesters (all fees are inclusive of GST) was S$17,550 for arts and social sciences, computing, design and environment (building, real estate, industrial design), engineering, and science (except pharmacy).

It was S$19,150 for medicine (nursing), S$20,550 for business, and S$19,350 for science (pharmacy). For medicine (except nursing) and dentistry, it was S$61,850.

For non-recipients of the grant, it was $29,850 for arts and social sciences and design and environment; S$38,200 for computing, engineering, and science (except pharmacy); and $S154,800 for medicine (except nursing) and dentistry.

In addition, there is a special term fee for international students per module of between S$1,755 and S$2,985, depending on the program.

Other expenses

The NUS website gives an estimate of the monthly expenses of an undergraduate student living conservatively: accommodation: S$325- S$605 (single), S$215 (double); food: (meal plans at halls of residence): S$90- S$112, S$250- S$350 (university canteens, food courts); books and stationery: S$100- S$200; public transport: S$45- S$97 (with concession), S$150- S$200 (without concession); personal expenses (clothing, entertainment, etc.): S$150- S$200. The total living expenses other than tuition fees may be anywhere between S$8,500 and S$15,000 per year.

Scholarships / financial aid

The ASEAN Undergraduate Scholarships and the Science and Technology Undergraduate Scholarships, administered by NUS, are available to international applicants.

Scholarships offered by external organizations include CIMB ASEAN Scholarship, Evolve Warrior Scholarship, Dr. Goh Keng Scholarship, Her Flowers Scholarship, Kuok Foundation Undergraduate Awards, and Saudi Aramco Scholarship.

NUS offers financial aid schemes that help meet a part of educational and living expenses of financially needy students through loans, bursaries, and work-study opportunities (international students cannot work for more than 16 hours a week).

Students are also assisted in seeking off-campus work opportunities. The NUS Financial Aid Package is offered to students who have been offered and have not rejected the MOE Tuition Grant.

Graduate programs at NUS

NUS offers a variety of graduate programs including doctoral degrees, master’s degrees, and graduate diplomas.

The research collaborations that NUS faculty members have developed in other countries and across disciplines provide opportunities to students to work for PhD degrees granted jointly by NUS and universities abroad.

While master’s degrees train students for professional work and for equipping them with the knowledge and skills to pursue a doctoral degree, doctoral degrees prepare students for higher positions in their fields.
Graduate diplomas also impart skills for professional practice but students do not have to commit themselves to further studies in the field.

Nineteen schools and faculties provide graduate programs, including the faculties of business, computing, engineering, law, medicine, and science, and the schools of Duke-NUS Medical School, NUS Graduate School for Integrative Science and Engineering, Cancer Science Institute, Centre for Quantum Technologies, Institute of System Science, Risk Management Institute, and the Logistics Institute Asia-Pacific.

Admission requirements

Admissions to most programs take place twice a year—in August and January. Programs can be coursework-based programs (Master of Science or Master of Arts) or research-based programs (Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Engineering, etc.).

The minimum requirements for course-based programs are a bachelor’s degree certificate or graduate diploma with a CAP (cumulative average point) of 3.0.

Specific standards in subject GRE or GMAT and admission test/interview have to be demonstrated and a specific number of MCs (modular credits, see link in References) completed.

The minimum requirements for research-based programs include good performance in subject GRE or GMAT, admissions test/interview, and a bachelor’s/master’s degree with specified achievements.

The graduate faculties/schools/institutes take decisions based on academic degree and record, besides, in many cases, letters of recommendation, standardized test scores, and work experience.

Candidates’ potential for contributing to research and the relevance of their academic preparation for the chosen program may also be considered. English is the medium of instruction, and TOEFL / IELTS scores may also have to be submitted.

How to apply

Details differ between programs, and are available from the graduate studies websites of the respective faculties offering the programs, in the pages for master’s programs and for PhD programs.

The application information of each program provides information about the online application (using the Graduate Admission System, or GAD System), specializations offered under the program, and the application fee (S$50 in most cases).

Supporting documents such as personal statement, passport, certified copies of degree certificate and transcripts, GMAT/GRE and TOEFL/IELTS scores, referee report, certified copies of scholarships, awards, etc., copies of professional certificate and bank statement, and recent pay slip/original sponsor’s letter may need to be submitted depending on the program.

Two weeks after the application deadline, the GAD system will be updated to “online application verified” once the application is found to be complete.

Admission results & decision

The application outcome will be made known two to three months after the application deadline, and an offer package sent by email to accepted applicants.

Tuition / Fees

The tuition depends on the program, your nationality, academic load (whether you are taking the program full-time or part-time), and whether you have previously received government fee subsidy or sponsorship.

The annual fee for new full-time international students with service obligations and those under the Graduate Assistantship Programme admitted in the academic year 2019-20 to course-based programs (all fees are inclusive of GST) was between S$ 20,350 and S$ 27,300.

For the same category of students not in receipt of government subsidy, the fee ranged from S$35,450 to S$63,550

The annual fee for new full-time international students with service obligations and those under the Graduate Assistantship Programme admitted in the academic year 2019-20 to research-based programs was between S$20,350 and S$30,150.

The annual fee for new full-time international students not in receipt of government subsidy admitted in the academic year 2019-20 to research-based programs was between S$35,700 and S$63,250.

The “other expenses” mentioned under UG admissions may be taken to calculate expenses other than tuition fee.

Scholarships / financial aid

NUS graduate scholarships come under two main categories: scholarships for graduate research degree programs and scholarships for graduate coursework degree programs.

They are, of course, highly competitive, can be renewed every semester through adequate academic progress and applied for concurrently with the application for admission.

Scholarships are offered by faculties to coursework degree students, and information is available on the respective faculty’s website.

Graduate research degree students of all faculties/schools can avail themselves of scholarships such as Commonwealth Scholarships, NUS Research Scholarships, President’s Graduate Fellowship, Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship, and Tuition Fee Allowance.

Specific faculty scholarships are also available, such as the Singapore International Graduate Award applicable to the faculties of science and engineering and the School of Computing.

Financial aid can be secured through schemes such as the Tuition Fee Loan Scheme, NUS Student Work Scheme, and Service Obligation Scheme.

NUS Admission tips

  • For UG admissions, get good grades in high school in five subjects
  • SAT / ACT may not be necessary but may increase your competitiveness
  • Great academics is key, but hobbies/interests may also help your cause
  • For graduate admissions, academic record/preparation count the most
  • Study well and try to ace subject GRE or GMAT
  • Show that you make a good researcher

Also read:
How I got into NUS Singapore MBA after engineering
How I got into NUS MBA after multiple rejections: Reapplicant story
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23