Thriving despite "disastrous" A-Level results: Studying Geography in NZ with Foundation Studies Programme (Giam Li Heng Ronel)

Submitted Feb 2023

Road to University 

Facing several stumbling blocks during JC, I was unable to concentrate on preparing well for the A Levels and decided to divert my time to exploring university options. My philosophy for choosing a course was simple (perhaps idealistic) – a degree related to my interests that would remain highly sought after in the global economy in the foreseeable future. After exploring hundreds of university courses, I realised that Geography is perfect to satisfy my growing curiosity for world developments, and environmental studies cover every niche concerning nature – another major interest since childhood. I certainly lucked out with my choice as Geography graduates are one of the most highly demanded in the workforce, and not many studies it. Geographers could work in environmental science industries, urban planning, cultural growth management, and even in an international political space; the career possibility is endless with a diverse geography skillset. Speaking to university representatives during expos, I was pleased to learn that several of them studied Geography or knew someone who did. Hence my course choice was already set before taking the A Levels. 

As my A Level results did not qualify me for my dream university, I decided to enrol in a Foundation Studies Programme that would guarantee me a direct university placement of any degree upon completion. The extra studying after finishing National Service did not bother me as I was keen to enrol into my university of choice (albeit the third from the top on my list). In hindsight, it was the best studying decision I have ever made as I won a scholarship towards my first university trimester and connected with incredible international educators. My guiding principle in my journey towards university was to “forget the things which are behind and stretch forward towards the things which are before”. By being open to other study pathways, I turned my disaster of an A Levels result into being the top international student in Wellington, New Zealand.

Only You Can Write Your Own Story

The A Levels is but a tiny hurdle in your life story. While it could govern your list of university and course choices, the outcome ultimately lies in your controlling vision. Concerning the matter of choosing a course, be open and also browse courses that you thought you would dislike – you may be surprised to find something peculiar that interests you. If the rigour and structure of the A Levels is troubling, consider a doing foundation programme. Many reputable universities offer it and you can complete it in less than a year – I know of two JC students who transferred towards a foundation programme and saw themselves starting university while their peers were still preparing for the A Levels. For the more academically inclined, the myriad of university choices can be daunting but always consider the type and condition of a university’s environment. A good studying and living environment are arguably more crucial than securing a top-ranking course (all of my university friends attest to that), especially if you will be studying abroad. University life is thrilling and dynamic – forge your pathway with zeal and you shall be rewarded.