Education isn’t just for academics: Kevin Sim – News


An acclaimed adviser and former chief adviser at the Raffles Institution in Singapore decodes how to gain admission to some of the world’s prestigious universities

Kevin Sim (right) with Palestinian painter Suleiman Mansour – Photo provided

By Joydeep Sen Gupta

Published: Thu 17 Feb 2022, 08:36

Kevin Sim holds the world record for the most admissions to Oxford University, Cambridge University and Ivy League colleges. He is the former Head Advisor of the Raffles Institution, which is the top performing school in Singapore. Sim has been advising for over two decades.

Sim spoke to Khaleej times on consulting trends and Singapore’s benchmark education system.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

What is S1G? How is it unique to Singapore and to a project you lead?

S1G was created when I left the school system after two decades and wanted to continue to push for access for a specific demographic – for kids who are the first generation to go to college. Our advice is holistic, not only in understanding the different opportunities available locally and abroad, but also on careers, academic planning as well as how to access the different financial aid systems at different institutions, both at home and abroad.

My access work started years ago with a development program in the Maldives, which involved schools and the community. There is a Cambodian project where we work with extremely motivated students to apply to foreign universities as well as financial aid.

Since leaving the Singapore school system, I have also worked on several important educational projects promoting access and equity for marginalized communities.

Will S1G also be open to international students?

S1G is for Singaporeans only as it is a project run by myself and a few former advisers. But often convincing people contacted us and we did our best to support them.

You are the former head counselor of the college admissions counseling office at Raffles Institution. Take us through the glorious history of the city-state’s oldest institution founded in 1823.

The Raffles Institution, like many other top schools in Singapore, are incredible institutions of learning. If I had to talk about a few superlatives on this subject, it would be:

Whether you are a first-generation college student or an avid humanities student, there is space for you and like-minded people to become your traveling companions on your educational journey. A school is an aggregation of students; a school does not make a pupil, but rather it is the pupils who make the school. The same can be said of the country.

Of course, with the environment also comes the great support the government gives to local schools, making them accessible and affordable.

In my day, people talk about record numbers of students attending world-class institutions, but it’s good to see that these numbers are just natural manifestations of student aspirations. Every year we have students applying to a large number of institutions around the world. We also have students who have chosen to follow non-traditional paths and choices. We celebrate the diversity of choices and visions. More importantly, we are doubly happy for the kid who had to climb a steeper road to get to where he is today, regardless of the end result.

What are the noticeable trends in college admissions counseling that you have encountered in your illustrious career?

Admissions these days, especially to popular destinations and institutions, literally make me wonder why things got so complicated. How many stages do we expect an individual to go through before they can be admitted? But I think it’s unfair to criticize universities.

Consider these two factors:

In the world we live in today, people are so much more mobile, people are more willing to invest in an education abroad and have the means to do so. The number of applications from international students, at all levels of education, has exploded.

Society has become increasingly sophisticated, even complicated. Look at what students have to do these days just to get an internship and how long they have to work on that process.

In many ways, the complexity of admissions is just a reflection of many of the changes that have taken place over the past 20 or so years that I have been a counsellor.

How have students changed over the years when it comes to college admissions advice?

Having been there for so long, I would be obtuse enough not to recognize that each generation of students is inherently different. But it is also a circumstance of how times have changed. As economies and societies evolve, naturally, the children who are the heirs of the world to come are therefore and necessarily different.

Can counseling make a difference in a student’s approach to a course?

Good counseling enriches students’ understanding of the choices, academic, institutional, personal, etc., available to them.

In a world where too much information is available online, too many YouTube videos giving all kinds of advice, a counselor seeks to give objective advice and also help students focus on relevant information.

The college application process is probably the most formal “adult” thing a student has come across. It’s a process of learning how the real world works as well as an exciting opportunity to discover yourself and the future.

Admissions systems in different systems are difficult to navigate and time consuming, the board tries to facilitate this process while the student also has to deal with academic, extracurricular and many other demands.

What are the main qualities that make a good advisor?

A willingness to listen; because every student is different.

A willingness to constantly learn and relearn the changing landscape of education. Education must evolve to meet the ever-changing demands of society, so a counselor must stay current with all of these changes.

Be prepared to give truthful advice; sometimes even when the advice can be difficult for the listener.


Finally, how would you rate Singapore’s education system?

Singapore’s education system is an ecosystem of many different offerings, from kindergarten to university. This is ably supported by an incredibly safe society and environment for students to learn, which is one of the concerns of many parents who send their children abroad. I still believe that there is no “best” system. Each student has different needs, learning habits and aspirations. With the diversity of options available to them today, from the basic diet of destinations to more exciting options such as Japan, Denmark and many more, the global education system is an incredibly network of choices. various. I remember one of the wisest pieces of advice I received as a young and overzealous person: There’s a better school, but there’s always a school for you.

Education, especially today, is not just about academics. He is not just trying to prepare for a job. But in a changing world, for a generation that must inherit an increasingly complex world, education prepares students for the world of tomorrow, for the challenges they will face in increasingly complex economies and labor markets. increasingly complex, in an increasingly complex social context. countryside.

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