Please Mind the Platform Gap (Universities Edition): London School of Economics

By Kate Tan (15S03U)

Thinking about which university to apply to, or already a J2 beginning your early admission applications? Raffles Press brings you our Please Mind the Platform Gap (Universities Edition), a series of articles dedicated to providing information on Rafflesian alumni’s experiences at their respective universities.

The London School of Economics and Political Science, more commonly known as LSE, is a well-established university in London. While most renowned for its competitive economics and law courses, LSE also offers a variety of higher education courses that range from International Relations to Statistics. However, do note that LSE does not offer natural science courses, so one interested in them would have to venture across town to Imperial instead!

In this article, Raffles Press interviews Kailing, a J3 currently studying her first year of Economics at LSE, to find out more about her experiences so far.

The LSE Campus [Source: LSE's official website]
The LSE Campus [Source: LSE’s official website]
Press: Why did you choose to study Economics at LSE?

Kailing: I chose to study Economics as I was intrigued by the changing nature of markets over time. I was also interested in using economic theory and developing models to analyse problems, and hopefully solve them.

After consulting many seniors about Economics courses in many other UK schools, I decided on LSE as I feel it’s the most suitable for me. I like independent learning and healthy competition between peers. Furthermore, the culture in LSE is pretty much summed up as “Work Hard, Play Hard”. I believe it’s important to have fun while studying, as it lets you rest and recharge for more productive studying ahead.

Press: What is the teaching style like for Economics at LSE? How does it compare to that in RJ?

Kailing: Like RJ, they adopt the lecture-tutorial system. Content is taught to students via lectures, and during tutorials, teachers will strengthen our understanding and probe us to think further through homework or class discussions.

However, what’s different is that there’s a lot more self-studying in LSE. You’re expected to read lecture notes before hand, and if you do not, it might be difficult for you to catch up during lectures. There’s also a lot more free time – every subject only has 2 lectures and 1 lesson a week. Some students end up having free days during the week. Such “free time” should be used for catching up and revision, and it definitely requires a lot more discipline. In JC, we have teachers that remind us to do tutorials, monitor our progress, and so on. However, in university, the onus is on you to remember everything and manage your own studies.

Furthermore, in RJ, homework is more structured. You get short questions and sometimes essay questions for homework. However, for Economics in LSE, we just have online quizzes every week to test our understanding. To them, it’s more important to gain a good understanding than to practice for our examinations. However, for subjects like Mathematics and Statistics, the structure of homework practices is pretty much the same as that in RJ.

Press: How heavy is your workload? How much leisure time do you have and what do you do during your leisure time? 

Kailing: Being a Year 1 student, I would say the workload is pretty manageable! Every week, we’re expected to revise our work and complete tutorials on time. Consistent revision is pretty important though, as content is taught at a pretty fast pace. For example, two new topics are taught for Math every week. I did hear from seniors that the workload increases exponentially in Years 2 and 3.

So long as you manage your time well, there will definitely be enough leisure time for you to explore London, other places the in UK, and even Europe! In my short time here, I’ve already travelled out to cities like Birmingham and Dublin, Ireland. Of course, I made sure I finished my work before flying off. No one likes to be behind on work! It’s definitely important to be disciplined during the weekdays, in order to maximize your leisure time in the weekends.

Weekend in Birmingham for Ed Sheeran’s concert
Weekend in Birmingham for Ed Sheeran’s concert [Source: Kailing]
During my leisure time, I explore museums in London, search for the best eats (because food is so important to me!), wander around markets and basically soak in the beautiful sights in the city. There are many concerts and musicals in London as well. In my short one month here, I’ve been to 2 concerts (Ed Sheeran and OneRepublic) and 2 musicals! London is such an exciting city and it’s in the proximity of many other beautiful cities. It’s hard to find a weekend with no plans at all.

At Old Spitafields Market; Freshers 15 is inevitable
At Old Spitafields Market; Freshers 15 is inevitable [Source: Kailing]
Press: Do you get to meet non-local students in your course?

Kailing: LSE is a very “global” school. My course is filled with people of all kinds of nationalities. Hence, there’s no lack of opportunities to meet non-local students. Most people in LSE come with the desire to meet and interact with people of all nationalities. Everyone is very open to making friends with anyone. It’s truly exciting to find out more about other people’s countries and cultures, and I always feel very proud when I tell others about Singapore. People are typically genuinely interested in getting to know you.

Initially, I thought there would be some form of culture shock. However, it was surprisingly easy to interact with non-local students in my course as being youths, we all share similar interests! Of course, some are definitely more open than what we are comfortable with, but do come with an open mind and accept differences in opinions.

It’s possible to make friends, even when you’re on the roadside at 3am
It’s possible to make friends, even when you’re on the roadside at 3am [Source: Kailing]
Press: What do you plan to work as after university? How does the university prepare you for your future profession?

Kailing: I’m under the Changi Airport Group (CAG) undergraduate scholarship, hence after university, I’ll be working with them. I’m very lucky to have been offered this scholarship.

For non-scholars, LSE does prepare them very well for their future careers. Every week, there will be at least one networking event/information session with banks and all the large firms in UK. Through these events, students get to understand what the employers are looking out for and find out if this is the career they want.

LSE Careers also organises several workshops, such as CV writing workshops, to help students better position themselves during job/internship interviews. In general, many students in LSE are very career-oriented. There are many career societies (such as the Finance Society, the Trading Society, etcetera) that provide students with information on career and internship opportunities, and also help students with interviews and CVs.

However, it’s all up to students to grab these opportunities. Internships are important in preparing one for their careers, but it’s difficult to get internships in London as it’s very competitive over here. One must attend networking sessions and have a good CV in order to get to the interviews. To get through the interviews, students must have good technical knowledge and a lot of work needs to be done. Though LSE provides all kinds of support, it’s ultimately up to the student to make use of the resources provided.

Press: What other extracurricular activities do the university offer, and do you take part in any?

Kailing: LSE offers students a lot of options when it comes to extracurricular activities. Whatever you have in RJ, they have it in LSE. They even have funky clubs like the Bee Keeping Society!

Anyone can join any society. Unlike Raffles, you do not need to go for trials in order to join a society. Just come with an interest and you’ll definitely enjoy yourself! Attendance is also not compulsory. How active you want to be is all up to you. It’s also not compulsory for one to take part in any extracurricular activities. However, most people join several to build their CVs or to purely relax and unwind. I joined the Dance Society, Baking Society, Trading Society, Finance Society, Economics Society and Wine Appreciation Society. I’m also in the Singapore Society, of course! It’s pretty common for people to join loads of societies in university. I feel that it gives colour to my school life.

Dance workshop with the amazing Anthony King
Dance workshop with the amazing Anthony King [Source: Kailing]
Press: What is your accommodation like? Do you live on-campus or off-campus, and what is the experience like?

Kailing: I live in an off-campus student accommodation called the Bankside House. Every day I have to walk 25-30 minutes to school. It might sound really tiring, but honestly it’s really pleasant as it’s a pretty scenic walk. It’s also made better when you walk to school with your friends!

My accommodation is pretty amazing. Food is provided every day! I stay in a single room, and I share a toilet with one other person. There are also single en-suite rooms (single rooms with your own toilet), which I did not manage to secure. However, it’s really not that bad to share a toilet with others. Like I always say, it “builds character”! You get to learn how to live with others. My room mate or rather, toilet mate is an American and I think it’s pretty interesting to live with someone of a different cultural background.

Staying in the biggest hall, I get to meet loads of people in halls. In general, the hall experience is great and really fun! During freshers’ week, we had activities every night in our hall bar (yes, we have a bar in the basement) and we got to meet everyone staying in the hall. There are many Singaporeans living in my hall, hence there’s not really a moment when I feel lonely.

Hall Halloween party with the Singaporeans
Hall Halloween party with the Singaporeans [Source: Kailing]
I would definitely recommend first-years to stay in halls, as it’s where you will meet new friends and make great friends. All halls in LSE are off-campus. Some cater food, while others don’t. There are many great choices for accommodation, so don’t fret!

Press: Are there ample opportunities to get to know students from other courses, or do you tend to only meet people from Economics?

Kailing: You will get to meet students from other courses in halls and in your societies. There are also many events to meet fellow batch mates, such as clubbing events, meet-and-greets, etcetera. People are friendly, and it’s definitely easy to make friends with people from other courses.

However, on normal school days, we tend to hang out with Economics people more as our timetables are pretty much similar. But don’t worry, there is an abundance of opportunities for one to meet people from other courses in LSE.

Press: In your opinion, is there any particular type of student that would thrive in this university?

Kailing: To thrive in LSE, one has to have a lot of self-discipline and know how to manage their time well. One must be driven and be clear of what they want. If you enjoy independent learning and critical thinking, this is the place for you! If you love to have fun, LSE is definitely the place for you too! People in LSE are intellectual and yet very fun loving.

Press: Any advice for juniors who wish to study at LSE in the future?

Kailing: Be true to yourself and be sure of what you want out of the LSE experience. Don’t be easily influenced, and end up chasing other people’s dreams.

More importantly, have fun and enjoy school! LSE is an exciting place and it’s buzzing with activity every day. London is also an amazing city, and its location makes travelling around Europe much easier! LSE = Let’s See Europe (just kidding) (or am I?)

Perks of studying abroad? You can choose to be a tourist any day.
Perks of studying abroad? You can choose to be a tourist any day [Source: Kailing]

2 thoughts on “Please Mind the Platform Gap (Universities Edition): London School of Economics”

  1. Hi Raffles Press,

    It’s great that you made the effort to elucidate some information about prestigious universities like Harvard and LSE. I’m a Rafflesian myself who graduated from Cambridge in 2003. But I must point out that universities admissions are getting tougher and being a well-rounded or a specially talented Rafflesian alone is not enough these days to make the cut for many top universities. Instead of perpetuating the mindset that as Rafflesians we must get into top universities such as HYPSM or Oxbridge or lose face if we don’t get into one, Raffles Press should highlight alternative university offerings which are still great but not as selective as Oxbridge or HYPSM. I really liked the fact that Press did an article on Tufts University and demonstrated how Ashlynna, a bright Rafflesian herself, still could have a good time and excel at her university of choice. In this way, we could be more inclusive of students who are admitted into equally great but lesser known schools like Warwick, Exeter, St. Andrews in the UK and Georgetown, Northwestern, Carleton, Boston U and many others in the US (which has more than 2000 unis by the way). I hope you can take my suggestion into consideration.

    Dereck Yu

    1. Hello Derek!

      Thank you for your suggestion, we will certainly consider expanding into less well-known universities for our future articles. Just a clarification: this column is still a rather new one, and does not mean to perpetuate the idea that we will “lose face” if we don’t get into top universities; the original purpose of our PMTPG Universities was to provide first-hand experiences of what studying at universities that majority of Rafflesians are likely to be interested in to help them make their choices. While this may unintentionally add to the idea that Rafflesians must get into top universities, this column tries to reach our of as many of our readers as possible, and starting with these popular colleges at the top is likely to be relevant to more people. We will nevertheless be expanding into other universities such as the ones you’ve mentioned, and we thank you for your suggestion :)

      In addition, you might be interested in an article we featured in the Rafflesian Times #3 on Rafflesians studying in comparatively non-traditional universities here: https://rafflesiantimes.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/non-traditional-universities-the-road-less-taken/

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