Please understand that this post was written in 2014 and may not be relevant / up to date with current information and trends at the point you are reading.
Last update: 10 November 2015 – added extra question on hall stays for senior undergrads who are looking to gain admission into halls.
Update: 27 April 2015 – added more on room mates and room allocations at the bottom.
So, it is the time of the year where I see my site stats spike up with the search terms on “NUS halls” – I’m guessing it is the crucial period of applications/appeals for hall life now. So let me get it out right here – I am an advocate of Raffles Hall and I enjoyed my time there so I do encourage freshies to give this old but GOLD hall a chance.
If you are financially able, I think you should give staying on campus a second thought. In Singapore, realistically, if you’re a typical Singaporean, you’re likely to stay with your parents until you get your first apartment. Secondly, your highest chance of getting a campus stay is in your freshmen year sem 1. Your chance of getting a campus stay drops drastically after that. Unless, you’re a talent.
This is an entry by me (an old bird, I graduated in 2011) and I got my good friend Sebastian Tan (also, JCRC president in AY 12/13) to help me out here. This is the real-est, no icing added and most updated post you can Google. This is also a Work-In-Progress post, I will update it as I receive more questions.
This is an updated post from my 2012 Hall post and my earlier 2012 Hall life lessons. This is a very long post. I welcome any questions (that cannot be Googled), drop me a comment below! I usually TRY to reply to questions within 24 – 48 hours.
On Raffles Hall Ask Me Anything
1. Why did you choose Raffles Hall?
[SY] I didn’t choose Raffles Hall actually. I was young (and not very smart nor Google-savvy at that point of time) so I went with the choices my JC friends made which was Kent Ridge (so cocky here but didn’t want to go to a sports hall). Since I didn’t attend any of the camps, knew any seniors and also, not foreign, I had the barest chance of getting in. I was allocated Prince George Park (student residence) which got me in a panicky mode because it’ll be tough securing stay for the second year. I stay at the other end of the island! Thankfully, I was blessed to meet a dance senior who helped me appeal in based on dance. No regrets here.
[Sebas] Because SY convinced me that since I was going to study at Engin, I should stay in RH as it is only 5 minutes away. And so I put it as my first choice and was offered a place. All was good
2. So why not XX hall or XX hall?
[SY] Again, KR was quite a popular choice and since I didn’t go to camp or knew anybody but still wanted to try my luck so obviously I didn’t get in. I knew I won’t want to do sports nor actually enjoyed sports so the sports halls (at that point of time were EH, SH and TH) which didn’t leave me with much of a choice.
Also, I knew I wanted to dance so I wanted a Hall that is near all dance studios. Raffles Hall is literally across the road from University Cultural Centre (where all concerts are staged) and then, dance practices were held at UCC too. The current Blast! classes are at UTown which RH is relatively close to as well. RH also has one of the most number of Blast! dancers every year.
[Sebas] I think it really depends on what you are looking for in a hall. But for me, the proximity of the hall to your faculty is also important (hence I would never consider staying in Utown). The NUS campus map is a good guide for that. However, if you don’t mind waking up a little earlier and squeezing onto buses (or having to wait for the next next because the bus arriving is already full) to get to classes, or having to walk a little further at night to get some warm food, then you’ll be good anywhere I suppose.
The culture in each hall might be slightly different, but I would say that they are more or less similar in general. They change with the people in the hall (which changes every year due to various reasons), so it is hard to predict what a hall will be like in the next few years. Plus, if you find that things are not to your liking, you can always be the change you want to see 😉
3. How many activities do you have to do to stay in a hall? What is this “point system” that people are talking about? How many points do you need to stay on for next year?
NUS uses this scheme called the Residence Admission Scheme. Current Hall Residents fall under Category C.
[Sebas] Again, each hall have a different point system. But the goal of the system is the same – to provide a measure of contribution to the hall. There’s also no fixed number of activities you have to join to continue staying on in that hall for the next academic year, though some activities might give you more points than others. The point system will usually be explained to you at the start of the year in your respective hall.
Whether you get a place the following year or not depends on your points relative to the rest of the hall. Each hall has roughly 500 places, and only about 200 will be offered a place at the end of the year, for the following year. Another 50 places called the Master’s List will be offered to those who didn’t make the cut in the previous round, after some form of an interview. The rest of the places will go to incoming freshmen for the next academic year. All I can say is – “Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favour.”
Other Residences and Residential Colleges have a different system which I’m not familiar with.
4. Wow do you just dance? I heard that you have to do multiple activities!
[SY] Well, RH was an arts hall then and there were activities that required dancers so I gunned for these activities that I enjoyed. My usual activities are: Rag Dance, Production (Dance) and Hall Dance. But in my course of three years, I have also done: Community Service Club , Yearbook, Newsletter, Dinner & Dance (Pageant)
Sebas is a warrior. He does sports and even JCRC.
[Sebas] In recent years, I don’t think there’s a ‘arts hall’ or ‘sports hall’ anymore. Everybody wants to be competitive in everything. Join whatever you like, don’t be afraid to try new things, and then contribute as much as you can without neglecting your studies and other priorities of course. You could discover a hidden talent or even be the star player/dancer/musician/leader a hall needs!
5. You yap on about dance in Raffles Hall, what about other activities?
- Cultural groups (about the same for every hall as well):
- Singing groups (Choir, A Capella etc.)
- Music Bands (Rock band, acoustic band, music ensemble etc.)
- Drama (or some sort of drama production)
- Junior Common Room Committee (JCRC)
- Orientation Comm
- Hall Promotion Board
- Block Comm
- Social Comm
and many others…
For a complete list, check out http://raffles.nus.edu.sg/
6. How much does Hall cost? Why do I have to pay a compulsory meal plan?
Google will tell you the hall rates, it changes every year. Meal plan: Please ask NUS. It wasn’t like we had a choice.
7. What is the food like ?
[SY] I am a pampered brat so Sebas will tell you more.
[Sebas] Mai Hiam Buay Pai. Meal plan is compulsory, but just because you have to pay for it doesn’t mean you have to eat it. It is good to go out and have some better food sometimes.
9. I heard hall students have bad grades because they are too involved with hall.
[SY] Well, it all boils down to the age old adage about time management. You have 24 hours a day, seven days a week and you dictate how you spend it and how much you want to excel in studies. During my time, there was this dude who was on Dean’s List in Computing every single semester and he was still active in hall. He was valedictorian of his year, mai siao siao.
10. Do you go clubbing a lot?
Well, I am a weirdo. I have never actually gone clubbing in my entire university life simply because I don’t find it fun at all. There are so many people in a small space, it makes me feel claustrophobic.
However, I think the freshman year is when clubbing starts to become popular and it’s somewhat like a “rite of passage” I suppose? Staying in hall makes clubbing way easier too as you don’t have to face parents at 4am. My old roomie says it’s also cheap to get a cab ride back to NUS cos it’s quite a central location if you do stay in far-flung places like Tampines/Jurong/Changi.
11. Is Raffles Hall better than XX hall?
Honestly, how do you define better? Does winning the Inter-Hall Games or putting up a better dance performance make a hall better? I think each hall has its own unique hall life and culture. It’s the effort you put in to make your hall life good, enjoyable and fulfilling.
12. Should I stay in RH if I am in Engin?
[Sebas] Not necessarily, although a good percentage of the residents in RH are from Engin. Location is a huge factor, but shouldn’t be the only factor.
13. Why does RH look so lok kok/chui/different?
[SY] The facade of RH hasn’t changed since… eons back but the interiors have been renovated a couple of years back. Do you honestly care about how the walls look like when you’re going to be sleeping inside? I don’t think the size (in terms of sq feet) of each room is published but I feel that the single rooms at RH are bigger as compared to the other 4 halls. KE7 single rooms are the same as ours. I actually like living in our rustic village, I mean, you probably already spend most of your life in a concrete building called a HDB right?
There are no lifts at RH which is a bitch when you’re shifting heavy stuff especially when you’re moving. However, day to day basis it doesn’t irk me because I hate waiting for lifts.
[Sebas] No lifts mean that more of your hall fees goes into funding hall activities rather than paying for the lift and its associated fees.
14. Do you go home during the weekends?
You’re not locked/tied to your room – you are the owner of the room. When people don’t head home, it’s usually because they have something on over the weekend.
15. Can you cook in hall?
Sure, you can but the kitchenette isn’t the cleanest most of the times. My old friend, Kelvin Chua, has this induction stove which we use for maggie mee parties. It’s quite an investment if you like to cook and you can always bring it home/sell/give away.
[Sebas] Some blocks actually maintain their kitchenette very well or you can bring your own induction stove and utensils.
16. Should I get a fridge?
[SY] Hell yeah if you can afford it. It’s an ugly but sad truth that food items get stolen all the time if you store it in the main fridge in the kitchenette. It’s such a convenience not to have to walk all the way out to get your stuff too – reach out and get your Milo/milk/juice just at your feet.
17. What should I invest in when I move into hall?
- Cleaning supplies – A couple of rags, a waste paper basket, the Magic Clean broom, dry and wet wipes. I cannot stress how important this is for keeping your room clean.
- Laundry stuff – A clothes hanger, hangers, detergent and a laundry basket. I lived without an iron and had crumpled clothes all the time.
- Bedding and linen – Good pillow and blanket (and a bolster if you need)
- Cutlery – A set of bowl, plate, cup, a water jug, a water bottle, detergent
- Tupperware – When you want to pack hall dinner
- Food – I stocked up on condiments, cereal, biscuits, Milo, juice, cup noodles, all sorts of tinned food, bread, Nutella, chips. Go for the stuff that is packed in small quantities.
- Chargers/Adapters – One set for home and one set for hall, this will save so much effort when you shuttle between weekends
- EXTRA FAN especially if you stay in a double room.
- Earphones/headphones so you don’t disturb your neighbours
- Maybe a good chair for your back if you get back aches from sitting for too long
18. How long did you stay in hall for?
[SY] All three years of my university years – I didn’t do honours. I did enough activities in year 1 to earn my hall stay in year 2, did enough in year 2 to stay in year 3 and did only what I liked in year 3 since I didn’t have to stay the next year.
[Sebas] All 4 of my years in NUS.
19. What was your biggest take away from hall?
[SY] The independence and freedom hall accorded me with
[Sebas] My girlfriend 😉
20. Okay, stop raving about hall life now, what did you hate about hall?
[SY] I am not a fan of hall food, it could have improved from two years ago when I was there. This would have been my biggest complain.
I really hate cleaning the room too so while my room is (usually) clean, it is an organised mess most of the time.
I kind of regret just hanging out with my dance friends only mostly because I see so many hall people still hanging out with other hall people even after they graduate. I didn’t make the effort to make as many friends as I should have.
21. What kind of room did you stay in? Did you have a room mate? Did you have any issues with her?
I stayed in a double for my first year and a single for the next two years.
My room mate and I were acquaintances in junior college but we were not friends. I gave up my allocated single to room in a double with her. You can read my Roomie story here.
22. Are freshmen eligible for singles?
Yes, freshmen are eligible for singles too. Typically, 50% of rooms (I mean 50% of all rooms in RH, not just singles) are set aside for freshmen. However, I’m not sure if it’s a direct split (that is, 50% of singles and 50% of doubles).
However, your chances of scoring a single are definitely lower than other halls simply because Raffles Hall has one of the highest concentrations of doubles. If I’m not wrong, RH has 213 singles and 128 doubles. Your option of scoring a single will significantly be lower as compared to Eusoff which has 345 singles and 70 doubles.
23. Should I get a double or a single? What about room mates?
Re: this doubles question. I think it depends on your gamble really.
Getting a double will significantly lower your cost but also, you will have less privacy. If you get a partner in university…. I’m not saying anything here. Please infer.
On the other end, having a buddy helps in every aspect of hall life. Someone to share the expenses, cleaning duties, help you da bao food. etc. That is, if both of you are friends. Living with someone really bares everything. No pun meant here.
I have heard and seen room mate horror stories. Such as Girl 1 needs to switch off the lights to sleep and absolute silence and Girl 2 is a night owl and enjoys studying with music at night. You learn to compromise living differences. If not, you seek mediation and alternate living situations – i.e. you move to singles (if available) or do a room mate switch.
I’m not so sure how do allocations work now for freshmen. Best to send an email to check. In my time, it used to be both persons apply for doubles, pray that both get doubles and indicate that you’ll like to room with each other. I don’t think there usually is an issue with doubles allocation, it is more likely you can’t score a single.
24. Help! I’m a senior undergraduate (year 2 and onwards). HOW?
Each hall typically keeps about 50% of allocation each year for incoming freshmen and the next 50% is split among all seniors. This means your chance of getting a hall stay is significantly lowered.
However, there are other methods of gaining hall stay. Read the Residence Admission Scheme for more information.
- Up your chances of a hall stay with Category A, B or D. Student leaders and Active Interest Groups that contribute to the vibrancy of NUS gain preference.
- If you’re talented in a particular activity / sport, consider Category C’s Hall Master List. Each hall has an allocated 50 spots which is divvied up between ALL Hall CCAs. Do note that these 50 spots also include previous residents who did not manage admission (e.g. Exchange students / freshies who are talented only in one sport, hence, not enough hall points for following sem). For Hall Master list, your best bet is to reach out to the JCRC or that particular Hall activity’s leader. If you’re already in the scene, you probably would know who he/she is. All Master’s List applicant is required to submit in a package (typically a form + testimonials/recommendations from Hall Leaders) and attend an interview.
24b. Common question on Master’s List: Can I put in multiple Master’s List applications?
No, you can’t. Firstly, all hall applications need to go through the main hostel application system irregardless whether you have a confirmed spot or not. In that application, to be considered for Master’s List, you need to list that hall as your first choice.
If you’re an ordinary man (ouch), you belong to Category E. Each year, the Office of Student Affairs do a semester stay offer exercise for the general men, do remember to sign up for that.
If you’re not picky about gaining hall stay for the following year or just want to stay away from home, consider Student Residences too.
If all else fails and you’re yearning to fly the coop:
- Join an NUS CCA from Category A, B and D and try again next year.
- If you’re talented, reach out to the Hall CCA and commit yourself to them for a year. Ask for a possibility to be placed on Master’s List. Again, this is a possibility and not guarantee.
- Find a partner who stays on campus.
- Stay in an off-campus option.
25. Can you sum up your hall stay in three words?
[SY] Time of my life – Oops that’s four.
[Sebas] Go discover yourself