College Application Booster​®: High School Seniors, Get ahead on your college application!

Some Singapore students decide against going to elite US colleges over campus protests

By Vihanya Rakshika | June 05, 2024, at 05:41 PM

SINGAPORE – Singaporean student Sunaina M. was offered a place to read economics at Dartmouth College, an Ivy League university in the American state of New Hampshire.

But the 19-year-old is turning down the offer because of pro-Palestinian protests that have broken out across US campuses in recent months. Instead of heading to the US this fall, she will attend the University of Cambridge in Britain in October.

Ms Sunaina’s parents were concerned for her safety after hearing that the US authorities had arrested students and used brute force to break up protests sparked by the war in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.

“My parents don’t feel very safe about me going to the US… They are afraid that I would get bullied or treated brutally because I wear a hijab, especially in American universities where protesting, campaigning and activism is a norm,” said Ms Sunaina who declined to give her family name, citing concerns about future opportunities in the US as a reason.

She is among a number of Singapore students who have changed their minds about going to elite US universities following the violence on campus. ST spoke to seven students, of whom four said they will go elsewhere to study.

Top universities in the US, including Dartmouth, Harvard and Columbia, have been in the spotlight recently after students set up protest encampments on campus against the stance of America, Israel’s closest ally, in the war.

The conflict began on Oct 7 after an unprecedented attack by Hamas militants in southern Israel. It has left more than 36,000 people dead and the total siege of Hamas-ruled Gaza by Israel has led to mass displacement of people, large-scale destruction and severe shortage of food and other necessities.

In the US, some schools called in the police to break up the pro-Palestine protests, making dozens of arrests, many of whom were students.

Dartmouth College, for example, saw the arrest of 90 protesters on May 1, including students, faculty staff and Upper Valley residents. Those arrested were reportedly involved in a peaceful protest for just a few hours.

Deciding against going to Dartmouth was a difficult decision for Ms Sunaina’s parents who are software engineers, as they had been making plans to move to the US permanently.

Now Ms Sunaina, who is the only child, will be heading to Britain on her own. Her parents have also scrapped their plans to migrate to the US.

“They had been in the process of finding jobs and locations to move to for the past five years, since before the pandemic,” she said.

The family settled on sending Ms Sunaina to Britain, where campus protests have been more civil and peaceful.

Madam Angeline Siew, 52, is also concerned about the safety of her only son, who has been offered a place at Yale University in Connecticut.

“We saw some videos of the police taking away students (who were protesting),” she said.

The housewife added that she was worried because her son “is very interested and actively involved in activism, especially for humanitarian causes”.

Madam Siew and her husband had asked their son to apply to universities in Japan and elsewhere.

But the 22-year-old, who wanted to be known only as Russell, insisted on studying social sciences at Yale.

“Universities in the US are more liberal in the sense that they allow for us to express our thoughts and what we are passionate about,” he said.

His parents, who already paid more than $90,000 for his school term and a deposit for his rental apartment, made him promise not to get involved in protests and to observe a “strict 10pm curfew” every day.

Command Education, a New York-based college admissions consultancy firm, told ST that parents have raised concerns due to the recent protests in Ivy League schools.

Over 95 per cent of the students it worked with wanted to go to top schools in the US.

Mr Christopher Rim, chief executive of Command Education, said 12 of its clients have been offered places at Columbia University and eight have received acceptance letters from the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) in the latest admission cycle, which began in late September 2023.

But out of the 12 students who were offered places at Columbia, only one is considering attending the school this autumn. The firm did not say where the other 11 students have decided to go.

Of the eight accepted by UPenn, only four have decided to attend the university, while the rest have opted to go to other universities within the US.

“Historically, acceptance to these universities often meant attendance. However, this cycle presented a notable shift as (many students) opted for an alternative institution,” Mr Rim said.

At least one student has decided to stay put in Singapore.

Ms Michelle Soh, 19, was offered a place at Harvard but has decided to study at the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in August.

“My parents dissuaded me from attending a university in the US because they felt I might get influenced by the culture to protest and get into trouble,” she told ST.

“They also said I would not be able to study in peace when there are disruptions such as unrest and conflict taking place on campus.”


Originally published on The Straits Times on June 05, 2024

Share this Article

Become Our Next Happy Family

Schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with our enrollment team to learn about how your student can benefit from our services. Together, we can determine if this is the right fit for you and for us.