How to Be a Dean’s Lister – Part 1

This is part 1 of a 3-part series on How to Be a Dean’s Lister.

How to Be a Dean's Lister

Recently I noticed there is a good number of students who read PE. So I figure it’ll be useful for me to write a post on getting on the dean’s list. This post will be beneficial for any student, not just university students, as it’s about achieving academic excellence. Even if you aren’t a student, it’s still a good read. I reckon some of the tips shared here can be cross-applied to other areas in life.

Coincidentally it’s the exam periods of the local universities right now (all the best to those sitting for exams now!), so these might come a little late for this semester. Use it as the prep guide from next semester onwards, and you’ll be set to graduate with flying colors 🙂

What is a Dean’s List?

Dean’s List should be a familiar term to university students / graduates. Here’s what Wiki has to say:

A Dean’s List is a category of students in a college or university who achieve high grades during their stay in an academic term or academic year. .. Its meaning varies from institution to institution, and other terms are sometimes used instead in place of dean (e.g. provost’s list, chancellor’s list, president’s list).

Dean’s List, as the Wiki describes, is an honorary roll assigned to the top students. The GPA cut-off to get into the Dean’s List varies across faculties and academic terms. If I were to give a ballpark estimate, your GPA has to be at least 3.6/4.0 or 4.5/5.0 (i.e., average of A- and A for all subjects) and above to be considered on the Dean’s List. If students were more competitive in a particular term, the cut-off will be higher.

When I was studying in NUS (National University of Singapore), I was on the Dean’s List for all 3 academic years I studied there. NUS Business School is a competitive faculty (it’s a leading business school in Singapore and the Asia Pacific region), with a good number of students from top junior colleges and scholars from the neighboring countries, so it was an accomplishment to be on the list. I later graduated in 2006 as the top student in my specialization (Marketing). In my graduation year, I was also awarded gold medals for being the most outstanding student, which I was honored to receive.

Most Outstanding Student in Bachelor of Business Administration Program

Being awarded with Chettiar’s Temple Medal and Ban Hin Leong Gold Medal for being the most outstanding student in the cohort

Top Marketing Student Award in Bachelor of Business Administration Program

Being awarded with the Daimler Chrysler Prize as the 2 top graduates in Marketing

Looking back, university years were easily my best years in my entire 2 decades of education, and I’m not saying that because I did well. The graduation from every academic phase from primary school → secondary school → junior college → university granted us students with increased freedom and liberty. It was something I really appreciated, especially being free-spirited at heart. IMO, bureaucracies and disciplinarian approaches hardly bring out the best in us — while there’s merit behind the approaches, it’s only short-term. In the long-term, they tend to stifle and suffocate. I share more here: Stop Shaming, Start Praising: What I Learned From Growing Up in a Shaming Culture

Why get on the Dean’s List?

There are definite benefits from being a Dean’s Lister, some of which are crucial and a couple that I consider more fringe benefits.

I’d like to highlight that these are benefits I experienced as a business student during my time (2003-2006). They might not apply to other universities/faculties/time periods, though I reckon they shouldn’t differ much. The baseline upsides should be the same no matter where you are from.

6 Key Benefits of Being a Dean’s Lister

  1. A sense of personal achievement. The most important reason, IMO. Getting on the Dean’s List is clearly a great personal achievement to be proud of. Dean’s List is not awarded on absolute GPA score; rather it’s on comparative basis with your peers. Meaning if all your peers happen to be top academic whizzes, you have to be a super whiz to top them. Being on the Dean’s List means you are pretty much in the top 1-5% of the faculty in terms of academic results.
  2. Increasing your employability factor. Ultimately we study in university to get a good job — our best possible job. While results is not the sole determinant behind getting a good job (there are your leadership activities, attitude, personality fit, etc), it is highly important, especially for top jobs with Fortune 100 companies. In fact, I’d go as far to say that a preliminary cut off that many top employers use especially for fresh graduates is academic results, especially for campus recruitment, though there are obviously exceptions if you have an immensely rich portfolio and CCA (core curricular activity) experience.
  3. Invitation to special events. Since you’re among the top in your cohort, you’ll be invited to special events. Most common being networking events with executives from other companies, usually top ones — the ones you might want to join. During my student years, I was often invited to such inner-circle networking events and talks. To be honest, of all the ones I’ve been to, I only found some of practical use – but it’s always good to just be there and meet new people. There are also international case competitions, where participation is generally on invitation basis. Again, invitees are usually selected from the Dean’s List first.
  4. Exclusive access to top employers. Top companies often hold recruitment events on campus. There are the recruitment seminars to masses, and then there are the exclusive networking sessions with smaller groups – whereby the students are selected on invitation basis. Not surprisingly, the HR in the top companies commonly request the Dean’s Office to invite students of a certain cut-off GPA. Examples are Procter & Gamble (my ex-company as most of you already know), McKinsey, investment banks and consulting firms.
  5. Being on the Dean Office’s radar. When you are on the dean’s list, people in the dean’s office and university career office tend to know you. After all, there are several hundreds of students in the faculty, and only a small handful are selected to be on the dean’s list. Ego-boosting reasons aside, this can be useful for random situations, say when you want to get the inside scope on what’s going on, an inside favor of sorts, or just generally having a new friend to talk to about university matters.
  6. Prestige and recognition. If all the special invitations and inclusions in exclusive events aren’t already enough recognition, being on the dean’s list is pretty much synonymous with intellectual smarts and success in university. As the board would put up the list of people on the dean’s list online and also on school campus, students who read it generally know who you are, at least by name. People usually speak of dean’s listers with a certain awe and respect.

While it was exciting being on the Dean’s List back in university, I don’t associate it as part of my identity today (such thoughts, if any, crumbled away right about the same time I discovered my purpose). It takes me by surprise nowadays when someone refers to this aspect of my past, because it’s not something I think about or associate with anymore, though I am obviously happy and proud of my own achievement.

The one thing I do identify with myself the is my mission to help others achieve excellence and live their best life (my purpose). Anything else is just an external identity, a representation of certain values and beliefs. I don’t connect much with labels but instead look at the message behind the labels, because ultimately labels are impermanent and will be shed away one day anyway.

Continue to: How to Be a Dean’s Lister – Part 2