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Fast-Track Course: Is It Necessarily Better?
Does the above advertisement sound attractive? Maybe.
However, have you wondered why the course is so short and if it is suitable for you?
So what is a fast-track course?
Depending on the country, the subject and the school, a degree or diploma programme could take anywhere between three and six years to complete. In comparison, a fast-track degree or diploma programme is structured to be completed within a relatively shorter period. Here are some key features of a fast-track course:
(i) Compact schedule
One way in which schools shorten their courses is through a condensed time-table, requiring students to attend more classes per week. Additionally, instead of semesters, the course is often compressed into terms which may each last just a few weeks. You will be required to complete more modules within a term, and do more assignments and examinations in one calendar year. Such compact schedules also mean that there is less time for you to revise, complete assignments and projects, or enjoy other aspects of student life.
(ii) Blended course format
To meet course completion requirements in a shorter timeframe, some courses adopt the blended approach of including more online tutorials and discussion forums instead of the typical classroom setting. This could mean less physical contact time with your lecturer and classmates for discussion and clarification.
(iii) Fewer breaks
Fast-track courses continue throughout the year, usually with little or no breaks/vacations in between terms.
Why do you want to pursue a fast-track course?
Saving time may be a key motivation, but you should take other factors into consideration as well — such as if you are truly ready for the course or the implications of taking such an accelerated course. You should also be prepared that some prospective employers may question the rigour of your course, given the shorter duration.
Can you cope with the condensed time-table and the academic rigour?
On top of daily classes, you may also have to attend longer lectures and tutorials in order to fast track your course. You need to be able to keep up with the fast-paced lessons, and meet tight assignment deadlines.
Have you considered if you are able to commit the required time and cope with the compact schedule? If you are working full-time and studying part-time, will you be able to juggle the requirements of both work and school? These are important considerations to think about before you enrol, as failure to attend classes or submit assignments on time can affect your grades and overall graduation.
Are you able to finance the course within a short period of time?
A compact course means that you have a shorter time period to spread out your course fees. It is important that you consider how financially-ready you are, as failure to pay course fees can delay your graduation.
What is your desired outcome?
Rather than choosing a course for its duration, consider selecting a course that can provide you with the necessary skills to succeed in whatever you want to do. Do check if the qualification will be recognised by the industry. You can do so by speaking to your prospective employer, industry associations, past graduates, as well as asking the private school about the employment outcome of their graduates. Do note that there is no central authority in Singapore that accords recognition to certificates and qualifications. The decision to accept your qualification lies with prospective employers and higher educational institutions.
Furthering your studies can be a large investment of your time and money, and you would want to see returns on your investment. A faster route to graduation may grant you an earlier start to your career but may not guarantee you a better job or future prospects. It may be worth placing more importance on the quality rather than duration of the course. You are encouraged to find out about the course syllabus and materials, graduation rates and employment outcomes of graduates, to ensure that the qualifications have a positive effect on your career. Do not short-change yourself by chasing a course solely for its shorter duration.