USLA, the award you deserve - and how you can apply for it


Are you aware of the elusive, and mysterious University Student Life Awards (USLA)? Writer Martin Layar walks you through the details and how you too can get there.


So you’ve put in lots of effort into your student clubs. You’ve held countless Executive Committee (EXCO) meetings, planned and executed various events, participated in myriad competitions and activities. Your commitment to student life is immense. Your undying passion for student life knows no boundaries.


Guess what: You deserve to get rewarded for it!


Although I know many committed individuals who merit recognition for their contributions to their CCAs, few are aware of the existence of the elusive, mysterious, yet enchanting entity called the University Student Life Awards (USLA).


It is the cluster of awards that recognise outstanding Co-Curricular performance amongst SMU students for every calendar year from 1st January to 31st December. For 19 years, SMU has continuously celebrated the outstanding achievements of its students and even today, it continues to do so for all of us who are currently in school.


Not only will award recipients receive trophies and cash prizes (the biggest cash prize goes up to a whopping $1,500), they would also get certificates of excellence for their work - which would look great on any CV.


 

What are the categories I can apply for?

In all, there are 5 Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) categories including:

  1. Sports

  2. Arts

  3. Special Interest

  4. Student Leadership

  5. School / Offices / Centers / Institutes (SOCI)

You may apply for Categories 1 to 3 if you belong to any student club under the respective CCA Constituent Bodies in the table below.

CCA Category

CCA Constituent Body

Arts and Culture

Arts & Cultural Fraternity (ACF)

Sports

SMU Sports Union (SSU)

Special Interest & Adventure

Special Interest and Community Service Sodality (SICS)

&

SMU Xtremists (SMUX)


The Student Leadership category encompasses being a student leader in any capacity, while the “School / Offices / Centers / Institutes (SOCI)” category encompasses any involvement with the various administrative departments in SMU that are not under any of the CCA Constituent Bodies.


What’s in it for me?

Let’s get into the dough (literally), shall we?


SMU Excellence in Student Life Award – Bronze Award

​Individual Award

  • $100 Cash Prize

  • Certificate of Excellence

Group Award

  • Trophy

  • Certificate of Excellence

“Bronze is the mirror of form, wine of the heart.” – Aeschylus


True enough, this bronze mirrors not just form and wine of the heart, but also your efforts in enhancing the development of your CCAs under the respective Constituent Bodies.

In all, a maximum of 50 individual bronze awards would be given to a maximum of 10 students from each CCA Category. Individual awardees will all receive a certificate of excellence and $100 credited into your receiving bank account established with SMU. Awarded clubs receive a trophy and a certificate of Excellence.


 

SMU Excellence in Student Life Award – Silver Award

Individual Award

  • $500 Cash Prize

  • Certificate of Excellence

Group Award

  • Trophy

  • Certificate of Excellence

“Every cloud has a silver lining.” – Idiom


And upon uncovering the silver lining after the storm passes, you’d realise that this is the mainstream silver-level counterpart of the Bronze Award. It is catered to the two specific CCA Categories of Student Leadership and School / Offices / Centers / Institutes.


Only one winner from each of these two CCA Categories will be selected, and each will receive a certificate of excellence and $500 credited into your receiving bank account established with SMU. Awarded clubs under these categories receive a trophy and a certificate of Excellence.


Photo: Silver Award Trophy and Certificate. Credits: SMU Intellectual Sports (I-Sports)
 

Tan Tee Chee & Tsan Kah Ngooh Excellence in Student Life – Silver Award

Individual Award

  • $500 Cash Prize

  • Certificate of Excellence

Group Award


  • Trophy

  • Certificate of Excellence

The Tan Tee Chee & Tsan Kah Ngooh Excellence in Student Life Silver Award was established in 2000 by the late professor Tan Teck Meng. This Silver award is catered to the specific CCA Categories of Arts, Sports and Special Interest and Adventure. Only those who applied under these three categories would be eligible for this award.

Only one winner from each CCA Category will be selected for a total of three individual winners across the three categories. Winners will receive a certificate of excellence and $500 credited into your receiving bank account established with SMU. Awarded clubs under these categories receive a trophy and a certificate of Excellence.


Photo: Tan Tee Chee & Tsan Kah Ngooh Silver Award Trophy Credits: Elijah Tan Haojie

 

SMU Excellence in Student Life Award – Gold Award

Individual Award

  • $700 Cash Prize

  • Trophy

  • Certificate of Excellence

Group Award

  • $700 Cash Prize

  • Trophy

  • Certificate of Excellence

“A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.” – Irving Blitzer, Cool Runnings


Photo: Gold Award SMU Literati 2021 and Gold Award Individual. Credits: Elijah Tan Haojie



We’re now in the gold mine, and while being enough without a gold medal is fine, five individuals each across all five CCA Categories who see themselves receiving the gold award would each receive $700, a trophy and a certificate of excellence. Same goes for the awarded clubs across each Category.


 

SMU Excellence in Student Life Award – President’s Award

Individual Award

  • $1500 Cash Prize

  • Trophy

  • Certificate of Distinction

“That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.” – Abraham Lincoln, 16th United States President


Finally, the President’s Award is reserved for the student with the most outstanding and deserving contributions to student life. This award may seem like something out-of-reach at first glance, and I had never once even thought of ever receiving it, but I dare say from first-hand experience that it is indeed possible for anyone to achieve. From volunteering as a Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB) freshman buddy, to organising a poetry competition and representing the school in International Online Riichi Mahjong Tournaments, almost anything that enhances your time in SMU in one way or another can and should be factored in.


The underlying advice? Put heart into everything you do, and it will indeed be possible.


Photo: Excellence in Student Life President’s Award

 

Not forgetting your few seconds of fame


While each level of awards command different prizes, they are all a reflection of the hard work and passion you’ve put into your co-curricular development and holistic education. And they are to be reflected on the television outside SMU Student Services Hub, showcasing those who have put in valiant efforts into the co-curricular scene in SMU.

Photo: Television Screen Outside SMU Student Services Hub (SSH)

What’s the process like, and who should apply?

Anyone who has had some form of co-curricular involvement should apply!

Photo: Email Call for USLA Applications (Excerpt)

All you need to do is to follow the instructions on the online application forms you are submitting. This time round, applications are to be submitted through the school’s website for USLA at this link.

Photo: USLA Application Page. Source: https://www.smu.edu.sg/campus-life/student-leadership/university-student-life-awards

Club award application forms are also present on the application portal. For the student leaders, on top of your own individual applications, be sure to give a shout out to your clubs too! Send in those much-deserved applications for your clubs as if you were applying for an individual award yourself.


Some Tips for Application

Applying for USLA doesn’t necessarily mean that you will win something. However, it is better to try and fail than to have not tried at all, especially if you have a chance. After all, fortune favours the bold. Understanding the application process will maximise your chances of winning.


1. Evidence, evidence, evidence


To apply, you would have to submit evidence documenting your involvements in Co-Curricular Activities. Some form of tangible evidence that justifies and proves your participations and achievements would suffice. A reasonable place to start would be:

  • Event Email confirmations

  • Certificates and Medals (Pictures of medals and trophies work too)

  • Photos of yourself at events


2. Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable


Another tip would be to plan your application well. Go through the online forms first and identify what is asked of you in the respective sections, then structure your evidence files to fit the blanks. You would likely better figure out how best to map what you have to what is asked of you. Organise your application files, and you’re potentially in for a great time.


3. Take the leap of faith


In the past, I never once believed that it was possible for an average student like myself to receive any award from USLA, let alone the President’s Award. Yet I have proven myself wrong (twice) and dispelled my disbelief. However, you don’t have to start off with disbelief like I did. Anyone who has some form of involvement or commitment towards their student clubs definitely has a chance. Put faith and belief in your application and the results might just pleasantly surprise you.


 

What are you waiting for?

Not all who have worked hard will succeed, but all who succeed have worked hard. The one-year journey of effort may not be easy, and neither would the application process be, but both will be worth the while and trouble if you win.


It was truly worth my while, consolidating my files until 2AM for three nights in a row, forgoing Mahjong jios over the Chinese New Year period of 2021. Yet what truly matters the most was neither the prize money nor the trophy and certificate, it was the joy and fun of pursuing excellence that did, and I must say it made me a different person. At the end of the day, it is not about being the best, but doing your best. If you decide to tread this path, I know you will find yourself stronger and better like I did when I first started.


What are you waiting for? Send in your applications through the application page by 14th February 2022, 9AM!