Why you should fail your NOC interview

Now that its the application period for the program, I’m sure many are curious about how the entire NOC process works– from applying all the way to settling down at your new company.

There are many questions that you probably have right now as you prepare for the interviews, but answering those questions isn’t easy because I believe that everyone’s journey is unique. Instead, here’s a reflection of my journey so far.

I’m truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to be selected as part of the fifth batch of students going to New York. The past eight months have taught me so much.

Just like most of you who are now applying to be in the next batch, I too, had to go through the much dreaded interviews (trust me, it only gets so much more difficult after round 1). Back then, for better or for worse, I had gone for the interviews without any clue of what to expect and it was (so) bad.

After I ended my interview, I knew that I would not be selected (I applied for NOC twice). The questions that I had to endure for those grueling 30min left me feeling helpless, and desperate as I defended myself throughout. I presented myself as someone hopeful and willing to learn and yet everything that I said was thoroughly rejected. It was absolutely demoralizing, upsetting and well, unreasonable (isn’t NOC about nurturing entrepreneurs?!) .

Yet, today, if you were to ask me to interview a NOC applicant, I believe that I would probably be just as harsh, but it will not be because I’m trying to be unreasonable.

Here’s why:

The NOC program is a tough one.

You will be required to work and study at the same time. You’re expected to pay your bills, manage your own finances, settle your laundry, clean your room, allocate your time wisely and of course, settle all your meals. You’re expected to work long hours, and then carry on doing school projects afterwards. Needless to say, you’re expected to give your all in whatever you do (trust me, easier said than done).

There will be days where you will be filled with so much self doubt and wish so, so badly to be back in the comforts of your family and home in Singapore. Sometimes, you wish Singapore could be just a little nearer so that you could just spend a few hours back on your bed to escape reality just for a bit, or maybe just hear a familiar voice telling you “its okay”. Knowing that that’s impossible does not help with the pangs of homesickness that creep up on you every once in a while.

You have so much to do and so much more you can do.

At times you begin to wonder why time can go pass so quickly at times and yet crawl by at other times. You will truly begin to appreciate having NOC managers who sneak bak kwa back for you, not because you love bak kwa that much but because it’s a piece of home.

Yet, one day, you will understand why Prof Teo keeps asking you to be grateful to the program, because you really will be.

One day, you will realize that you only have 12 months.

You will only have 12 months to give as much as you can, and then once the end of your time here approaches, you will begin to wish for more time. After you truly understand how homesickness feels like, you will catch yourself by surprise when you couldn’t be more grateful to have 7 other “semi- siblings” living with you in a foreign place.

The “How’s it going?” or “How was your weekend” questions that you dreaded earlier will soon become words of your own and you really wish that you would not have to think about when to book your return ticket so soon.

You will be increasingly grateful to have the once in a lifetime opportunity

The opportunity to work with people from the world and to learn how its like to pursue your ideas and passion. You will almost not bear to think of the day you have to leave your startup, because the people there have become your family as well.

So why do you want to come to NOC?”

Finally, you will understand why the panel of interviewers deciding whether you get to go always ask you “So why do you want to come to NOC?”, and why no answer that you can give at that point time will ever be satisfactory because unless you’ve been through the program, your answer will only appear superficial to the person sitting opposite you.


Contrary to the title of this writing, I definitely wish the very best to each and every one of you applying for the NOC program right now. When you go for your interviews, all I can ask for as someone who is now in the program is that you do not take it lightly, because if you do then you might be just be sending yourself to a long and tiring 12 months.

On the hand, if you really, really are keen to join, then all the very best to you! I believe that one of my best learnings from the entire NOC process till today is how it has taught me to fight for what I want. If you want something, you have to make it happen.

Last but not least, if you’re thinking of applying to New York, then I’m really excited for you! I’m sure all of us here will be glad to have you as part of our family ☺️