I’ll be honest, when I was looking for a university, all I prioritised was that a) it was a brand that was internationally recognised, and b) it had the courses I wanted.
I wasn’t too particular about the amenities it had, the university lifestyle it boasted about having, or its proximity to malls, and more. Thankfully, my overall experience was still great.
But some students put a lot more thought into these decisions, and 19-year-old Mah Ying Qi is one of them. After his A-Levels, he founded Rate This Uni in August 2021 so that other university students (future, present, and past) can crowdsource information on their selected universities.
Getting to really know a uni
He wasn’t always this particular though. When he did his A-Levels, he picked his college just for its decent scholarship.
However, once he began studying there, he realised that he didn’t like his school for several reasons, including how he personally felt that its facilities were bad, there was no campus life, and that it lacked a canteen and food options.
“These are small things that people will not notice before entering the college, but it really affects you while studying there,” Ying Qi told Vulcan Post.
As he was searching for a place where he could find student ratings and reviews for universities in Malaysia, he realised that they were non-existent on big sites like Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and Times Higher Education (THE) that ranked universities across the world.
After identifying this issue, he then had to think up a solution. That came after he was inspired by a YouTuber named Jedcal who made a site called RateMyDorm, which was well-received in the US.
Seeing as Ying Qi himself was in the midst of choosing his own university then, he thought, why not do something similar?
Going in solo with zero experience
Rate This Uni was a solo project up until its launch, whereby he then invited 3 of his friends to help improve it since he knew he would be busy once he went to university.
By that point, he’d already put in most of the work, learning the basics of web development like HTML, CSS, PHP, SQL, etc., in the span of one month.
Using these new skills, he designed the structure of the site and uploaded the schools to its database. Of course, not knowing how to code at first was his biggest challenge in developing Rate This Uni.
He consulted YouTube videos, asked questions on Stack Overflow, and consulted his friends who were in IT. “I had so little knowledge about web development until Stack Overflow restricted me from asking stupid questions for 7 days,” Ying Qi recalled.
This became his second problem, and he admitted that his solution wasn’t the best—he started a second account which soon got restricted too.
Another major problem was his initial manual creation of hundreds of web pages until he discovered the concept of a Dynamic Web Page and came up with his own system.
Despite all these challenges, however, he believes that while Rate This Uni is not perfect, it’s “doing great” when it comes to providing information to users.
“Until now, I think I have spent about RM200 on web hosting (6 months), the domain, and advertisement on social media platforms,” Ying Qi shared.
“I didn’t find any investors though, because I wasn’t that confident that I could make this work. And also, it’s not a lot of money so I just thought I can pay for it myself.”
Creating a valuable network
Ying Qi gets his list of universities from the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) website and the data on them from Wikipedia as well as the universities’ official sites. As of now, he believes he’s covered most of the universities across all Malaysian states.
Adding colleges to the site will take a bit more time, but he plans on doing it down the line. Since launching, he shared that Rate This Uni has received about 14K views, but the views per month aren’t consistent yet.
To gradually and organically increase user growth, Ying Qi wants to add interactive features like a forum so users can communicate and discuss a university better.
However, like with any other site that relies on user reviews and opinions for data, how would we know if a user is a legit student of said university, and not simply trolling?
Did you know: In internet slang, a troll is a person who posts inflammatory, insincere, digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses, or manipulating others’ perception.
Initially, Ying Qi tried collecting student IDs to ensure no fake reviews were left, but people seemed to feel insecure about that. His solution then was to have users leave their student email for verification, which he’s coming up with a proper system for.
Until then, he will simply have to place trust in his users to not use the site for malicious intent, but Rate This Uni’s activity rate still seems manageable enough that Ying Qi can monitor reviews manually. Once it grows though, he’ll definitely need a proper verification system to prevent abuse.
For students, by a student
From what I can see, Rate This Uni is a good attempt at providing students with a more realistic overview of their expected campus experience.
For now though, many universities still lack reviews, which means just 1 or 2 positive or negative ones can greatly skew the overall rating of a campus in either direction.
Rate This Uni will have to greatly increase its user base in order to fully benefit future students, and I believe that Ying Qi’s idea of having a forum can contribute to that.
Other than that, perhaps a reply function to reviews could increase interactivity. User verification will also help increase the legitimacy and trustworthiness of the site’s data.
All in all, this 2-month-old site shows that Ying Qi’s break has been well utilised, and I’m impressed with what he’s achieved so far. Now, he simply needs to promote it more in pre-university, university, and postgrad groups to grow its network.
What I would like to achieve is, I hope that when all the high school leavers are choosing their uni, the first reference that they can think of is Rate This Uni.Mah Ying Qi, founder of Rate This Uni.
Featured Image Credit: Mah Ying Qi, founder of Rate This Uni