The Polytechnic Way, The Way to Go


Hey guys! I’m back with a quick write up. Since I have been getting an influx of visitors wanting to know more about NTU, perhaps I should also cover on Pre-U matters to aid secondary school leavers on which study path to go upon completing their ‘O’s. Since I am a Polytechnic graduate, I thought it would be more appropriate for me to talk in depth about the diploma route.

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As many of you know, I was educated in Singapore Poly (SP) and I graduated 2 years ago. Interestingly, I never struggled with my options after completing my ‘O’ levels as I had already made up my mind even before I began Secondary Five. I would take time to browse through SP website (because it was the most convenient Poly for me and my father was also an SP graduate) and the informational brochures all 5 Polys would send me throughout the year. Though some may argue that I had 1 extra year to decide, I believe I would still do the same even if I was in the Express stream.

Check our this article from Digital Senior to understand more about the differences and similarities between Polytechnic and University life!

Why did I not choose the Junior College (JC) route then? Apart from being sick of the books (I definitely did not want to study intensely for another 2 years after going through ‘N’ and ‘O’ levels consecutively), I wanted more hands-on experiences and the idea of being able to wear home clothes to school just won me over. Very superficial I know. But trust me, there is more to that. So going to JC never crossed my mind. Fortunately, my batch was able to experience the PAE (Provisional Admission Exercise a.k.a “first three months”) before it was abolished. I did fairly well for my prelims and went to Innova JC. However my first three months only lasted for a day because I found a job which commenced on the second day haha. Hence I wasn’t at all tempted or lured to go to JC.

Studying in polytechnics does not only give you hands-on experience (which is heavily harped on by all Polytechnic when promoting to secondary school leavers), students also get to meet and work with real companies through internships and projects assigned by the school. I have personally visited PR firm Edelman, spoken with someone from advertising firm Leo Burnett (who is also a graduate of my alma mater as well), worked with Singapore Maritime Foundation on a logo and many more. If you have communications background, you’d definitely know the first 2 firms mentioned because they are worldwide renowned. People who specialise in radio and TV will also get to work in Mediacorp studios or radio. I have also been personally taught by real industry players, such as the founder of MooMedia (a pretty well-known cinematography and photography company that recently just helped produced the NDP mini series) for a particular video editing course. Being a Poly student really gives you an edge over JC students who will only know about these in Uni (unless of course, you already have an interest in this area and have had hands-on experience).

I understand some students chose to go to JC due to financial difficulties since Poly fees are so expensive. But for students who chose the JC route because they hadn’t decided on which career path or specialisation to take.. why? I mean, no offence but I really cannot fathom why some hadn’t make up their minds. How long more would they need to decide? If they couldn’t even decide in 4-5 years, would an additional 2 years help at all? These people rely on fate to take them to places and to me, they are just plain lazy.

Of course, there are those who think that the duration to obtain a diploma is too long, that they’d get distracted in Poly and fare badly or that getting into a local University using a diploma is tougher than using an ‘A’ level cert.

As one who had enjoyed and developed tremendous skills during her time in Poly, done fairly well and gotten a place in NTU (applied twice and was offered a place in both, even though the first wasn’t what I wanted), I can easily refute all these assumptions. What’s more, I came from the not-so-elite-and-looked-down-upon Normal Academic stream which is “supposed” (italics + inverted commas to emphasize that it is NOT true at all) to be less academically inclined so what other excuses do you have?! To add on, I was also from the “lousiest” and “stupidest” EM3 stream in primary school but that’s another story.

Not trying to be cocky but I truly believe it all boils down to your mindset (maturity) and self-discipline. People who tell (or scare) prospective Poly applicants that they’d tend to slack, cut classes bla bla bla and ultimately get poor GPAs are usually those with no self-control themselves. The timetable is less rigid such that you do not have classes everyday from 9am-2pm which allows you to have more free time (usually for group projects but I had my own life.. I went shopping in town and relaxed too). No one told you to slack and skip classes what?! If you do it, that’s your own problem! If you’re determined and focused enough, you should be able to overcome this obstacles. If you keep having the mindset that, oh.. I’m in Poly, I bound to lose focus, play a lot and then do badly like my seniors, then of course you’re bound to fail too. So don’t generalise and make slacking sound like it’s part of the Poly culture. It’s definitely not.

Yes, poly takes a longer time to complete but why are you complaining? What’s the rush? You are 17 (or 18 in my case) and you’re a student. You are going to spend the rest of your life working and clocking hours so why not enjoy your student life while it lasts? If money is a problem, you can always work part-time like how I did (I worked on weekends throughout my Poly life so don’t tell me about how busy you are in school.. I’ve been there, done that). The same idea applies to undergrads too. Sometimes I just don’t understand their hurry to complete their undergrad studies. Imagine waking up at 7am everyday, struggling to get into the packed train before and after work and only able to get home by 7pm, barely even have time for entertainment because you’ll be dead beat by then. I dread the day I have to work full-time. Lol, but I guess everyone has his reasons for dying to graduate ASAP.

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Just me and the gentlemen at my SP Graduation, May 2011.

And going to a Polytechnic definitely does not reduce your chance of entering into a local Uni. As mentioned earlier, if you’re focused and disciplined enough, you should do just fine and subsequently graduate with flying colours. I was in director’s list for the first year but competition was so stiff in my school so I didn’t emerge as top 10 in my third year. But my GPA was decent enough to earn me a spot in NTU, which was my to-go local Uni since WKWSCI (or ADM) was what I really wanted. I have many friends in my course (Media and Communication) who also got a spot in NTU, NUS, SMU so yes, it’s definitely possible 🙂

I would also like to highlight again, in case it wasn’t obvious earlier, that you do not need to be in top 10 in your cohort to get into a local Uni (for normal admission). I mean it does help getting a diploma with merit but as long as your GPA meets the COP for your desired course, there should not be a problem (unless you’re super unlucky). They also look at your ‘O’ level results.. So, if what I have written above doesn’t spur you to work hard for your O’s, I hope this does now. Hahaha.

Also, as briefly mentioned in my NTU freshmen entries, being a polytechnic graduate would have equipped you with a lot of relevant skills which JC graduates didn’t have the chance to learn. The culture, though faster paced in Uni, for both are also similar so it won’t appear as a drastic transition or a culture shock to you. You also get to be exempted from similar courses and that means more free time for yourself! Hahaha. Isn’t that great?

So here, something to ponder about for you secondary school leavers. No hard feelings for JC choosers! I mean if your ambition is to be a doctor, dentist, lawyer or other prestigious professions, probably continuing your studies in JCs would be a better choice. I said probably because it’s also possible to get into law and medical schools using your relevant diploma certs (with more effort of course)! Click here 😀

Yup I’m such an advocate for polytechnic studies haha. Because I really feel that I have benefited and learned a lot from SP which is something I wouldn’t get if I went to JC 😉

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‘Til next time!

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2 thoughts on “The Polytechnic Way, The Way to Go

  1. But arent you leaving out the majority of university courses? I think JC grads definitely have an added advantage in pure science courses like Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry because the H2 sciences/math are of a higher level than most poly sciences. Not to mention the option to learn university level H3 subjects. They would also have an advantage in the humanities and social sciences like Political Science, History, Philosophy, Sociology,Philosophy etc. whereby their GP or KI would set a good foundation to current affairs.

    Poly grads do have an advantage in applied courses like Communications, Business and Engineering if they were from the relevant diplomas in poly.

    The 1 year discount from JC is also a huge relief for guys who are already spending 2 years in NS.

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  2. Hey Jason, hmm maybe I wasn’t explicit enough but I was referring more to applied courses like Communications where networking is the key.

    As for Sciences and more niche courses like Law, I did hint towards the end of my post that JC would be a better choice since local Unis tend to have a blatant preference for A levels. But successful Poly applicants still do get an added advantage over their JC peers from all the hands-on experience from projects and internships which I think counts for a great deal more. After all what you learn in the classroom is nothing like what you will learn on the job. Plus, their poly curriculum would more or less be directly relevant to what will be covered in Uni.

    As for having “a good foundation for current affairs”.. i can’t comment much since I’ve never taken GP but I guess that boils down to individual preference. as long as you have the keen interest to read up more, i don’t think you’d need GP or KI to be well-versed in current affairs… unless of course, you’re one of those nonchalant people who’re only using these humanities courses to fall back on when you have nowhere else to go since they aren’t the most sought-after courses around. i have politically aware poly friends in the debate club (not one but a few of them) and I can tell you that they are more knowledgeable than any the JC students I know. so yeah 🙂

    but you do have a point there about NS haha.

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