Photo credit: Temasek Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic

10 things to know before your first day of polytechnic

Kickstart your journey as a polytechnic student with these useful tips.

Celeste Lim

Yogurt lover with a Spotify playlist for every mood.

Published: 4 January 2021, 10:07 AM

The switch from secondary school to a polytechnic can be jarring, especially for those who have gotten used to sticking to a regular schedule and wearing the same uniform for the last decade. 

To make the transition less daunting and prevent culture shock, here are 10 things you should know before your first day at a polytechnic.

1. What should I bring?

It differs depending on your course, but generally, you should come to school with your school’s admin card, a file for any loose papers and some stationery. No need to bring your whole pencil case – chances are you’ll be using your laptop to type anyway.

As for where to get your laptops, all polytechnics should have a list of recommended laptops for your course. Make sure to visit the annual laptop fair to get your laptops with a three-year warranty at discounted prices.

2. Should I install anything before?

Each polytechnic should have their own mobile application, which you can use to check your timetable and exam schedule, or even how crowded the canteens are. 


For design students, creative software is a must. PHOTO CREDIT: MIKAELA SHANNON VIA UNSPLASH


All polytechnics also use Blackboard, an e-learning portal for lecturers to upload resources such as presentation slides. It is available as a website, but it would be handy to have the application on your phone.

3. What should I wear?

Generally, most people in polytechnics are free to wear whatever they want as long as it is appropriate. Seeing someone in a t-shirt and shorts next to another person in a thick hoodie and sweatpants is not uncommon. 

Do note that there may be some restrictions based on your course of study; some courses do not permit students to dye their hair, or you may have to wear long pants for laboratory lessons.

The lecture theatres and classrooms can get cold, so remember to bring a jacket!

4. How do I make friends?

If you’re feeling lost and alone on the first day of school, don’t worry, because you’re not alone.

It may seem intimidating at first, but you can always approach someone in your class with a smile. Since you already picked the same course, you must have some things in common! 

Most people love talking about themselves, so you can’t go wrong with asking questions about them. Some good conversation starters include asking about their favourite food or hobbies.

If you want to make friends outside of your course, you can join a CCA.

5. What CCA should I join?

There is a wide selection of CCAs in polytechnics, from clubs to sports, so you are bound to find something you like. Once you’ve narrowed down your interests, you should go through the CCA’s social media pages to get a gist of what they do. 

Do note that most CCAs only take in new members at the start of the school year. You may need to attend an audition or interview before being invited to join some CCAs.


Some schools hold a CCA carnival to showcase their different CCAs. PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/@SINGAPOREPOLY

6. Should I buy a travel concession card?

Good news: Polytechnic students are eligible for student fare when taking public transport!

However, if you find yourself spending too much on transport, you might want to consider getting a bus, train or hybrid concession card. You can use LTA’s fare calculator to determine if getting a concession card will be worth it. 

7. Will I have tests/exams?

This depends on your course and modules. Check with your lecturers so you know what to prepare for. In some cases, tests or exams may be replaced by projects or submissions. 

8. Where should I go during breaks or after school?

In polytechnic, you might get breaks that are over two hours long. This is the perfect opportunity to explore the different hangout spots or food courts in your school.


All polytechnics have multiple food courts and even fast food outlets spread out across campus.


If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even visit a nearby shopping mall for a nice meal. This is also a good chance for you to make friends too! 

9. How can I save money?

Polytechnic students are eligible for the same student discounts as secondary school students, so look out for them when out and about. Notable discounts include: Student meals, cheaper prices at cinemas and student memberships for streaming services.

Polytechnics tend to have longer holidays, so you can take advantage of them to get a temporary job or side hustle and earn some money during your break. You can find temporary jobs through recruitment agencies, or job portals such as Indeed, FastJobs or LinkedIn

10. Should I follow my school’s social media pages?

Yes, most schools are active on their social media pages and will feature upcoming events or giveaways there. 


If you use your school’s hashtags, you have a chance to get featured on their Instagram pages.


To stay in the know, you can also follow your academic school’s Instagram page.

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