Entering poly was the best thing that happened to my academics

From taking ownership of my education to becoming a better team player, here are three ways I have grown since entering poly.

Ruth Chan

Enjoys solitude. Finds comfort in watching the sunset and drinking milo.

Published: 20 November 2020, 12:44 PM

I was never strong academically in secondary school. I found it hard to focus in class, dreaded going to school and failed almost every subject for my Prelim examinations.

So it should come as no surprise that I avoided going to a junior college when I somehow managed to get decent O-level grades, many thanks to the help of my friends, teachers and tutor.

While I chose to pursue the polytechnic route because I was afraid of the academic rigour of junior college, I was surprised to find that the environment in poly made me able to study a lot better. 

Here are three ways I have changed for the better ever since I entered poly. 

Taking ownership of my education

The nature of polytechnics allows a lot more freedom than secondary school. Co-curricular activities aren’t mandatory, classes can start as late as 2pm, and the rules generally aren’t as strict. However, this meant that I had to take charge of my own learning.

Unlike secondary school, there weren’t remedial or supplementary lessons for ‘weaker pupils’, and students are expected to consult lecturers if they needed clarification – on their own accord.

In the polytechnic environment, if grades are less-than-ideal, there is a chance that you have to re-mod or worse, get debarred. You are responsible for your own failure.

This freedom taught me to be more self-disciplined and careful in terms of how I planned my time to maintain a balance between school and having a social life.  

There were instances where I turned down a friend’s request to go out because that day was scheduled for schoolwork – something I could never imagine doing back in secondary school.


Being in a course that has no examinations might sound very appealing, but this implies that every assignment has to be taken seriously as they count towards the final grade. PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/@NGEEANNPOLY

Becoming a good team player

Unlike secondary school and junior college, there are also countless group projects in poly that can amount to 40 per cent of a module’s grade.

With such high stakes, everyone in the team has to be an active contributor and play their part so as to achieve the best possible grade for the project.

Of course, I didn’t want to be a liability to my groupmates, and through the group projects, I learnt a wide range of skills, such as teamwork and effective communication.

I used to have difficulties speaking in front of an audience. My lack of confidence in myself led to me messing up whenever I had to give a presentation. 

But in Year 1, a groupmate sat with me for hours encouraging and teaching me public speaking techniques, which helped me to overcome my fear. This is something I’ll always be grateful for.

Learning to handle the pressures of the working world

During the final submission weeks in poly, mental breakdowns are the norm as the workload can get overwhelming.

But this was an opportunity to experience what the working world is like, allowing me to get a taste of the stresses of life beyond the school gates.


For our radio production module’s final assessment, we were given the opportunity to handle industry-standard equipment and the freedom to pursue any topic we were interested in. PHOTO CREDITS: YOUTHOPIA/RUTH CHAN


Through this, I came to realise who are the people I can count on to support me – my friends and family.  

An example would be a particular semester in Year 1, where I had a design test the next day. Design has never been my strong suit, and I had no clue how to make use of the software to meet the requirements of the test.

It was 2 am and I felt really hopeless. Barely holding in my tears, I went to look for my parents, who brought me much comfort and strength to carry on. 

Through this, I realised how crucial social support was in helping me to cope with stress, and the incident became a stepping stone for wanting to build a good relationship with my parents too.

While it wasn’t a bed of roses, poly life taught me to be a more diligent student, a more cooperative teammate and even a better daughter.

There is still a long road ahead, but in hindsight, entering polytechnic was the turning point in my academics, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything else in the world.

You may like these