University admission tips


polytechnic to local university - collage of interview and studying

We’ve all been told at some point in our lives that the most ideal way to succeed is to get into a local university, and through a JC, at that. But little do these people know that building a foundation in poly can just as well give you a headstart to fulfil your goals, whether it’s to excel in university or to ace that job. 

Nanyang Polytechnic alumni Darien Kwek, who has since graduated from a local university and is currently pursuing his PhD, tell us not to be fazed by naysayers. As Darien says, it’s crucial to “choose a course of your passion” and the best way to do that is by going to “a school that nurtures and helps you achieve your goals”. 

Darien spent his years in poly learning about Nanotechnology and Materials Science, and has recently graduated from NTU with Highest Distinction Honours in Materials Engineering.

With his help, we’ve gathered a list of tried-and-tested tips to help you follow in his footsteps.


1. Keep your first semester’s GPA high


polytechnic to local university - studying in nanyang poly
Image credit: @nanyangpoly

Contrary to popular belief, your first semester’s grades will have as much impact on your GPA as other modules later on. You might find it easier to score at the start as all your other friends are basking in the “honeymoon” period. 

So take it from Darien who’s been through it all: hustle first to get solid grades so it’s easier to work towards your goals. After all, the first few modules you encounter are going to be relatively easier than the more advanced modules in later semesters.


2. Choose electives you can score in


polytechnic to local university - sketching or drawing on easel stand at nanyang poly
Image credit: Nanyang Polytechnic

The flexible part about poly is the freedom to choose what you study. Take advantage of this and choose electives that you’re interested in or those that can give you a leg up later on. You’ll find that when you have a liking for what you study, you’ll naturally be motivated to learn – asking questions, doing extra prep work and consulting tutors.

Take NYP: they offer interesting electives like a Forensic Food Science module for the Sherlock Holmes wannabes to up their crime solving skills through food. Or if you’d like to know how Alexa or Siri came to life, there’s even a Foundation of AI module.

Darien recommends shifting your focus from nabbing that A to instead, thoroughly understanding what you learn.

polytechnic to local university - nursing in nanyang poly
Image credit: Nanyang Polytechnic

Darien emphasises that reconciling your interests with your studies should be a top priority, so that even if the learning curve is steep, your efforts will be rewarded. He took advantage of his love for maths and signed on for 3 extra maths modules to help raise his GPA during his polytechnic days.


3. Sign up for CCAs for an extra advantage


polytechnic to local university - nanyang polytechnic sports
Image credit: @nypsports

We’re all used to the busy bee schedule – clocking in after-school hours for extra-curricular activities. But it’s not all in vain. Here’s the inside story: applications to university and that great job no longer solely hinge on your GPA. Recruiters also want to see skills, work experience, CCA involvement and even volunteering backgrounds. 

polytechnic to local university - live audio cca at nanyang polytechnic
Image credit: Nanyang Polytechnic

And that’s where NYP comes in – offering a variety of CCAs, from dance and debating right up to niche clubs like Live Audio where students get to deejay. Aside from the time off academics, joining a CCA can also connect you to seniors, alumni and staff members who’ll help tide you through your entire course and future networking sessions. 

We’re not just talking about access to notes or class materials here. Based on Darien’s experience, seniors can tell you hacks about easy A electives, a library to borrow gadgets and even the best hang out spots to jam with your mates for free.


4. Take up internships to build your resume


polytechnic to local university - digital art portfolio
Work on your resume in your free time. It could be as simple as planning out which of your past experience and accolades to include. 

Taking up internships and building up your own portfolio will make great additions to your resume. If you’re at NYP, follow in Darien’s footsteps and check out the recently launched Student Life Academy. You can easily attend sports tryouts here or sign up for workshops like Instagram marketing and personal branding to improve your presentation skills.

There are also workshops run by other students like NYP’s Makers Innovators Tribe CCA, and a pre-incubator programme to give your ideas for startups or social enterprises a headstart to become the next success story.


5. Join competitions


polytechnic to local university - mobile robotics competition
Image credit: @nypseg

It may be nerve-wracking to represent your school in competitions but don’t let that stop you from putting yourself out there. This could be your best bet to get head-hunted into your dream course. And if you manage to clinch the top prize, participating in such competitions can get you on the industry’s radar.

For example, join coding challenges to get into a computer science course in university. Or if you’re studying business, look out for recurring competitions like the yearly NUS Pitch It. Even if you don’t come out first, it’ll still be a remarkable addition to your applications and a first-hand experience of what the industry is like. 


6. Get recommendation letters from teachers who know you personally


polytechnic to local university - students with lecturer in nanyang poly class
Image credit: @steampoweredkitsune

What better way to bolster your applications than to get solid recommendation letters from your lecturer or your CCA’s staff mentor?. They’ll be able to provide a personalised write-up about you and your strengths and effectively beef up your chances to get into your dream university course. 

But if you’re a tad shy to approach lecturers, Darien shares that there’s always the option to clear your doubts through email. All you need to do is to get past the myth that lecturers are “intimidating” when in fact, “most lecturers are very willing to explain any questions you might have”.


7. Find out the assessment breakdown for different modules


polytechnic to local university - nyp students group presentation
Many modules will require you to work in groups. If you’re more of a lone ranger, look for modules with individual assessments.
Image credit: @nypsidm

It’s hard to find a jack of all trades – we all have our different strengths and weaknesses. Find out what you’re good at and apply it to your electives. Choosing an elective based on an assessment criterion that best suits you will give you an upper hand in acing your semester. 

So if you’re someone who fumbles in front of a crowd, an elective with a lower percentage for presentation will do wonders for your grade. Or if you’re more of a writer, bank on that elective with a high percentage for writing assessments. When you’re doing something right up your alley, it becomes much easier to bag that A or Distinction.

Other things to look out for include modules that specifically prep students for a uni curriculum like NYP’s Diploma Plus Programme. NYP also offers opportunities to earn professional certifications like Python programming with Microsoft for IT students. Not only are you safeguarding your grades, you’re also advancing towards your goals. 


8. Prep for interviews


polytechnic to local university - interview

The last stage to securing your job or admission to a local university is the interview. Find out if there are other assessments that’ll take place on the same day. Knowing what you’re expected to go through beforehand will help to calm your nerves while you compose your responses.

But most importantly, you have to prep for the types of questions you might face. This is when your connection to an alumni network will come in handy. Psst, expect less standard questions like “Why do you want this job/school?” and instead you may be asked to comment on current affairs, the latest technologies and changes affecting the industry you have chosen, or even go off the beaten track like “Who’s more influential: Obama or Adele?”


Local university or a full-time job after graduating from NYP


polytechnic to local university - nanyang polytechnic lecture
Image credit: @tan_junze

If there’s one thing that NYP alumni like Darien have emphasised, it’s to know where your passion lies and go for it. 

polytechnic to local university - darien kwek, nyp alumni
Image credit: Darien Kwek

Darien went for various opportunities related to the industry he was interested in. Coupled with an internship at an A*Star institute, he streamlined his interests and worked towards getting into his desired university course. 

What’s most important here is having enough knowledge to make an informed decision of what you truly like. And in this case, Darien made full use of the opportunities provided at NYP to refine his passion and work towards his end goal.

polytechnic to local university - nanyang polytechnic
Image credit: @jennnapie 

When considering your options for university, make sure to keep polytechnics in mind because they will provide you with relevant industry experience. With ample opportunities for students to dive into their preferred industries and to gain real world experience, NYP equips their students with relevant skills – whether it’s to land their dream job or pursue further education. 

Find out more about the Nanyang Polytechnic admissions here


This post was brought to you by NYP.