O-Levels ended months ago, you had your fun and received your posting to a polytechnic (poly). Poly life will officially start in about 3 months!
You’ve definitely heard your fair share of what poly is like, and its pros and cons.
Since you’re already posted and about to kickstart your poly life soon, what should you expect?
Check your semester academic plan
In poly, the academic plan for every course is different. Some courses do not have any examinations and their grades are purely based on their assignments.
If you haven’t already, it is important that you find out if your course is examination-based or assignment-based, because it will make a difference in how you make your study plan.
Those courses without examinations have a consistently high workload in terms of their assignments, whereas those with examinations will have fewer assignments, but they have to study hard during their examination periods.
Strategise how you can work best with your course’s academic plan.
Your First Semester’s GPA is Extra Important
By now, you would probably already know that in poly, your Grade Point Average (GPA) is cumulative, which means that every graded assessment counts towards the final GPA that you receive at the end of your poly life. This is unlike in primary and secondary school, where ultimately, the final examinations are what matters most.
Your individual semester GPAs will contribute to your cumulative GPA. Hence, it’s a given that you should stay disciplined and always try your best for every assessment, if you want to graduate with a good GPA.
However, the GPA that you get for your very first semester is more important than you think. It sets the bar for the cumulative GPA that you will be attaining for the rest of your poly life.
If you attain a high GPA for your first semester, it’s much easier for you to maintain it, and if you get a low GPA, it will be very difficult for you to pull it up.
Furthermore, your graded assessments are going to get increasingly challenging and difficult to score as you progress through your semesters.
When you first join poly, you will definitely be excited to make new friends and socialise, but make sure not to neglect your studies.
Assessment Weightage & Module Credit Units
Of course, you should be giving your best towards every assessment, but in poly, sometimes you will struggle with managing your time due to the heavy workload. At times like these, it is strategic for you to focus on your assessments with higher weightage.
In every assessment, the weightage will be stated. If you are unsure of the weightage, you can consult your lecturer or tutor.
If you have assessments of the same weightage from two different modules, you can also look at the credit units of the module.
In most cases, you can calculate the credit units by looking at the number of hours you have for that module, per week. (E.g. 4 hours of lesson a week = 4 credit units.) However, exceptions may include your Final Year Project.
You should place more focus on modules with higher credit units as they’re going to have a bigger impact on your GPA.
In secondary school, you would usually commit to one Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) and hustle to attend your CCA sessions while trying to juggle your studies. The great thing about poly is that each poly will have about a hundred CCAs catering for all sorts of different interests.
If you’re worried about committing to a CCA, many CCAs have ad-hoc events where they welcome anyone from the poly to join, even if you’re not a member of their club.
If you have a CCA club that you’re interested in but are afraid to commit to, subscribe to their mailing list or follow them on their social media channels to stay posted on their events.
When you attend these events, you will also attain CCA records, which can help you in your portfolio.
Try for a Leadership Position
Poly life is the time where you learn and grow the most. It provides great opportunities for you to push yourself out of your comfort zone to achieve more.
As mentioned, there are many CCA clubs in poly, which means that the individual clubs are likely to have fewer members than your secondary school ones.
It is thus easier for you to stand out and try for a leadership role. Attend their events or sessions regularly so that they have a chance to get to know you and recognise your leadership potential.
Obtaining a leadership role in a club committee is a great way to hone your people management, event management and communication skills, which are important for your future. It will also help to build your portfolio to impress the universities or your future employers.
In poly, exercising punctuality is important. In secondary school, your teachers will probably punish you for being late by awarding you with demerit points, detention or extra work, but in poly, they practice self-directed learning.
If you are late, your lecturer won’t punish or reprimand you, but you would most probably be marked absent straightaway. There will be consequences if you are absent for too many classes: you might fail that module or get debarred.
Campuses are huge and you need to remember to set aside time for travelling around campus, in order to avoid being late for your classes. If you have a back-to-back class, inform your lecturer or tutor and request for them to end your class early so that you won’t be late for the next class.
In poly, you might feel intimidated and lost when many of your friends start discussing plans for their careers, but you still feel directionless.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone! The good news is that there are Education & Career Guidance (ECG) Counsellors in poly that can guide you in planning your future.
Many might also realise that the course that they’re studying is not suitable for them after a year or two, and want to switch courses. ECG counsellors can also advise you in that aspect.
These sessions are very useful in helping you make informed choices about your future. You can book multiple sessions with them throughout your poly life, and even after you graduate and become an alumnus.
There is going to be a big jump from secondary school to poly. Your lecturers and tutors are not going to chase you for your homework like your secondary school teachers did; you will just have to reap the fruits of your own labour.
You are also going to have to form a new social circle, connecting with new people from different environments, out of your comfort zone.
Practice discipline, stay consistent and sustain a positive attitude towards learning; you’ll do fine!