Blog Students Advice For Students Polytechnic Survival Guide: What to Know as a Freshie

Polytechnic Survival Guide: What to Know as a Freshie

Looking to enrol into 1 of the 5 Polytechnics after your O/N Levels? Or already a poly student trying to adapt to a whole new lifestyle? Fret now as this article is a survival guide for you freshies!

Polytechnic is very different from secondary school. It is less organised as your timetable can vary. Some days, you’ll have classes starting at 8am, on others you can start as late as in the afternoon! It depends on the modules you’re taking for each semester.

Read on to know more about the differences!

1. Poly education is not stress free

Many students go into poly with the mindset that it isn’t tough at all and that they’ll be able to graduate just fine without even having to study.

Well, sorry to burst your bubble but that is absolutely false! Yes, there’ll be a lot of freedom in poly. Yes, your lecturers wouldn’t chase you for homework that is overdue.

Exclusive offer for first-time customers only!
Get 15% discount off your first lesson and no agency fees! Choose from a selection of reliable home tutors and keep learning even while at home. Claim this promotion today.

Usually, the course that you take will offer 5 modules every semester. I can assure you that the modules aren’t easy and you definitely have to study in order to pass. Many students even have diploma private tutors to help them with tough modules.

If you’re a high achiever striving to score that sweet 4.0 GPA. Know that in poly, it’s all about consistency. Your GPA is cumulative, meaning if you don’t score well in your first 2 years. Don’t expect to graduate with a 4.0 GPA, it’s impossible.

The grades in poly differ a lot! Scoring an A and a B will affect your GPA much more than you think. Better work hard consistently!

2. Friends

Back in primary and secondary school, chances are 95% of your classmates are the same age as you. In poly, you can expect some of your classmates to be as old as 30.

Some students would’ve taken a longer path to get into poly, especially male students who served National Service (NS) before enrolling.

Despite the age difference, I’d suggest you get along well with your peers. In poly, you’ll be given the luxury of long breaks in between your modules, some as long as 3 hours. Wow!

You can use the time to get to know your peers more by talking over a meal or by playing games.

You’ll be exposed to a lot of group work in poly, so it’s better if you’ve friends who’re willing to work together with you than being a lone wolf.

3. Fake friends

Of course, in poly you’ll still get to witness or be part of fights, but it’ll be way less as compared to your secondary school days.

On the other hand, you’ll probably face more “2 faced peers”, also known as “snakes” a term used to describe backstabber and fake friends by the younger generation.

These “snakes” will pretend to be all friendly with you and help you, but behind your back, they can be talking bad about you and trying to tarnish your reputation. Be careful!

Struggling with your schoolwork?
Subscribe to get weekly study guides and exam preparation tips.
You have successfully joined our subscriber list.

4. Lecturers

In poly the educators are called lecturers since the majority of poly classes are conducted in lectures. Duh.

It’s always good to be on the good side of your lecturers, they’re the ones who’ll be imparting knowledge into you. The knowledge you need to pass your exams.

Better be polite and treat them with respect, if not you might lose a few important notes necessary for your exams.

5. Food

Food, food and food! Who doesn’t love food? In poly, you’ll be spoilt with choices, unlike your secondary school canteen that serves 5 different types of cuisine.

Since polys are way bigger than your average secondary school due to the fact that it houses up to 15,000 students.

You can find at least 1 food-court or fast food restaurant at any block or faculty.

Poly food is usually cheaper than the ones offered in public, hence it’s common for poly students to eat more. You might even notice that some of your skinny secondary school friends will start putting on some weight after enrolling into poly!

6. Fashion

One of the factors as to why students choose to enrol into polys than Junior Colleges (JCs) is being able to wear whatever you like!

Finally, no more uniforms after wearing them for 10-11 years.

You’ll definitely see students who dress like they’re walking on a Fashion Week Runway.

You’ll also see students on the opposite end, the ones who choose comfort over style, donning a random t-shirt with sweatpants.

I’ll suggest putting in at least some effort to dress up decently so that you’ll look more presentable and you know what they say.

Look good, feel good.

7. Bring a Jacket

Ever felt the misery of not being able to keep yourselves warm in an air-conditioned environment? So did I.

Most lecture theatres in poly are air-conditioned, lectures can be as long as 3 hours.

It can get really cold sitting in an air-conditioned environment for very long, so always remember to bring a jacket to keep yourselves warm so that you can stay focused!

8. Resume and Portfolio

During your stint in poly, it’s good to attend events or apprenticeships that you can add to your portfolio, it can help widen your experience as well.

As you approach the final year of your poly education, you’ll be given an opportunity to intern at a company or workplace related to the course you’re in.

Having a good resume and portfolio can boost the chances of you getting accepted into the company you’re striving to intern in.

If you’re looking into entering the workforce upon graduating, having a profound yet clean resume and portfolio can really set you apart and get you ahead of your fresh graduate peers.

Start early and build your experience slowly for the sake of your future!


 Your 3 years in poly can possibly be the best time of your lives, you’ll experience a much more holistic education as compared to secondary school and JC.

Despite the freedom, you’d still have to study hard to make sure your grades don’t suffer as your GPA is a cumulative effort calculated right from the start of your poly journey.

However, you shouldn’t forget about enjoying with your friends during breaks or after classes. Work hard and play hard!

I hope this article will be able to give you an idea of what enrolling into a poly is like and if you’re already a student, I hope your journey is a smooth and pleasant one!

Here are some related articles you might find interesting:

What Happens When I Fail a Subject in Poly? – SmileTutor

How to use your CPF to pay for University and Poly School fees?

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.