At 16, Chelsea Wee Ci En had her heart set on Singapore Polytechnic (SP) and scored a place in the Biomedical Science course.
Lim Zi Jie Ferrall, on the other hand, wasn’t interested in any particular subject after completing O-levels. He applied to Tampines Meridian Junior College (TMJC) and joined the Science stream.
However, both Ferrall and Ms Wee (now 19 and 25 respectively) eventually realised that they couldn’t see themselves pursuing these paths in the long run. After careful consideration, they decided to switch schools.
For Ferrall, he made this decision mainly because he found JC life too demanding.
“I couldn’t do a lot of assignments because I felt like it was too tough and I would not make progress,” he shared. As a result, he couldn’t sleep well and would stay up late worrying about not being able to submit his work.
“I thought that if I couldn’t even handle two months, how could I survive two whole years?”
Before making the switch, Ferrall admitted that he was afraid of being judged by others. He shared: “I was scared that people would see me as a failure for ‘giving up’ JC so quickly. One of my classmates actually [told me]: ‘So fast give up already?’”
“Then, I heard [that] one of my classmates was going to drop out [of JC] and so I thought I should as well; not that I was peer pressured but it was relieving to know that I wasn’t going through this alone.”
That’s when Ferrall applied to Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s (NP) School of Business and Accountancy, and was relieved to get accepted on 15 Apr 2020, four days before the start of the academic year.
He decided to study accountancy in NP as he always found principles of accounts fun as a subject in secondary school. Furthermore, his mother’s experience as an accountant reinforced his belief that accounting is a good and stable career choice.
“I took the leap because of the relief and hope it gave me. I decided that it would [greatly benefit] my mental health and it was also a smarter decision to spend three years in poly than struggle in JC and risk having to retain for a year.”
Ferrall’s family and friends were also supportive of his decision. “My family understood that JC isn’t for everyone and they were very proud of me for being able to make it to where I was in life already,” he remarked.
“My friends were [proud] as well. They were especially concerned about my health and they were very worried that I couldn’t sleep just thinking about school.”
Ferrall said that he can now cope better in school and prefers this path over JC.
Ms Wee, on the other hand, embarked on the less common track of switching from a polytechnic to a JC. She even switched her field of study from science to the arts.
Although the Ministry of Education (MOE) has not published the latest transfer figures, an article by AsiaOne in 2015 states: “Figures from [MOE] show that 400 to 500 students switch from junior college to polytechnic each year” whereas “only 50 to 60 polytechnic students move to junior colleges each year”.
Ms Wee made up her mind after a six-week internship with A*STAR over her holidays. Her task in the research lab was mainly washing test tubes.
After observing how researchers operated, she realised that the job scope wasn’t suited for her.
Ms Wee added that she wasn’t used to the learning style in polytechnic either. She said: “I could not get used to the way classes were run where students had to be more independent and [do] a lot of project work.”
Hence, she applied for Catholic Junior College’s (CJC) arts stream.
Like Ferrall, she was initially very nervous when making the switch. “I was terrified about failing A-levels and having to go back to poly. It would be an expensive mistake in terms of time and money spent,” she shared.
“My parents were hesitant but they knew I was not having a good time in poly. They were worried about me making a bad decision that I would later regret,” she shared. “My friends were supportive but they too were struggling in JC so they did warn me about it.”
However, her family and friends encouraged her to follow through with the plan.
In the end, Ms Wee stuck with her decision, hoping she would do better in CJC. When she finally got in, she did indeed face some challenges.
She explained: “Academically, it was way more challenging compared to poly. The subjects were much more complex and exams were torturous.” Regardless, she still enjoyed studying the arts.
After JC, Ms Wee enrolled in LASALLE College of the Arts and graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in interior design.
To students considering switching schools, both Ferrall and Ms Wee advise thinking carefully before making a switch since it is a major decision and will definitely come with challenges.
“[It] was incredibly challenging and I struggled a lot. But in hindsight it was a good lesson and taught me to press on and take courage,” said Ms Wee.