From Polytechnic to University: For Psychology Students

Note: This is an invited post by Min Khoo, currently a NTU Psychology Major.

So, let’s say that you decide to go for the polytechnic route and made it through with a GPA high enough to qualify you for a local university (after giving up on sleep, leisure and social life).  Now, we all know how hard it is to get into university via the polytechnic route, thanks to the restriction on the number of polytechnic graduates who are allowed into local universities.  But let’s just say you did not die from all that studying.

While you wait for your university life to start, you wonder:

  • How will university be different from your old polytechnic life? 
  • Will it be a competitive environment? 
  • Would all the JC students already have someone to eat lunch with while you are stuck on your own? 
  • Will you have an advantage with that 3 years of knowledge of psychology you possess?
As a polytechnic graduate who made it through a year of university, the fact that I am still alive should qualify me enough to give you some advice.

So, let’s start with the main concern on everyone’s mind:  Academics.

You might have heard that polytechnic students have an advantage over the JC students because they possess some knowledge of psychology prior to enrolment.  You might have also heard that polytechnic students would adapt faster to the university curriculum because they are used to completing assignments on their own without being spoonfed.

But here’s what you haven’t heard.

Polytechnic lecturers tend to give you hints and let you know what chapters will come out during the exams.  University professors expect you to memorise the whole textbook in 1 week.
Majority of polytechnic lecturers still spoonfeed you whenever they can.  University professors sometimes don’t even know your name.
Polytechnic lecturers teach you a theory by a psychologist, university professors tell you that that theory has flaws and is no longer applicable.  Polytechnic stats seem like primary school’s math compared to the horror known as Level 2000 stats.

Okay, it’s not that bad.  Compared to non-polytechnic students, some aspects of university will simply feel like a revision.  But that is only for the first year or so.  Seriously, university curriculum is no joke.  Think of the worst part of polytechnic life, and the worst part of JC life.  Now combine them.  That’s university life for you.

Other than academics, the other aspects of university life is typical of the general population.

Social life:  If you’re not best friends with your diploma with merit polytechnic schoolmates (because I saw only one or two non-diploma with merit peeps in university), you might find yourself in a classroom with hardly anyone you know.  But it varies from individual to individual.  Some students have friends outside of polytechnic who then enroll into the same major as them.  Some students are really extroverted and social, and are immediately friends with everyone from day one.

Extra-curriculum activities:  At this point, extra-curriculum activities are optional.  The university is not going to turn the time and effort you put into such activities into points and rank you on a scale of bronze, silver and gold.  However, it would look good on your resume.  But on the other hand, school assignments are already making you stock up on bags and bags of coffee.  

My advice?  Concentrate on your school work during the school terms.  Busy yourself with many activities or internship during your 3 months (yes, you heard right. 3 months) holiday.

In short?  Don’t expect the transition to be easy, but do not fear that the transition would be too tough.  Keep your expectations realistic, and be prepared to do a lot of learning on your own.

This is an invited post by Min Khoo Ming Gui, a currently NTU Psychology Major.

Min is a psychology undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University, holding an NTU Scholarship. She graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 2016 with a Diploma with Merit in Psychology Studies.

An active volunteer at AWARE Singapore, she enjoys cosplaying, harajuku fashion, photography and gaming. She sees herself as well-balanced between academics, hobbies, and real-world skills and experiences.