Majoring in Psychology in Uni: Polytechnic vs Junior College Route [REVAMPED]

Disclaimer: The invited writers are both students from NTU and may not be accurate about some claims about the other universities. This will solely be based on their perspectives and current experiences. Do scroll below for their profiles.

After receiving your 'O' levels results, one of the most commonly-asked questions is:
Junior College (JC) or Polytechnic (aka 'Poly')?

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You might want to pursue Psychology in the polytechnics, but worry that it might not be the best route to get you into university. You are not that sure what you wish to do for the rest of your life, and decide that going to a JC could give you 2 extra years to ponder. You contact friends you haven’t talked to in a million years just to get their opinion. Somehow, you’re still unconvinced.

In order to ensure that O-Level graduates with a keen interest in Psychology can make a more informed decision, Min and Xavierlyn will share their experience of getting into university via the Polytechnic and Junior College routes respectively.

Getting into University & Year 1 Experiences

Min (Poly)
Xavierlyn (JC)
Getting into University
Yes, it is no secret that it is much tougher to get into university via the poly route. In fact, I’ve only seen poly mates who have gotten Diploma with Merit (or scored really really well) around school.  
About 75% of my batch were offered courses into a local university.

Statistics by MOE have reflected a higher number of Junior College students across all courses in local universities.
For a higher chance of entering local university, choose the Junior College route.
Transition into University
The transition from poly to university is not that huge of a change.

The poly curriculum is rather similar to the university curriculum, in the sense you’ll be taught to be self-disciplined   and not be spoon-fed by your educators.

However, this is not to say that poly students will transition into university quite easily. My psychology course in the poly emphasized a lot on group projects, writing and applying knowledge into real world situations. There was little emphasis on exams, to the point whereby exams are just there for the sake of being there and lecturers usually explicitly tell you what chapters will be tested.

In university, I was unpleasantly required to memorise a whole textbook in 1 week and puking its contents out for a 2-hour paper.
To find out more, read my other post - From Polytechnic to University
In Junior College, timetables are created for you and practice resources are made easily available, just like in secondary school. University was thus a huge cultural change for me as you are suddenly required to be in charge of your own learning after 12 years (primary school to JC) of spoon-feeding.

Additionally, universities do not release past year papers for practice so you have to master your content well on your own.

While the JC curriculum trains application skills, most exam answers are based on memorisation or practice. This may differ from person to person but personally, I think you can afford to do a bit of last minute studying in JC.

On the other hand, in university, you have to be consistent as no one is going to remind you to hand in your assignments or check the progress of your work unlike in previous years of schooling. It may take quite some time getting used to balancing assignments and tests that may all occur in the same week.
Choosing the poly route does give you a taste of university life before it begins, but it is only a slight taste. Most poly students still need time to adapt to university life.


Choosing JC where schedules are similar to secondary schools might make it difficult to adapt to university where there is a lot of independent learning.
In recognition that the poly curriculum offers electives and knowledge outside of one’s course of study, in NTU, eligible poly students are allowed to exempt 20 MCs worth of modules. In translation, this is about 4 modules, which can also translate to one semester’s worth of exemption. NUS FASS also allows module exemptions for students from polytechnics.

This is crucial because one of the consideration for going to poly or JC is the extra year one needs to spend in poly. But hey, if done correct, you’re just spending an extra semester.
In NTU, you have to fulfil General Education Module (GERPE) requirements. JC students have to take 5 modules while poly students can choose to take 3.

If you do not mind taking an extra semester while in the pursuit of your interest, poly is a considerable route to take.

If you do not mind fulfilling more General Education modules and wish to save a semester worth of time, choose the JC route.
I’d say that poly psychology students do have a slight advantage in terms of course-related skills.

We come into university equipped with the ability to write 2000 words essay with APA citation in 1 week (some, the night before the deadline). We’ve had 3 years worth of psychology concepts drilled into us.

However, it does not put us in too much of an advantage. Coming to university, I realise that some of the things poly taught me are either wrong or insufficient.
Students have to take Project Work (PW). While this might train critical thinking, I did not learn how to write a proper research paper or the different writing formats (MLA, APA, etc). Even though there are compulsory writing modules available in NTU (I believe NUS has these as well) in Year 1, writing a proper research paper requires time, and practice which poly students already have exposure to.
If you prefer skill-based learning and/or want to have more exposure to writing proper research paper before university, poly would be a more suitable option.

While in JC, you spend 2 years learning to remember and apply concepts. This would be useful when it comes to studying for heavy content subjects in university.

Perspectives as Year 3s

Currently in Year 3, Min and Xav came together again to reevaluate their university journey from their JC/Polytechnic days.

Xav & Min

Indeed, at the start of university, polytechnic students may get a head-start in terms of skills and knowledge. On the other hand, JC students may find it easier to get into the course itself. However, currently in Year 3, it is evident that in terms of skills and knowledge, the playing field has evened out. Both JC students and polytechnic students do equally as well.

We have concluded that at the end of the day, it is up to the individual's hard work and self-determination to pick up skills relevant to the degree.

With the knowledge in mind that both JC and polytechnic students eventually go on to do as well, perhaps what O Level students can consider instead may be 1. whether they are definite of doing Psychology as a career 2. whether they prefer JC or polytechnic culture.

All in all, there is no right or wrong. You might think that poly is wasting one year of your life, but that one year might just be a year of gaining more knowledge. You might think that JC students would adapt to uni life more slowly than poly students, but the truth is that we all start from square one and we progress together through our academic years.

This is an invited post by Xavierlyn Tan and Min Khoo. Here's their profiles:

Xavierlyn Tan, NTU Psychology major
Xav is a psychology undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University and graduated previously from Serangoon Junior College.

She is a volunteer leader of Matchsticks, a youth volunteering group within the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and enjoys museum-hopping, photography and watching Netflix during her free time.

Athena Khoo Ming Gui (Min), 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.
She enjoys cosplaying, harajuku fashion, photography and gaming. She sees herself as well-balanced between academics, hobbies, and real-world skills and experiences.