13 post graduate paths after a “bad” GPA in Polytechnic

by | Jun 28, 2021

Though the number of local autonomous universities in Singapore has increased, it’s hard to deny that there is still some pressure on students in Singapore to get into ‘The Big Three’ local universities — National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) or Singapore Management University (SMU).

Be it expectations set by parents, a fear of losing out to our peers, or even a goal set by ourselves, getting a rejection from these universities is a tough pill to swallow.

But just because you were rejected doesn’t mean your GPA was “bad”. There are plenty of options that could set you on a bright path. As such, we’ve come up with 13 alternate post-graduate paths that you can consider pursuing!

We’re here to tell you that failing to enter any of the big 3 universities doesn’t spell the end of the world (though it may feel that way to some).

Note: Although the universities listed below are alternate paths and are generally considered less competitive to enter, it does not mean that they offer a lower quality of education. Each university has its own unique pedagogy that sets it apart from one another.

Singapore Institute of Technology
Sourced from Wikimedia

Singapore Institute of Technology’s (SIT) is known for its unique pedagogy that offers a Work Study Programme (IWSP) where students are immersed in the real working world for up to 12 months. This allows them to gain practical job skills and be work-ready.

Its Indicative Grade Profile (IGP) is lower than the IGP of the Big 3 and the gross monthly salary of SIT graduates also range from $2700 to $4400. 

SIT is also known for its Overseas immersion programmes and Overseas Exposure Programmes. Newcastle University and the University of Glasgow are just 2 of the 9 universities that work with SIT to offer joint-degree programmes.

With the programmes offered at SIT, poly students also have an advantage as they have the relevant work experience and portfolio, something SIT values highly.

It could also be an option you could consider after taking time off to build up your portfolio and resume.

2.) Full-time degree at Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)

SUSS campus
Sourced from Wikimedia
SUSS could be another good alternative as the IGP of courses at SUSS are generally lower. They have programmes ranging from Business to Philosophy but are mostly known for courses focusing on the social sector including social work, childhood education, human resource management, and more.

Some courses like Early Childhood Education are specialized in that field and would be a good fit for you if you’re already set on pursuing that career path. These courses focus on your portfolio and experience within the industry, placing less emphasis on your grades as compared to other local universities.

In fact, in 2020, 94% of SUSS graduates were employed within 6 months of graduation. An impressive number given that employability was at an all-time low in 2020 due to the effects of covid.

3.) Part-time degree at Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)

You could also consider taking up a part-time degree at SUSS. They have over 30 part-time undergraduate programmes that range from Language programmes to General Studies, and other niche programmes such as Aerospace System and Biomedical Engineering.

Though it is a less competitive option, eligible candidates have to be 21 years old and above. Applicants also have to have to be employed full time or have at least 2 years of work experience.

Thankfully for guys, SUSS recognises National Service as a form of employment as well. These differences in academic structure could be a key factor in helping you turn your “bad” GPA in polytechnic around.

4.) Part-time degree at National University of Singapore (NUS)

NUS offer part-time degrees that include the Bachelor of Technology in Engineering Programme as well as the Bachelor of Technology in Computing Programme.

Eligible candidates have to be 21 years and above and have a polytechnic diploma or qualifications in the relevant fields though there are some exceptions such as sponsorships by the company. 

You don’t have to worry if you had a “bad” GPA in polytechnic, these courses do not take your polytechnic GPA into account.

Candidates should be employed on a full-time basis or have at least 2 years of work experience. Thankfully, National Service is recognized as a form of employment under NUS.

Candidates applying for the Bachelor of Technology in Computing Programme will also be required to sit for a Mathematics Bridging Course consisting of O level standard questions.


5.) Part-time degree at Nanyang Technical University of Singapore (NTU)

NTU also offers part-time degrees such as their Bachelor of Engineering Degree Programme, mainly catered to graduates or adults already working in the industry.

Under their Bachelor of Engineering Degree Programme, they offer part-time degrees in Computer Science (CS), Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) and Mechanical Engineering (ME) respectively.

Upon completion of their degree in EEE or ME, graduates are eligible to apply for registration as Professional Engineers.

Similar to NUS, candidates should be employed on a full-time basis or have at least 2 years of work experience. National Service is recognized as a form of employment under NUS.

6.) Skillsfuture Work-Study Post Diploma Programme (WSPostDip)

Skillsfuture Work Study Diploma Programme
Sourced from Skillsfuturesg
The WSPostDip is a part of the SkillsFuture Work-Study Programmes offered by Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) as well as the working industry.

The programme aims to give fresh poly graduates a head start in their careers by introducing a work-study arrangement to build their skills. You will be matched with a job related to your discipline of study and undergo a 12 to 18-month structured training programme.

Upon completing the programme, you will receive an industry-recognised Post-Diploma qualification or professional certification and more.

There are also set pathways into degree programmes at local universities that you could consider. For example, graduates from selected programmes can be considered for advanced standing or credit exemption for the relevant degree programmes.

7.) Advance and Specialist Diploma Programmes

The Advanced and Specialist Diploma Programmes are a branch out from the (WSPostDip).

The Specialist Diploma programme headed by the 5 polytechnics is catered to specialised diplomas that the WSPostDip does not cover. Specialist Diploma courses have a shorter duration of between 240 and 300 hours and can be completed within a year.

These courses aim to help existing diploma or degree holders and adult learners deepen their knowledge and skills and to develop specialisations within their trained discipline areas and fields of study.

There are many courses you can pursue at a specialised or advanced level. The entry requirements for these diplomas can differ across the various polytechnics so do read up on each option.

8.) Full-time degree at a Private University

If you’re open to this option, Singapore has over 10 private universities that you could consider enrolling into. Private universities generally tend to offer more places making it a less competitive option.

Even though the school fees for these institutions are said to be on the higher side, tuition fees for private universities actually tend to vary greatly.

The difference in fee is due to each university’s course provider having its own rate and market value.

It would be best to look at each university to find a good fit for you both academically and financially.

If you’re worried about job prospects, a survey conducted by Skillsfuture showed that employability rates of these private institutions are up to 80.7% with an average salary of about $2900.

9.) Enter the working world

Female working online

One of the options you can consider is to dive head-on into the working world.

Yes, that may sound like a big leap of faith but entering the workforce is a popular choice for many polytechnic graduates regardless of their grades.

An article by The Straits Times showed that 87.4% of graduates from the 5 polytechnics found permanent, freelance or part-time jobs within six months of graduation in 2020.

Whatever your job, you will be able to get first-hand industry experience as well as networking opportunities with professionals in your field. That already gives you an edge as compared to other poly graduates.

Just because you scored a “bad” GPA in Polytechnic doesn’t mean that you’re at a disadvantage. You may even be able to even the playing field with someone that has a better GPA than you, specifically because of your work experience and portfolio.

10.) Studying Abroad

Though overseas travel is still a huge question mark now, studying overseas is not out of the picture just yet. In fact, some students are using this opportunity to pursue an overseas education from the comfort of home as the cost of living and accommodation are significantly lesser due to the pandemic.

Educational institutes overseas are not as focused on academics, some even place more emphasis on your portfolio and what you can bring to the school.

Also, you may think that your grades are subpar in comparison to your fellow Singaporeans, but once you look a little further, you may find that you’re scoring well above average internationally.

While it is a costlier option, studying overseas expands your horizons and worldview. You’re able to build connections globally and immerse yourself in different cultures.

If you’re interested in enrolling into a university abroad, agencies like ‘Jack StudyAbroad’ have many representatives who are able to answer your questions and help you make an informed choice!

You can also refer to this article by MoneySmart that goes in-depth about the Overseas institutions that are cheaper than Singapore universities.

11.) Internships

Extending internships or choosing to pursue another internship after graduation is a popular choice for many poly graduates. When taking in interns, supervisors and managers focus more on your work experience and portfolio rather than your GPA.  So don’t be discouraged if you’d scored a “bad” GPA in polytechnic.

Some higher-ups even end up offering full-time jobs to poly graduates once the internship comes to an end, an option you could consider as well.

Internships give you valuable work experience and a better understanding of the industry you’re aiming to enter. No matter the position, you will definitely have the chance to interact with professionals and expand your network which could be useful in the future.

It also allows you to develop your skills, building your portfolio significantly -something that could be of use in the next round of university applications.

Here are some platforms where you can seek internship opportunities:

12.) Online Courses

A guy watching his screen intently
With the rise of online educational sites like Skillshare, there’s close to nothing the internet can’t teach. So why not sign yourself up for university-level courses by edX.

edX is an online course provider created by Harvard and MIT, 2 of the top Engineering and Technology institutions. But don’t be misled, these online university-level courses include a wide range of disciplines from Music Theory to Programming.

Financial assistance for most courses is also provided for learners who are not able to pay the full course fee with discounts of up to 90%.

The site even allows you to factor in aspects like the length and difficulty of courses so you can find one that’s best suited to your needs.

And don’t think you’ll get the chance to slack off either. Passing a course is one of the compulsory requirements to receive a verified certificate from edX, a good addition to your portfolio and resume.

13.) Gap year

Feeling unsure of your next steps after any major milestone is never a nice feeling, especially when everyone around you seems to know what they’re doing.

Though taking a year off is never the most popular or ideal choice for some, it could be just what you need. Be it academic burnout, creative block or just not knowing which path you want to head down, taking some time off allows you to take a step back and rethink your next move.

Whether it’s taking on a new part-time job, working on skills you didn’t have the time for or doing both simultaneously, it’s a far better choice than rushing to apply for any course you may have no interest or passion for.

If you’re interested in seeing what taking a gap year can hold for you, do check out our article on Gap Years in Singapore where we featured 3 profiles who did their own gap years – two of whom were polytechnic graduates themselves.


We hope this article has given you more insight into the many routes you can explore upon graduating poly. “Study hard!”, “Must go to NUS or NTU then can get a good job!” are phrases of the past.

Times are changing and so are we. Though the older generation may argue otherwise, we would like to reach out and say that a “bad” GPA in polytechnic doesn’t necessarily mean that all doors are closed.

If you’re still wondering how you can get into a local university or the steps you can take after graduation, perhaps one of the 13 ways listed here will be a suitable pathway for you.

If you enjoyed this article, check out our platforms on Instagram and Telegram which feature similar student-oriented content. Thank you!