JC or Poly? Which should I choose?

by | Sep 16, 2021

With the O and N level exams right around the corner, has the dilemma of choosing JC or Poly been bothering you?

Well, not to worry! Like you, I was stuck between choosing the Poly or JC route too.

Both pathways have similar and unique aspects. Through a comprehensive comparison, I hope this article helps you decide which would better suit you.

Student carrying books

As a JC student, you will follow a lifestyle similar to secondary school.

JC students follow a fixed timetable from Monday to Friday. Lectures or tutorials typically start at 8 am and end around 4 to 5 pm, with CCAs ending around 7 to 8 pm.

They stick to a strict dress code featuring the JC uniform, an appropriate hairstyle and a ban on certain accessories. At least, it saves the hassle of deciding what to wear to school every day!

In Poly, you might face instances of culture shock at the start. Naturally, it would take time to adapt to this new environment, but these Polytechnic do’s and don’ts can help you out.

The schedule is flexible, and there are only a handful of modules (4-5) taken per semester. If you’re lucky, you might have a full day without classes!

The first semester of the year starts and ends in March and September respectively. And the second semester lasts from October to April, next year.

As a poly student, you have the freedom to dress how you like. So feel free to express yourself by shopping for some new school outfits.

Curriculum design

Both Poly and JC teaching styles are similar in that they both adopt the lecture and tutorial system.

Work done on desk

Photo by Firmbee.com on Unsplash

However, JC focuses more on academic-based learning that specialises in deepening your understanding of a few subjects.

As a JC student, you can expect to take content-heavy subjects that are highly theoretical and positioned to hone your critical thinking skills.

Their fast-paced curriculum, also helps in developing your time management skills.

Also, teachers play a more active role in student development. It’s not surprising to find them organising consultations, offering moral support, printing notes and practice papers, and keeping your parents informed.

Lastly, studying in JC would require you to choose a subject combination of 4 subjects at the H2 or H1 level, based on your chosen stream.

Students working together

If you enjoy hands-on activities or collaborating with others, then Poly relative to JC, might better suit your learning style.

The polytechnic curriculum includes more usage of practical based skills with a focus on applying learnt concepts to research, pitches and projects.

Unlike JC teachers, do not expect poly lecturers to assist you in your development. It’s on you to take the initiative!

All polytechnics offer something different so it’s good to check out more about their assessment formats before making a choice that suits you!


In Singapore, Junior college school fees cost around $200 a month for Singapore citizens.

As for independent JCs like Raffles Junior College, they can cost up to $3000-4000 yearly.

In contrast, Poly course fees vary based on each polytechnic, but usually range from $2,900-3000 a year for Singapore citizens after tuition grants.

There are also various bursaries and subsidy schemes that you can apply for if you are eligible.

Stress Level and Workload

While revising the curriculum for the A-Level exams, JC students have to handle CCA commitments and assigned homework too.

Regular block tests and promotion exams are also things to look out for. There might also be a challenge in studying content-heavy subjects.

As such, it’s no surprise that many JC students report feeling burnt out and overwhelmed.

Yet, by adopting good study habits and study tricks, it’s possible to ease the incoming stress.

Similar to JC students, Poly students experience stress and heavy workload too, but different faculties experience them differently.

For instance, most poly students have exams at the end of every semester. However, design students do not.

Instead, they balance many assignments and projects with tight deadlines throughout their semester. And in many cases, pull all-nighters to complete their coursework.

The stress comes when you have to consistently perform in group projects, graded presentations and smaller tests.

As a Poly student, you’ll also face the dreaded “Hell Week” (submission week) that is for final submissions of coursework or projects.

Duration of study

For JC students, you’re required to complete two years of studying to graduate.

Students are expected to take the promo exam at the end of the first year and the GCE A-Level Exams at the end of the second year.

Polytechnics offer a three years diploma course. The first two years usually consist of taking modules, while the third year is for completing final projects or school internships.

It takes a longer time to graduate from poly than JC, but there are benefits if you choose to further your studies from poly to university!

Depending on the university, Poly students can skip certain modules to complete their degree earlier if they study one that’s relevant to their course.

University admission

JC students do have a higher chance of being admitted into a local University, with close to 70 percent of JC students being offered a place.

As for admissions to overseas Universities, applying from a JC would give you a better shot than applying from a Polytechnic.

GCE A-Levels is more internationally recognised than a Polytechnic Diploma. Overseas Universities also always list GCE A-Levels in their entry requirements.

If you choose to go from JC to University, admissions would be based on rank points. They would be accumulated based on your grades in the A-Level examinations.

Around 1/3 of polytechnic students made it to one of the 6 local universities in Singapore last year.

Admissions to University for poly students are based on their Grade Point Average (GPA), which is the cumulative grade from three years.

Fortunately, NUS, NTU will no longer factor in polytechnic students’ O-Level results from 2020 onwards (except when it comes to specific majors like Computer Science and Law).

Other universities also only take into account students’ CGPA, so don’t worry if you’re a late bloomer.


Apart from academics, CCAs are also important for student development and holistic education. You’d be able to increase your chances for scholarships by joining and actively participating in a CCA as well!

ASRJC floorball

Sourced from ASRJC

In JC, students are highly encouraged to join CCAs. Although some JCs, like Temasek Junior College, make it a requirement for students to have at least one CCA.

Most JCs offer CCAs like Student Council, uniformed groups as well as various societies and clubs.

Some CCAs are held once or twice a week while others, like sports CCAs, are held 3-5 days a week. Don’t be surprised if a session is held on the weekend too!

Poly cca

Sourced from Nanyang Poly

Even though CCAs are optional in Poly, they’re a great way to enrich your student life. To top it off, there is also a wider variety to choose from.

Aside from sports and performing arts CCAs that can be found in most Polys or JCs, polytechnics do offer specialised CCAs.

Some examples include cultural interest clubs, as well as unique CCAs like Makeup Artistry or Street Workout.

Like JC, most Poly CCAs are held 2 to 3 times a week too. They usually start around 5 or 6 pm and end later than their JC counterparts at around 9 pm.

Internship Opportunities

Internships are great for learning about your field of interest and picking up work-based skills.

There are many internship opportunities available for JC students after completing A levels.

These internship opportunities are mostly from governmental agencies like DSTA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

There are also other scholarships from the Ministry of Education which might be mostly catered to JC graduates before moving from JC to University.

As compared to JC students, there are more internship opportunities for Poly students.

Almost all courses in polytechnics require students to complete a 4 to 6 months internship in their final years to graduate.

They offer school-based and external internship opportunities to established companies.

Sometimes, there are also industry projects given to Poly students for working exposure.

You can head over to websites like InternSG as well to take a look at the various internships available for both Poly or JC students.

Future Career Paths

Future career paths

If you are looking at what is next after pre-university education, there are plenty of career paths to take.

After completing A Levels, the majority of JC students pursue further studies in University, before entering the workforce.

Some take internships and careers related to their subject combination or university major before uni starts.

That said, taking a gap year to get work experience is also a possibility.

After earning their diploma, many poly students pursue a full-time or part-time undergraduate program at autonomous or private education institutions.

While some choose to join the workforce, related to their courses.

Also, one of the great things about poly is that those who performed well in their internships are often offered full-time positions.

Common Misconceptions

Thanks to the embedded culture of old tradition, several views about JC and Poly have birthed stereotypes and misconceptions that’s no longer relevant, here are some that I’d like to clear up:

“JC students are only book smart”

Apart from the core subjects, another component JC students have to work for is the A-Level Project Work.

It offers the opportunity to experience working with others and build project management skills.

Furthermore, JC students who actively participate in CCAs foster the holistic self-development necessary for the future workforce. E.g. building character, discovering talents, picking up soft skills.

“Poly is easier than JC”

If you believe that JC is stressful because of the constant mugging and poly is otherwise, you cannot be more wrong.

In poly, you would have to juggle assignments and group projects that take long periods to coordinate and execute.

Also, you would need to put in consistent effort for each assessment to maintain your GPA throughout the three years.

“JC is better than Poly”

Many believe that studying in JC offers a higher chance of success than studying in Poly.

That may be true, to an extent, in terms of University admissions and capacity to absorb theoretical knowledge.

However, Poly students tend to have refined technical, soft, and creative skills that provide them with an advantage in projects and internships.

Whether you choose to study in a Polytechnic or a Junior College, you are bound to face ups and downs. Therefore, the best advice I can give is that either option leads to a fruitful and rewarding learning experience!

Resources for the different JCs and Polytechnics

If you have set your mind on the route to take or would like to know more, then do research and decide the Junior College or Polytechnic that is best for you!

Should you choose JC or Poly?

It would be good to consider your goals as well as your preferred learning style(s), to make an informed choice.

Remember that regardless of what you choose, all paths lead to the same destination — the workforce.

Best of luck with your exams and I hope that this helped ease your worries about choosing JC or Poly!

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