Thinking about taking the A-Levels? Wondering what life in JC is really like after the Orientation period?
As a recent graduate, I know of the horror stories from seniors of unbearable stress whilst in JC. Allow me to shed light on some of your common questions and concerns to prepare you for the marathon ahead!
What is JC life like?
Let’s jump right into it! As a JC student, my weekday routine went like this:
1. Morning Assembly
Given the recent implementation of safe-management measures, assembly times were staggered. Your reporting time is dependent on the school you choose to attend, but mine varied from 8:20 am to 8:40 am.
You will also likely attend a virtual assembly in your base classroom (or ‘home’ classroom).
Like what you would have experienced in your secondary school, the morning assembly consists of singing the national anthem, and reciting the national pledge. It may also involve listening to the morning announcements. On certain days of the week, you might have to also sing the school anthem, if any.
Should you go to a non-secular school, such as ACJC or CJC, your morning assembly may also include a segment dedicated to reflection and prayer.
One of the most jarring parts of the transition from secondary school to JC? The change from classroom learning to the lecture-tutorial system. Seated in a lecture theatre, your lecturer will deliver information at lightning-fast speed.
Have burning questions to ask? No thanks, wait for after the lecture.
Being a large-scale class, the lecturers certainly won’t have the time to answer your questions during the lecture. What works best for me is to jot down every question that comes to mind, and instead flag out any uncertainties to my tutors or lecturers on a one-to-one basis!
That way, you won’t forget what you were unclear of.
You may also be required to buy binders of thick notes from the photocopy shop before the start of the lecture! Should you forget to bring them along, you might just waste your entire lecture session.
As such, don’t forget to have them with you during lectures, no matter how heavy they are!
In a room of possibly hundreds, you will have the liberty to do whatever you want – check your mobile phone, take a nap, chit-chat with your seatmates. However, this will be at your expense, as there are no repeat lectures once you’ve missed them.
In light of recent changes due to COVID-19, many schools have moved their lectures online. While this indeed means that you may ‘OTOT’ or watch them in your own time, it brings yet another problem – managing your time.
Without a lecturer’s bellowing voice to demand your attention, it can be very easy to fall behind on what needs to be done!
Though movie marathons might be fun, seven hours of missed lectures watched back to back is… less enjoyable. Speaking from experience, please do not let missing virtual lectures become a habit. Instead, create a set schedule of when and where to view your lectures!
The best way to tackle lectures will be to take lots of notes, and clarify with your tutors if you are ever uncertain of anything.
Speaking of which – this brings me to the next thing on a usual day’s agenda.
Tutorials are face-to-face, class-based lessons with your tutor. They are dedicated to an application of what you have learnt from your lectures in a more practical context.
Here’s one clear difference between lessons in secondary school and tutorials in junior college: you will be expected to complete the assigned work before the tutorial begins. Tutorials are meant to enhance what you have learnt in your lectures. This is why keeping pace with your lectures is crucial to having fruitful tutorials!
Personally, tutorials were my favourite part of JC life! They allowed me valuable time to interact and work with my classmates, as well as forge connections with my tutors – we shared very many laughs during my time in JC.
Here’s one tip from me: actively and enthusiastically take part in your tutorials. By participating actively in class, it will help your tutor better understand what kind of help you may need.
Ah, a long-awaited but brief respite from back-to-back lectures and tutorials! Breaks in your timetable are determined by the diversity in subject combination within your class.
They may span from 20 minutes to one and a half hours, or more! Here are some suggestions on how most JC students spend their free time in school:
a. Grab some refreshments from the school’s canteen
Take the time to grab a snack from the school’s canteen, and don’t be afraid to explore the various options! After all, you’ll be having your meals there on a daily basis – no one wants to eat chicken rice every day, as nice as the stallholder might be.
Besides, there’s nothing more distracting than going to a lecture with an empty stomach!
b. Take a nap
No, seriously! If you have the time, you can take a short power nap to get your brain juices going for your next tutorial or lecture. It was a lifesaver for me, at the very least.
c. Catch up on schoolwork
This is the most popular option when it comes to extended breaks during the school day. Get ahead on your lectures, or chiong your overdue assignments – it’s up to you!
This is for the gym rats – if your school has a track, or, like ACJC, a Supergym, take the time to get active! Your body will thank you for it especially after a long day of sitting, hunched over foolscap paper.
5. Co-curricular Activities (CCAs)
Whilst participation is highly encouraged, it is not compulsory. Yet, nearly all JC students do have a CCA, and it is a key part of your JC experience. As such, you may not want to skip out on this opportunity!
Here’s a summary of some differences between JC and secondary school CCA to take note of:
|CCA in Junior College||CCA in Secondary School|
|Often from 4 pm to 6 pm or later, ~3 times a week|
*For higher-commitment CCAs e.g. performing arts, sports
|Often from 2 pm to 5 pm|
|Not compulsory, for purposes of beefing up one’s university portfolio: may commit to as many clubs or societies as one wishes||Compulsory under LEAPS – commit to maximum two CCAs at once|
|Maximum 1.5 years’ commitment||Maximum 3.5 years’ commitment|
As JC is only a two-year journey, the time to step up and make the most of your time in your chosen CCA is awfully short. Be sure to go in with clear expectations and goals for yourself and, most importantly, have fun!
As a side note – because your time in JC is so short, don’t be afraid to try something new. Learn a new sport, pick up a new instrument – you can pursue something you are interested in without an extended period of commitment (it’ll be 1.5 years at most).
Is JC life very hard and stressful?
JC life can be very tough – there are no two ways to go about discussing it.
38% of students make it to junior colleges as well as Millennia Institute by virtue of their O-Level results. This also means that you will be in a class of individuals more likely to want to excel in every way they are able to. As is common with much of Singaporean culture, comparison and competition are the norm in many junior colleges.
And, at times, the pressure of keeping up with your peers at the top of the class can get to you.
I was lucky to chance upon a supportive friend group that preferred to uplift each other and encourage one another. For me, that was the key to making the JC journey manageable – knowing that others have my back and were there for me, no matter what.
It is also a challenge to excel in your academics, take part in CCAs, and maintain a social life at the same time. Whilst I’ve already covered the CCA aspect, allow me to break the other two components down for you:
The A-Level syllabus involves a deeper dive into the content you’ve learnt at O-Levels. This is so for subjects such as H2 History and H2 Mathematics, which are an extension of what is taught in the O-Level syllabus. Here’s a short summary of the assumed O-Level knowledge when taking H2 Mathematics:
In addition to the above, H2 Mathematics papers are three hours long – almost twice as long as your typical A-Math paper. You might think it’s good news – “I’ll have more time to complete my paper!” – but this is unfortunately not the case.
The rigour of the examinations is definitely tougher, but you’ll get the hang of it soon after entering JC.
On a more general note, there is a clear need for consistent and hard work. From day one, you’ve got to hit the ground running to tackle every test and examination ahead!
Junior college is a test of your physical, mental, and emotional resilience. Still, the satisfaction gained from knowing you’ve done yourself justice after the A-Levels is worth the possible hardships. That’s also not to mention the friends you might make, and people you might meet!
2. Social life
Regardless of ‘come JC hold pen, not hold hand’, JC is a time to connect with a new circle of individuals after four long years of secondary school.
For some, it might be their first few times befriending members of the opposite sex! It can be an exciting time, and, at the ripe old age of 17, you’ll likely have more personal freedom as to how to spend your after-school hours!
It is true, yet, that one goes to a junior college with the ultimate goal of taking the A-Levels in mind. Remember, balance is key – all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but too much play may end up in you lagging behind in your studies!
Beyond that, your personal life should also remain a priority – rest is just as important as ‘getting on the grind’. Simple, solitary activities such as reading a book or going on a walk may help you decompress after a long week at school.
How do I prepare for JC life?
Here are 5 simple tips on how to better prepare for JC life:
1. Read the syllabus document
Reading the syllabus document for each subject you intend to take helps you understand what is expected of you as a prospective JC student! Take the time to read through the many subsets of topics to be learnt – this will allow you to mentally prepare yourself for the semesters ahead.
The syllabus documents for all examinable A-Level subjects are available on the SEAB website.
2. Have a set work and rest schedule
Junior college is a time of independent, self-driven learning. Especially in these pandemic times, it is crucial to self-regulate and be responsible for staying on the ball with your studies.
Be sure not to burn yourself out, though! JC is a marathon, to say the least. Take it one step at a time, and remember to take regular breaks. Rest and recharge before the next school day to ensure that you come into class with a fresh mind.
3. Do the reading
Humanities subjects such as History tend to be very content-heavy; they need much prior knowledge before being able to facilitate a tutorial. To get the most out of your tutorials, make sure that you know the material before walking into a tutorial!
4. Ask questions, connect with your tutors
Don’t hesitate to clarify your doubts through consultations and after-class questions! Your tutors and lecturers are around to be of help. Do take the initiative to raise any concerns that you have, should that be the case – they won’t bite!
5. Create a study group with friends
Studying together with friends may help with keeping focused on your studies. Find a friend group that will keep you accountable and give you a sense of routine when it comes to revision. It’ll be of great help!
JC life can have its trying moments, sure, but may still be one of the most worthwhile times of your life! I often tell my juniors their values and principles (being resourceful and eager to learn, for one) are the key to making their JC journey worth the possible hard times.
With this in mind, I hope you’ve learnt a little bit more of the rigour and routine of JC life. Wishing you safe passage and all the best in this new phase of your life!
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