Polytechnic To University – Is It REALLY Possible?

Poly To Uni

The fear of being unable to enter university is common among many polytechnic students, as you may think that it’s just not possible. Coming from a polytechnic background myself, I do understand those sentiments that you have.

Well, a little bit about myself is that I’m probably just like you and many others, your average run-of-the-mill kind of student. I was never the top student in my cohort but I was never at the bottom either. Graduating from St Andrew’s Secondary School, my dream school was always its older brother, St Andrew’s Junior College

The mindset that you had to go to JC to get into university had been a part of me since young – as I always thought that university was for smart people and JC is where smart people went.

I’m glad to tell you today that I… proved myself wrong because I’m a graduate of Nanyang Polytechnic that’s currently doing my honors in Life Science at NUS.

So this is me, sharing my experience and what I know!

Am I able to go to university after graduating from polytechnic?

You will be able to enter into university even if you have graduated from polytechnic as long as you meet GPA “cutoffs” of your course of interest.

If you have graduated from JC, your admission would be based on your A-level academic performance. Meanwhile, if you’ve graduated from polytechnic, your admission would be based on your cumulative GPA (Grade Point Average).

An important point to note would be that if you intend to apply for certain courses – such as Medicine, Law, Architecture – you may have to undergo additional assessmentsinterviews, selection tests, portfolio submissions, etc. 

Information on how applicants are assessed can be found here: 

  1. NUS 
  2. NTU 
  3. SMU 
  4. SUSS

While there isn’t a strict quota on the number of JC or polytechnic students that can be accepted, there are limited spots assigned for each course within the universities – for example; Law at NUS only accepts +/-240 applicants for each academic year.


(the number of spots for each course offered by the universities can be found together with their IGP profiles below)

It is also an unfortunate truth that JC students do tend to have a higher university acceptance rate than poly students – around 70% for JC students and 30% for polytechnic students. 

However, in my point of view, going to university from a polytechnic is no different than going from JC as the fact is that going to JC does not guarantee you a spot in university. Despite the higher acceptance rates, I’ve seen many of my JC friends struggle to get into university with their poor grades, while me and my “polytechnic crew” had no trouble getting offers ourselves.

“What matters most is the effort you put in to excel in your studies and you do need to put in equal effort, be it in JC or Poly, to make it to university.”

I, like many of my polytechnic friends, did not enter polytechnic by choice but settled for it due to our weak L1R5 scores. Some did not even take the O-levels, coming from the Normal (Academic) stream after their N-levels via PFP (Polytechnic Foundation Programme).

However, all of us worked hard in polytechnic as we wanted to make the best of our time there. The effort we put in was what allowed us to secure our spots in university after graduation. I distinctly remember that my close friend who didn’t even take the O-levels, had graduated with a Diploma with Merit and a cumulative GPA of 3.85 – making it into NUS with me.

“As such, while your O-level score does dictate your ability to enter into JC or poly, it does not determine how well you fare in them.”

Ultimately, the effort that you put in during polytechnic or JC is what determines your chances of getting into university. As the saying goes “If you want it, work for it”.

What is the GPA that is required to enter university from polytechnic?

Here are some GPA requirements to enter university, depending on whether you plan to enter a local or private university.

Local Universities

I’ve compiled the IGP/GPA ranges for the 10th percentile of the varying courses for each faculty of the respective local universities. This is to give you a brief idea of what you might want to aim for grades-wise.

Here are some things that you might want to note too:

  • Ranges do vary between universities and might be incomparable as different universities offer different undergraduate courses – E.g. NUS Faculty of Computing offers Information Systems at an undergraduate level while NTU offers it at the master’s level.
  • NTU also does not offer Nursing, Architecture, etc.
Faculty / UniversityNUSNTUSMU
Design & Env.3.45-3.54
Arts &
Social Sciences
and Law
  • # = indicates that the sample size is too small for an IGP as applicants will go through various interviews and tests apart from their academic performance assessment
  • Courses in NUS marked with # = Dentistry, Environmental studies, Physics, Pharm Science, Economics
  • Courses in NTU marked with # = Engineering, Data Science and AI, Environmental Earths and System Science
  • Courses in SMU marked with # = Law

In-depth IGP profiles can be found here: 

  1. NUS 
  2. NTU 
  3. SMU

You may want to note that some courses such as NUS Pharmaceutical Science (PHS) do not have an estimation of the GPA due to the small sample size.

Based on the table, the minimum GPA for admission is about 3.25. However, if you are aiming for harder degrees such as Computing or Engineering, you may need to score a much higher GPA of at least 3.7+.

I scored a GPA of 3.83 to land myself a spot in NUS Life Sciences while also receiving competing offers from both NTU and SMU.

Unfortunately, SUSS does not have an IGP readily available for your comparison if you’re looking at it as your school of choice.

However, I found that based on SUSS’s website, having a GPA of at least 3.0 would give you a better chance of getting admission.

Admission into SUSS is also slightly different from other universities in that they have a 2-step approach to admission: 

  • Step 1: Interested applicants submit their admission for shortlisting
  • Step 2: SUSS holds a 4-stage assessment (tests & interviews) for shortlisted applicants – where successful applicants would then receive an offer from SUSS

Private Universities

If you’re open to attending a private university though, SIM GE is a popular choice. Requirements such as diploma qualification can be found on SIM Global Education, under the respective course pages. 

All you need to do is click on the course you’re interested in and scroll down to the admission criteria. (pictured in the red box below)


While SUSS and SIM do not have an IGP for your reference, it would still be good if you aim for at least a GPA of 3.0 to maximize your chances. 

SUSS, for example, does have a significantly lower acceptance rate for individuals scoring below 3.0 as seen from their website

SIM as a private university, however, is more forgiving and online searches will show instances where individuals with a GPA of around 2.0+ have been able to make it in without additional assessments or interviews.

In general, local universities (NUS, NTU, SMU, SUSS) do have higher GPA thresholds and you should aim to have a GPA of at least 3.2+ if you want a chance at admission. Many of the popular courses also would require you to score at least 3.7+ so it is not easy.

Private universities, however, do tend to be more forgiving and are easier to get into so they can be an option for you too.

When can I apply to university after polytechnic?

There are specific time frames to apply and these are different from the JC students as your polytechnic results are released at a different time. 

image 9

If you are a JC student, applications begin a few days after the release of your A-level results in August to the following year in March. 

If you are a polytechnic student, applications would begin during your final semester in February, before the release of your final results.

But ultimately it also depends on your university of interest:

NUS, NTU – applications open for the 1st 3 weeks of February.

SMU – applications open considerably earlier beginning in October of the preceding year to March (so for AY22/23 – applications would be open from October 2021, ending in March 2022).

SUSS – accepts applications all year round and depending on the period of application, it determines the intake period. (intake – indicates when your academic year begins)

  • Applying between October and March = July intake
  • Applying between April and September = January intake 
  • Different programs also have different application dates – so you do need to check specifically

SIM Global Education – also accepts applications from around the year, depending on the program of interest and the partnered university. 

Do keep a lookout for these important time frames mentioned above as only applications submitted within them will be accepted

If you’re as forgetful as me, I would highly recommend that you set an alarm on the 1st of February to remind you to do all 3 university applications (SMU, NTU, NUS) at once – since they will all be open by then.

Early Admission Exercise

In certain cases, it is also possible that your lecturers may nominate you for the Early Admission Exercise (EAE) into certain universities – NTU and SMU. 

This would land you an invitation to apply early and be offered a spot before general applicants if accepted.

I was fortunate enough to be nominated by my lecturers, and received an EAE invitation from SMU for AY2019 – landing me a direct admission offer for their Social Science Programme for PPS or PLE in January 2019 before the majority of applicants.

image 1

As EAE is only through invitation, information about it is not widely disseminated and you may have to ask your lecturers about it.

When does my academic year begin if my application is successful?

If you are accepted into NUS, NTU, or SMU, your academic year will begin in August.

This is different if you are accepted SUSS, due to their varying application periods. School will begin for you in either January or July depending on your application period, as mentioned above. (pictured below: Blueapplication period, Redwhen your year will begin)

image 2

Am I able to start at Year 2 in university after graduating from polytechnic?

There is currently not much information disseminated by the different universities with regards to polytechnic students being able to start their course in Year 2.

However, based on my own experience and the people around me, NTU did offer direct admission into the second year if your diploma was relevant to the offered undergraduate program. During my application in 2019, my friends and I, who have diplomas in Molecular Biotechnology, were offered direct admission into the second year of NTU for Biological Sciences.

“However, with the recent changes to the core curriculum at NUS and NTU, it is unknown if such direct admission is still possible.”

Module exemptions, however, are possible if you had scored an excellent overall grade in the relevant modules in polytechnic. They are useful as they help to decrease your overall workload and could allow you to graduate quicker. These are, however, reviewed on a case-to-case basis by the respective faculties, and depending on the university, tests may have to be done to receive these exemptions. 

image 3

For example, NUS requires you to first apply for their Advanced Placement Tests, and only those shortlisted are allowed to take the APT. Your APT performance will determine if you are granted any exemptions.

Can I apply for a university course that is different from what I did in polytechnic?

It is possible to apply for courses different from your field of studies. However, the range of courses that you would be accepted into may be limited as many courses still require your diploma to be in the relevant field.

Entry requirements can be found here:

  1. NUS 
  2. NTU
  3. SMU
  4. SUSS

NTU also has a helpful tool for you to filter eligible courses based on your diploma.

image 10

This is what my selection would be based on my polytechnic and diploma, and pressing on “Go” would list all courses that I’m eligible for.

image 4

Certain courses do also have a minimum O-level grade for specific subjects. For example, a minimum of A2 in Mathematics or B4 in Additional Mathematics is required for successful admission into Information Systems at NUS.

Are polytechnic students still eligible for the Tuition Fee Grant during university?

Polytechnic students are still eligible for the Tuition Fee Grant. Going to polytechnic or JC will not affect your eligibility to receive them and the eligibility guidelines can be found here.

As such, I am still able to enjoy a subsidized tuition fee at NUS despite coming from a polytechnic.

What is the transition like from polytechnic to university?

With the world around us changing at an unpredictable pace, such as with COVID-19, local universities (NUS, NTU) are beginning to change how they approach education. This is through the introduction of a new university-wide common interdisciplinary core curriculum for all freshmen, beginning in the new academic year of August 2021.

image 5

For example, the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (FASS) and the Faculty of Science (FOS) at the NUS have recently been overhauled into the new College of Humanities and Sciences (CHS).

This core curriculum aims to integrate knowledge across different disciplines into your university education. This would thus equip you with the knowledge and competency in various disciplines, allowing you to tackle the complex issues of today.

The first hiccup you may encounter – Unfamiliar Modules

From my personal experience, the transition from polytechnic to university is definitely not easy. Coming from polytechnic, most of us would have specialized in our fields and probably not touched modules from other disciplines in a long while. 

With the change to an interdisciplinary approach to education, many of the modules you would take in your first and second year would be made up of these new core curriculum modules.

image 11

In my 1st semester of freshman year, for example, I had modules consisting of: 

Module Name Module Code
The Human
Quantitative Reasoning
with Data

A brief summary of what these modules were about would be that:

  • Asian Interconnections – about the history of Asia
  • The Human Conditions – humanities module concerned with the what makes us “Humans”
  • Quantitative Reasoning – designed to equip us with basic data analysis skills

They were a struggle to cope with as I had been doing science for the entirety of my polytechnic education. 

Such knowledge might be entirely new to you and may overwhelm you in the beginning. And with these modules also being new inclusions, there aren’t seniors that you can approach for help, so figuring out what works for you over the semester, is of key importance.

My recommendation for tackling these unfamiliarities

Making friends within your tutorial classes will be of major help to you. Your tutorial mates would likely come from different disciplines due to the cross-disciplinary nature of these modules. Thus, your group mates may be proficient in the module that you struggle with and really become your saving grace. I was fortunate enough to have a groupmate in my statistics module group, who had actually done it in polytechnic and thus he helped us out a lot.

A shift in the mindset towards learning – Memorization Vs Application

Another key change from polytechnic to university is the shift in importance placed on memorizing information to applying information. In polytechnic, where there is a heavy grade weightage on examinations in many courses, scoring well tends to just require being able to memorize and regurgitate information during the examinations.

However, in university, there is a definite shift in this aspect from my experience, with examinations being considerably less and submission writings becoming your bread and butter. 

These submissions force you to analyse the information you have learned deeper and apply them in the scenarios provided at a conceptual level. This is different from polytechnic which gives you questions and expects answers on a theoretical level. Memorising answers thus will no longer cut it.

As such, the rigor of university might be tougher for you as understanding knowledge becomes vital over memorising it.

So with all these “challenges”, is the transition tough?

I do feel that the transition to university from polytechnic is tough at the start. This is the result of the unfamiliar subjects you might face and the change in mindset towards learning you may need to cultivate.

However, like all tough situations, it is definitely something that can be overcome over time as long as you put your mind to it! After all, if you’ve made it this far and got into university, why waste your effort now!

My Final Thoughts

Well to sum it all up! The main point that I’m trying to drive across to you is that going to university after going to polytechnic is definitely possible. You shouldn’t be thinking that you cannot enter it, after going to a polytechnic, as that just isn’t true!

I’m not saying that going to university will be easy because it is definitely not. Going to university is equally tough whether you decide to attend JC or polytechnic. Even though JC students might have a higher acceptance rate, it is my firm belief that it ultimately does still boil down to the effort that you want to put in during poly. 

If you continue to put in the effort while in polytechnic, going to university will not merely be a dream, but a reality for you!

One of the ways that you can improve your chances of getting into university is by taking up a CCA, and you can find out more about CCAs in Poly here.

If you’re looking to apply for an overseas university from polytechnic, you can check out this guide here.

Untitled design

If you enjoyed this content, do follow us on Telegram!

Want to earn some money while sharing your experiences in Singapore? We’re always looking for writers and you can join our team here!

Isaac Lim

Always looking to try new things and blogging is one of them!

Recent Posts