Whether it’s taking a grueling GCE ‘A’ level curriculum or dealing with the social pressures of fitting in and finding yourself, it’s no surprise that some associate Junior College (JC) with one of the most stressful times of their lives.
We spoke to four people about the social, mental, and academic challenges they went through while at JC, and how they ultimately emerged stronger from those ordeals.
Hopefully their stories will serve as a helpful guide as you navigate your own JC life.
Struggle academically and with my self-esteem
Coming from one of the “top” JC’s in the country, my time at JC was one of the most stressful and disillusioning times of my life.
At the time, I was constantly at the end of the academic bell curve.
Over time, this translated into a constant, nagging sense of inferiority throughout my two years there.
Although it is well accepted that the academic level of my school was well above the national level (in fact, my actual A-level results were the first time I had passed most of my subjects); it didn’t help that my peers were still excelling even before the A-level exams.
This feeling of inferiority translated into a feeling of disillusionment because I felt like I couldn’t fit in with many of my peers who were doing well in their studies.
Fortunately, I still had friends inviting me to take external courses that had a slower pace of learning, and this gave me a temporary sense of respite from the very competitive environment of my school.
I always disagreed with chemistry, and being in an external chemistry class helped me learn at a slower pace than my own school, which helped me a lot.
In the end, my own A-level results (straight Bs) turned out to be an anomaly in my school, as I remembered being one of twelve students in the biology cohort who failed to get a AT.
Nonetheless, I believe that my average A-level results served as a lesson to help shape my character, and I am very grateful to all of my JC teachers who have been extremely dedicated to helping me.
John, 33 years old
Social and school struggle
I think my story is no different than many others – I did very well for GCE ‘O’ levels, only to find that JC was a different ball game, and suddenly failing didn’t seem like anything something out of place.
With a combination of H2 Geography, H2 Economics, H2 Literature and H1 Mathematics, I found myself unable to cope with the rigorous academic demands – perhaps because I simply did not understand how to do well in my subjects, at the exception of literature.
It didn’t help that my dad started hallucinating around the start of my JC studies and that also became a huge source of pressure.
Unable to concentrate, I found myself just wanting to get out of JC – regardless of whether I had passed or failed the A-Levels.
Additionally, I struggled to socialize in school and often found myself mentally escaping into my interests and hobbies.
Luckily, I met several like-minded friends in and out of school who accepted me for who I was, which gave me much-needed support to be me- same.
Although I didn’t do so well for my A-Levels, I made some genuine and wonderful friends. They inspired me to try at least a little, when I had no desire to try at all.
It’s cliché, but sometimes the power of friendship and support is what gets you through your darkest days and struggles. Having someone to lean on is so, so important.
I still think of their kindness from time to time – they’ve done great things in their lives and careers, and I wish them the same kindness and happiness that they gave to a weird kid, who needed it at the time.
Guan Zhen, 27 years old
Failed all my tests and exams in the second year of JC
When I was in J2, I was failing all my tests and exams. My subject combination was H2 Knowledge Research, H2 Literature, H2 Mathematics, H2 Economics and H1 Chemistry.
During my preliminary exams, I only passed two subjects.
It was partly my fault for taking too many extracurricular activities (CCAs) in J1, but on second thought, I probably didn’t know how to study for A-Levels either.
I was lucky to have math lessons, a subject I really struggled with.
During one session, my tutor asked me what the answer was to a particular question.
It wasn’t even such a difficult question, but my mind froze and I nearly collapsed in the middle of class.
I think at that point I legitimately thought that I would fail my A levels and not be able to make it to a university.
For economics, in particular, I discovered that I was applying the wrong study methods and could not understand precisely what the questions were asking.
I knew the concepts broadly, but I didn’t know them in enough detail to be able to answer so many questions in such a time-constrained situation.
Fortunately, my tutor was very helpful in this regard, teaching me to recognize the different types of questions, as well as breaking down and organizing the content in a way that was understandable and succinct for me.
For the past two months leading up to A-Levels, I studied really hard, locking myself in a room at school from 8am to 10pm every day.
I was also lucky to have dropped out of H1 Chemistry.
In the end, I managed to do well in the exams but really, I didn’t expect my results at all and it was nothing short of a miracle.
Daryl, 27 years old
Unable to understand subject concepts and took on too many extracurricular commitments
Back in JC, I was in science stream in H2 Physics, H2 Chemistry, H2 Mathematics and H1 Economics.
To tell the truth, I chose this subject combination not because I was passionate about it but because I was led to believe that it was the one that would open the most doors for me at university.
However, no one told me that my subject combination would take so long because of the Scientific Practical Assessments (SPA).
In order to do well in H1 Economics, I also found myself learning it at H2 level for better understanding, just so I could see the “big picture”.
Academically, I was underperforming because I didn’t understand the concepts of many of my subjects and spent many late nights on Project Work.
Additionally, I was burdened with the extra workloads of my archery CCA and the many other school commitments (science competitions, etc.) that I had.
Luckily, my Chemistry, Physics, and General Paper tutors gave me one-on-one help, and I was lucky to be surrounded by smart friends as well.
If I had to give any advice to someone who is currently struggling with their studies, it would be to try to figure out which study methods work best for you.
Ultimately, the score you get for A-Levels doesn’t determine the trajectory of your life, so don’t be too upset if you don’t get what you want.
Berlinde, 31 years old
It’s okay to ask for help, here’s how
It is not uncommon to hear JC students experience social, mental, or academic difficulties before A-level exams.
After all, JC can be a turbulent time filled with raging hormones, a packed schedule, and a group of teenagers all struggling to prove themselves.
If you or someone you know is in mental distress, here are some helplines you can call for help, advice, or just to have a listening ear:
- National Helpline: 1800-202-6868
- Singapore Samaritans 24 hour hotline: 1800-221-4444
- Singapore Mental Health Association: 1800-283-7019
- Mental Health Institute: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
- AWARE Women’s Helpline: 1800-777-555 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday)
There are also therapists (psychologists and counsellors) in Singapore that you can contact for free advice and counseling if you are having trouble at school:
Alternatively, those who want help with their studies, particularly in the area of economics, chemistry and physics, can consider taking courses at one of these three tuition centers:
The three founders of these tuition centers – Donnell Koh, Anthony Fok and Tony Chee – are renowned and highly sought after tutors and book authors in Singapore.
They are former MOE teachers who have helped hundreds of students earn honors over the past decade.
Under their coaching, you will be able to learn the different techniques necessary to pass your economics, chemistry and physics subjects at your own pace.
This sponsored post helped this writer look back and come to terms with his move to Junior College.