I see many students so busy with JC CCA that they jeopardize their studies as a result. The truth of the matter is, CCA accomplishment will be insufficient to compensate for the lousy A level results.
Many students think that accomplishing something in their CCA means this will help them with university admissions.
Unfortunately, they don’t realize that just about everyone else will have the same accomplishments on their transcripts as they too try to get into university.
JC CCA: A case study
Let us do a quick calculation.
Say for example there are 16+1 JCs and each have 10 CCAs (a gross underestimation).
And say a club president is an important position as well as great accomplishment.
Tallying up, there will be at least 169 other club presidents therefore. But this does not include the assistant presidents, and other miscellaneous student committee positions.
What about getting a medal in a competition in the course of pursuing the CCA?
In most if not all of these cases, the competition is at the school level and not national level.
If you think you can use this medal as a way of getting into a local university admission by discretionary admissions, so are the thousands of other students.
The discretionary admissions is a method of letting students with outstanding achievements gain entry into the university.
Think representing Singapore at the international level AND winning for starters.
Many of them aren’t even competing in the school level competitions to begin with.
JC CCA: the realities
For the great majority of JC applicants, this is just NOT tenable.
Working on content mastery and spending effort gaining the best grades you can get is a much better bet to gaining a local university admission.
It doesn’t matter if you are president of the [insert anything you like] club if you have a Singapore-Cambridge A level certificate full of C’s and D’s.
Have a quick run through of NUS admissions you’d realize that majority of courses want at least a BBC/C and above.
For the ultra-competitive courses, absolutely nothing less than an AAA/A will do (e.g. medicine) unless you are outstanding like my past student Nicholas Chan.
He was studying for 2 full time programs, a nursing diploma and the full A levels with 3H2 and 1H1 and sitting for A levels in his final semester in poly. You think he had time for CCAs?!
JC CCA: forced by the school
Many of my students tell me their teachers force them into participating in JC CCA.
My students routinely tell me how such teachers threaten them with failure to enter into a local University if they don’t. Or they will not write letters of recommendation for them during university admissions.
That’s a load of bullcrap if you ask me.
Here’s the admission page of NUS, and then NTU, as well as SMU, and finally SUTD and NONE of them state JC CCA as a requirement or even consideration as an alternative when calculating the university score.
In addition, I count many private candidates as my students and many of them receive offers from the big 4 just fine without any CCAs.
Conversely, I have seen many A levels students overwhelmed with CCA, gotten poor results and 0 admissions offers.
JC CCA is just a means for the teachers and school management to hit their KPIs. So that they can get their performance bonuses and brag about their achievement to MOE.
There is no concern over development of their students in a holistic manner outside of academics which is the original intent.
And if their students cannot manage, that is the student’s fault.
They will definitely not take responsibility for your poor grades.
JC CCA: what you need to do
For the average student, the time is much better spent gaining mastery of the A level content. This is priority #1! I talked about how the Singapore-Cambridge A levels is HARD.
In contrast to the easier international A levels, the Singaporean version has content equivalent to the scope of a year 1 university course.
As such, this is by no means a walk in the park. Some students are able to still perform well in O levels preparing in a last minute manner. This however will definitely not work in A levels.
In fact some students may have to commit time to tuition in order to grasp the concepts due to how much depth and breath of content is required.
I have a checklist to help you narrow down the tutors if you are thinking about it.
Once the #1 priority is planned, where time allows, you may consider participating in JC CCAs.
JC CCA: you can still pursue CCAs!
But I suggest looking for opportunities outside of school instead for several reasons.
Firstly, it clearly differentiates you from every other JC graduate aiming to apply for the local university.
Second, they are often more fulfilling, pragmatic and has real world benefits.
This may include gaining a network of friends who may help you in the future. For example writing that testimonial for you for university applications. More importantly, approaching them for future work internships, etc.
All that as well as the opportunity to really make a difference.
For students asking what avenues to explore, I will suggest the various non-profit organizations that’s looking for volunteers.
There are so many of them.
Whilst some are academic, others are special interest groups, sports, activism. Even those that help various types of less fortunate members of the society (the very young, old, single parent, poor, suicidal…) etc.
These activities allow you to be take a breather from the heavy academic stuff.
And also allows you to see the real lives of specific caches of the community. More importantly even motivate you to do better for yourself and help others.
Furthermore, your experiences become fodder during interview time that will make you a very interesting candidate with stories to tell.
This will therefore differentiate you from everyone else who just have their CCA in JC.
Most importantly and finally, volunteers can decide how much commitment they are willing to contribute. Dial it back when your academic work gets intense and bring it up when you have the time to spare.
How to go about it?
To start the process, you can look for details of organizations seeking for volunteers here.
The school teachers and management will never tell their students these things. It’s in their interest not to.
Otherwise they cannot justify the millions of dollars spent on the school facilities, the hour allocation for teacher duties etc.
Not only that, having an empty report card when MOE HQ ask for justifications to pay increments or promotions is downright embarrassing.
As such, no where in the grand scheme of things is there concern about student welfare and student interests. It is just an admin chore to tick in the school’s to-do checklist.
What about overseas universities?
Very important as well as great question!
It is absolutely useless.
Let me point you first to a site answering the question of how to get into Oxford University.
And let me highlight the sobering fact for you below for convenience. 👇🏻
If you have a skill and you actually enjoy your JC CCA, that I actually have no problem with though you need to watch out for the amount of time you spend.
However, for the majority of students, this is not the case. And not only that, they are routinely hookwinked into thinking what they do will actually make a difference in university admissions.
If the school and teachers really care, I won’t have carved out a career tutoring and counseling JC students.
I talk about how stressed students are. And who are systematically used, abused and discarded by the schools in the first place.