Four students talk about why they chose the DSA option and how they knew this was right for them. Did they need extra prep work? They share their stories.
Leadership, innovation, sports, music – these are some of the talent areas recognised in the Direct School Admission (DSA) today. Here, four secondary school students share their experience, and how they have grown as a result.
Nur Batrisyia Binte Jasman, Secondary 3
DSA: Community Youth Leadership, Woodgrove Secondary School
“For me, DSA was a chance to enter a school with programmes that I like. I wasn’t very confident about my PSLE results and I felt uncertain as the cut-off points fluctuate every year. My parents encouraged me to try DSA, too, but they left the choice of school up to me.
“My focus was on schools with strong community service programmes. This has always been something close to my heart because my family had received help from others when my father had suffered a stroke. I wanted to give back to those who are in need.
“When researching schools online, I came across Woodgrove Secondary and learnt that they have special Values-in-Action (VIA) projects, where students can help out at elderly homes. This stood out to me because not all schools have such opportunities - some conduct their VIA projects within the school instead.
“I remember that the selection interview at Woodgrove Secondary wasn’t stressful at all. I think that’s because I did my research and knew what the school could offer me, such as the VIA opportunities and exposure to community leadership.
“I also shared a little about my experience as a student leader in primary school and what I have learnt from helping at my father’s workplace.
“My father works at Dignity Kitchen, which is a food court that employs the elderly and people with disabilities and helps them to find meaningful employment. I sometimes help to serve meals and talk to the elderly there. It is very meaningful to me to find out about their lives and the challenges they face. I think that convinced the interviewers that I am really interested to serve the community!
“Since joining Woodgrove, I have had the chance to learn more about how to organise projects and work with others effectively. We are often put in groups with different people so that we learn how to get along and I can see how this is useful. I think I’ve become more open and confident as a person, too.
“I am also thankful that my teachers gave me the chance to lead in my class VIA last year. Unfortunately, the visits to the elderly homes have been suspended because of COVID, but I still look forward to doing a project within the school this year. There’s always a way we can help, even with the restrictions that are in place!”
Thierry Yeo, Secondary 4
DSA Chinese Orchestra, Zhonghua Secondary School
“Since young, I have been playing the piano, and I also picked up the Chinese flute when I joined the Chinese Orchestra (CO) in Primary 2. Music has been my passion.
“A year before the PSLE, my parents encouraged me to go for DSA because they saw my potential in music. Back then, I was a little worried about my results, so I was glad that my musical abilities could be recognised, and choosing a secondary school was not all about my grades.
“My parents recommended four schools that offered CO as a DSA area. I read up about the programmes they had, but at that point, I did not have a strong preference for any school. I was focused on preparing two songs to perform during the selection interviews. The songs were technically challenging, so it took a couple of months of extra practice before I was confident about performing in front of others!
“Going for four interviews was a little tiring, but by the end of those, I knew where I wanted to go. At Zhonghua Secondary, I found the teachers very warm and reassuring when I was nervous. This made a lasting impression on me and I was overjoyed when I got their offer.
“Because of DSA, I joined the CO a little earlier than my peers and was the only Sec 1 to take part in a fundraising concert held at the start of the year. Since then, I have represented the school in many performances and competitions. With DSA, there is naturally a bit more pressure to do well in my CCA, but I appreciated the opportunities to perform and improve in my music. Over time, I have grown more confident as a musician.
“Besides the teachers, my seniors in CO are great, too! We are close, and one of them even taught me how to compose and write music. They have inspired me to do more for my CCA, and I am currently leading as the student conductor. These are opportunities that I may have missed out on without DSA. In the future, I hope to continue pursuing music, perhaps as part of the Singapore Youth Chinese Orchestra. I am also interested to be an instructor and inspire others with my love for music.”
Megan Kwok, Secondary 3
DSA Basketball, Cedar Girls’ Secondary School
“I have been playing basketball since I was four. Both my parents love the sport and we would play on weekends. In Primary 3, I joined my school’s Basketball CCA. I really enjoyed the experience, so I was quite certain that it was something I wanted to continue in secondary school.
“I had heard that Cedar Girls’ Basketball team does well in competitions. But what really appealed to me was their school spirit, which I heard about during the Open House. During the annual Track and Field finals, the whole school turns up to cheer for the runners and that felt very special to me as an athlete!
“I did not do any special preparation for the selection. I just gave my best during my usual weekly training with my primary school basketball team. My parents helped a little – my mum by practising with me on weekends, and my dad by running through a mock interview with me.
“I actually studied harder for my PSLE when I was accepted to Cedar. I wanted to ensure that I could cope academically in my new school – so in a way, DSA was a source of motivation and I’m glad my results were on par with the rest of my classmates.
“It has been a memorable three years in Cedar and the highlight has to be the ‘C’ Division match in 2019, when we got to the top eight in the nationals. I’d never gotten this far in the competition in primary school!
“The coaches and teachers help us work on our strengths and really care for us. When I got injured in Sec 1, they taught me exercises to strengthen my ankle and kept on encouraging me while I was recovering. Beyond basketball, they often check with us to ensure that we are coping fine in our academics as well. Of course, we train hard, too, and I really enjoy being a part of this wonderful team.”
Chay Yong Shi, Secondary 3
DSA Leadership, Evergreen Secondary School
“I was in the Prefects’ Executive Committee in primary school, and a leader in my CCA, floorball. When I heard about DSA, I took a while to think about whether I should pursue my interests in leadership, or in floorball. In the end, I chose to go with leadership as I love the experience of serving others and planning school events as a prefect. Although I enjoyed floorball, I believe leadership skills will be more useful for me in the future.
“I got to know about Evergreen Secondary from my older brother, who was a student there. He told me all about the programmes for training leaders, such as camps and problem-solving workshops. He got me intrigued and I decided on Evergreen Secondary School.
“Some students choose to apply for DSA because they are worried that their PSLE results would not be good enough to enter a school that they like. This wasn’t really the case for me, or rather, I was not thinking about the PSLE when I decided to go for DSA. I felt that applying through DSA in Leadership was a way for me to make a commitment to pursue this area, and push myself to do more as a leader.
“My parents were against DSA at first, as they wanted me to be confident in my PSLE results. I had to persuade them by promising that I would still do my best for my studies, and explain how being a leader would help me to be more responsible and independent. It took a while, but they supported me in the end!
“Unlike sports or music, there wasn’t a trial for leadership. I just had to talk about relevant experiences in the interview, and how I believed I could contribute to Evergreen as a leader. They also assessed if I was suitable based on the testimonials from my primary school teachers.
“Although I missed the cut-off point for Evergreen by a little, I found that it did not really matter. I was initially worried that I would lag behind my peers, but I’ve come to realise that secondary school is different, with many new subjects and ways to learn. It’s a new playing field and I can cope, even with my CCA and leadership commitments.
“I am currently the Vice Head Prefect, and believe that I have grown a lot over the past three years. I got the chance to plan events like the school’s Teachers’ Day celebrations, and took part in leadership camps that helped make me a more empathetic leader, who understands the needs of others. I even got the chance to be an emcee for a school event, and overcame my stage fright! The experience in Evergreen has inspired me to continue to lead and serve, and I am keen to volunteer in the community after graduation.”
In view of the COVID-19 situation, this year’s selection period has been extended from 9 to 11 weeks. If shortlisted, your child will have to attend e-interviews and e-auditions conducted by DSA schools at their primary school.
You may find out more about DSA at https://www.moe.gov.sg/secondary/dsa
Or, hear about DSA from the perspective of two teachers, who sit on the DSA committees in their schools here: https://www.schoolbag.edu.sg/story/is-dsa-for-your-child