Sometimes, something just “clicks” in your life.
For Daniel Elfian, 19, that “something” was a simple smile. Daniel had been studying in Compassvale Secondary School and his Secondary 3 class was running a Values in Action project. The students brought a small group of people of varying ages, from the Association of Persons with Special Needs’ (APSN) Centre for Adults to explore the National Gallery.
It had been an exciting day and the APSN group was straggling back to their bus when one of them walked back to him, and said “Thank you, Daniel” and smiled.
Says Daniel, now a Diploma in Psychology student in Temasek Polytechnic: “That smile triggered something in me, something I did not expect to feel. I felt joy. I felt happy to have helped them. I wanted to spend more time with them. I wanted to make a greater impact in their lives…”
Following the call
Daniel was a diligent student so he used his training to research where his newfound passion for helping others could lead him, trying to identify the skills that would best help him. “It led me to research more on my pathway to the social work sector and which courses would be suitable.”
Considering all the courses that could lead to careers “helping others”, he picked what he felt would be the most direct one: “Psychology is a social science – I would work a lot with people – I knew I was strong in this. Furthermore, there were no other courses that intrigued me and would also allow me to help others,” he says. There were courses based in business/social enterprises, but he did not feel they were for him.
All along he remained strongly focused on psychology as a way to help people. It was never about “picking apart” another mind or studying their motivation. .
“Sometimes, I would wonder why my friends are thinking a certain way or why they are behaving a certain way; but it was never really a point of interest,” he says.
In his research into the various Diploma courses in psychology in polytechnics, he zoomed in on the Temasek Poly (TP) course, which offered modules that would train him for a career in social services, such as Intro to Social Services and Intro to Special Needs Education.
“I decided on putting Psychology in TP as my first choice as I felt like this course would be better suited for me than the [others]…”
Mapping out the path
Daniel had earlier been considering entering a JC, but “once I knew my passion and which course would help me achieve my dreams, I focused on entering a polytechnic,” he says.
He consulted his teachers on his intended path, and sought out Compassvale’s Education Career Guidance (ECG) counsellor to seek advice – and they suggested he try Early Admission Exercise (EAE) since he was very sure of his interest and his pathway.
“The counsellor also gave me advice on how I could improve my write-up [for the EAE application] as well as the dos and don’ts of EAE, which has been a great help,” he enthuses. This included things to add to his portfolio, which would include volunteering stints, and what to remove – certificates that he had obtained that were less relevant to the course he wanted.
The top tip that he feels helped to best impress the EAE interviewers? It’s passion, he says. “Find a course that you’re truly passionate about. During your interview you wouldn’t even stutter because you’re talking about things that you’re interested in and have a passion for!”
His focus helped him to convince his parents, too, so they supported his choice.
He also credits Ms Ritchell Choong, his Secondary 3 English teacher as well as one of the Student Councilor teachers, for inspiring him to help others.
“Not only did she inspire me to have an interest in English and Literature, she also taught me how to be a better person. She did not teach me through books or things like that but through example. Whenever she teaches, she did it genuinely and it was really enjoyable...”
Face forwards, into the future
Daniel is enjoying the polytechnic life.
The teaching style – with lectures and tutorials – though unlike secondary school, suits him. He likes that they are trusted to manage their own time – to handle assignments and project work while also giving him ample time to develop his own interests.
“Weekends are no longer being used to study (like I did in secondary school) but instead being used to spend time with my family and friends.”
His advice for juniors: “Pick a course you are passionate about. It will never feel like a chore because it is something you are passionate about and so you will enjoy it.”
For more information on the EAE process, approach the relevant institution: