After I received my ‘O’ level results, I couldn’t decide which JC I wanted to go to even though I did pretty well and my score could qualify me for any school. The main question facing me was: IB or ‘A’ levels? (since choosing one over the other would automatically decide which school I should apply to) Up till the last day of when we had to submit our JAE (Joint Admissions Exercise) applications, I was still rather undecided but was leaning towards choosing Raffles Junior College and doing the ‘A’ levels.
So what made me change my mind? Well, the ‘A’ levels curriculum places heavy, if not complete, emphasis on exams. I think you’d probably know this by now, but in IB, your final grade is dependent on both internal assessments (IAs) and external assessments (IB exams). IAs for all the subjects that you take are completed during the course of your 2 years, and are marked internally by your teachers but are moderated by IB. I liked this idea because I had already experienced the ‘O’ level program, which I assume (but cannot confirm) is rather similar to the ‘A’ levels, and the IB program would be a refreshing change. Furthermore, I did not like how your entire future rested on one final exam (frankly, it is quite intimidating and for that, I do admire those taking the ‘A’ levels!). However, IB has its fair share of obstacles too. You need to be able to juggle schoolwork, IAs, CCAs etc. and I was confident that I would be able to manage this pretty well. As a result, I started leaning towards doing IB, and naturally, towards choosing ACS(I).
However, IB vs. ‘A’ levels was not the only factor in my decision because choosing the school itself was also important (you’d probably be able to cope well in both programs anyways). When I went for the RJ (Raffles Junior College) open house, I was really impressed with everything such as the school spirit and atmosphere. I realised how huge the school was; both physically and in terms of the cohort size. It took me 10 minutes to find the correct entrance. Apparently the cohort size in RJ for my year was 1300 students. Personally, I didn’t really like the idea of such a huge cohort where I would be seeing strange faces all the time. I think that was what pushed my decision towards ACS, since most other things about the 2 schools (e.g. school pride, culture) seemed similar (to me). (There was no open house for AC JAE because the intake is quite small, but I had gone for talks/information sessions on IB in ACS(I) a while ago)
Moreover, I knew that I’d be comfortable with the AC culture because MG (Methodist Girls’ School) and AC are said to be rather similar. (Another way of putting it would be that I’m unadventurous, but I initially did want to go to RJ because it would be a different environment)
Lastly, this seems like quite a minor reason but actually is rather important — location. RJ is located in Bishan (obviously) which is relatively further away and less easily accessible by public transport for me. When I went for the open house, I took a long time getting there, having to change buses and walk for quite a bit (compared to AC, which I could take a direct bus to). This seems like quite small an issue because if you really like the school, distance would probably not be a large concern. However, for me, I couldn’t imagine having to travel for an hour or so every day to get home, especially after a tiring day at school. So, don’t forget to take into account your transport options and travelling times when considering different schools!
Ultimately, it was a combination of the school itself, the course, and my own preferences which I considered when deciding. I felt that I would be ok with both courses and schools, but had stronger preference for IB and a smaller, ‘cosier’ environment. It really depends on your own preferences, but I do encourage you to attend the open house(s) or talks to get a better understanding of how IB works (since most people don’t really know exactly what it’s about), so you know what you’re getting yourself into when you apply! That being said, don’t fret too much, for there will be talks and briefings during orientation if you’re still unsure about what IB will be like.
Valerie Seah (6.10) is from the graduating batch of 2016.