What Is DSA and How Do I Prepare For It?

With the ‘O’ Levels and Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) right around the corner, many students are rushing to ensure that their studies can secure them a spot in their desired schools. Naturally, I believe it would be safe to say that most students already have an idea of their dream schools in mind. As such, the crucial thing right now is securing a position in said schools. Thus, many students turn to Direct School Admissions (DSAs) as a means to boost their chances! However, there might be some confusion that many harbour as to what it is exactly and how to go about applying and preparing for it.

This article aims to help clarify any doubts!

What exactly are the DSAs?

DSAs, or Direct School Admissions, are a means of allowing students to secure early placements in the schools of their choosing, be it secondary schools or junior colleges (JCs).

This system was established in 2004 by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in the hopes of encouraging holistic development and education that did not simply focus on the academic grades of the students.

I’m sure many of us resonate with the notion that academic grades are not everything and that our other talents outside of that field play an important part as well! After all, we are more than just our grades.

Some students that showcase exceptional talents in areas such as the Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Sports (I.e., Football, Rugby, etc.), Arts and others may use these talents to apply for the DSAs.

As of 2018, all secondary schools in Singapore are allowed to have 20% of their student uptake via DSAs compared to the previous 5% to 10%. This means that students who apply for DSAs in their PSLE year stand a greater chance in entering their school of interest!

It is important to note that while DSAs offer students some leverage when it comes to their chances of entering a school, this does not mean that their PSLE or ‘O’ Level scores do not matter! If anything, one should view the DSAs as that additional boost to secure a spot in a school instead of a one-way ticket.

How does it work?

Before students begin their applications for DSAs, they must first identify their talents. As mentioned before, this could be talents in STEM, sports, arts, etc.

Understand that applying for the DSAs is by no means an easy task, as it requires the student to maintain good performance in their indicated talents, as well as good grades!

For Primary 6 students, they may apply for the DSAs using talents including:

  1. Sports and games
  2. Visual, literary and performing arts
  3. Debate and public speaking
  4. Science, mathematics and engineering
  5. Languages and humanities
  6. Uniformed groups
  7. Leadership (for example, prefects).

It is also important to note that once the student has been admitted to a school via DSA-Sec that they will not be permitted to transfer out of the school to another one.

For Secondary 4 or 5 students wishing to enter JCs via the DSA-JC, you may also apply using talents in sports, co-curricular activities (CCAs) or other academic fields that have not been demonstrated in the ‘O’ Levels.

However, students who are admitted to JCs via the DSA-JC will not be permitted to transfer to another school nor partake in the Joint Admissions Exercise (JAE) programmes.

Another crucial thing to note is that students are allowed to participate in the DSA-JC and EAE (Early Admissions Exercise) simultaneously but cannot accept both at once. Students who do so will be disqualified from both programmes.

That aside, moving on to some key events that students should be aware of:

  1. Make sure to check the school’s website for more details.
    • Each school will include more details on the DSA-JC or DSA-Sec process and have their own deadlines that you have to adhere to.
  2. Phase 1 Offer Stage
    • Once your applications have been sent, schools will shortlist and send out offers to selected students.
    • Should you be selected, you might be required to attend interviews. Once again, more details should be provided on the school’s websites.
  3. Phase 1 Acceptance Stage
    • Students may only accept 1 offer via acceptance form to your selected school. Be sure to do so before the indicated deadlines!
  4. Cooling off Stage
    • Students may cancel their acceptance to their schools during this stage.
  5. Phase 2 Offer Stage
    • Schools will, once again, shortlist and select students that meet their criteria. Acceptance letters will be sent out to those who qualify.
  6. Phase 2 Acceptance Stage
    • Once more, students may accept the school’s offer by sending an acceptance letter. Refer to the school’s website for deadlines.
    • Students will be permitted to take part in the DSA and EAE concurrently. However, they may only accept 1 of the offers.
    • Students are only permitted to select 1 offer.
  7. Withdrawal Stage
    • Students who wish to partake in the Joint Admissions Exercise (JAE) must cancel their acceptance before an indicated deadline.

Students may apply for the DSAs using the online portal and applications are free of charge! Know that your Singpass is required!

Additionally, here is a list of JCs that accept the DSAs:

  • Anderson Serangoon Junior College
  • Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)
  • Anglo-Chinese Junior College
  • Catholic Junior College
  • Eunoia Junior College
  • Hwa Chong Institution
  • Jurong Pioneer Junior College
  • Nanyang Junior College
  • National Junior College
  • Raffles Institution
  • School of the Arts, Singapore
  • Singapore Sports School
  • St. Andrew’s Junior College
  • St. Joseph’s Institution
  • Tampines Meridian Junior College
  • Temasek Junior College
  • Victoria Junior College
  • Yishun Innova Junior College

How do I prepare for the DSAs?

Now that we’ve addressed the logistics of the DSAs, let’s now move on to how we may go about preparing for it.

As previously mentioned, the DSAs require students to showcase relatively constant good performance in their indicated talents. So, it is of utmost importance that students put in the effort to maintain and/or better their skills.

It would also be advisable for students to source out more opportunities to showcase their talents. For example, a student who has applied for the DSAs using public speaking and debate as their indicated talent might want to consider taking part in more Model United Nations (MUNs) or debate competitions.

This would not only grant the student greater experience in the field, but also gives them the chance to win awards that can then be used to supplement their portfolios and be used for the DSAs.

That aside, students must also remember that their academic grades cannot be pushed aside. While having exceptional talents in other areas outside academia is great, the DSAs also require students to maintain good grades overall. Your final grades in the PSLE or ‘O’ Levels do play a huge part in your acceptance to your desired schools.

Thus, perhaps it would be good to practice some time management activities such as investing in a planner. This would help segregate your time needed to build up your talents, while also making sure that your academics do not go neglected.

Students may also consider consulting with their form teachers for additional help when it comes to time management and they would be more than happy to help!