JC life, the period of intense studying (or as we call it, mugging). This period can cause serious stress and you may begin to drink a lot of coffee, study late into the night, or sleep very early (around 8pm) and start mugging early in the morning (from 2-3am). Torturous, but many of us survived with grit, encouragement, and the happy, little things like having heart to heart talks, encouraging each other on and even birthday surprises.

In this edition of JC Life Series, I will be sharing what I have learned from Junior College.

To be honest, on my first day of JC, I wasn’t excited. Instead, I was afraid and had low self-esteem, no friends in school, and knew that I had 2 years of intense mugging ahead of me.

What I learned from JC?


1. Life is never dull when there’s a lot of events by the school and with friends.

These events range from celebrating big events such as National Day to Inter-House Games to more personal events like Valentine’s Day/Friendship Day. There are so many events to be a part of! Though to be honest, some people may find some events not as engaging and just ponteng (skip). As seen in the image above, these are some of the school events that I was a part of, but it’s non-exhaustive. I’ve also gone for picnics, played games, chilled with my friends.


2. “Omg no time”

In these 2 years, you’ll learn more advanced and in-depth knowledge work as compared to what you learned in O Levels. What’s tested in exams will also be more about application of what we know to real life situations (Sciences), or thinking critically. You have to work consistently and complete your tutorials, and keep up with your lecture topics.

Block Tests and Common Tests would usually test more on the recently covered topics, so when the final exams near, you will need to recap what you have studied previously.

Aside from tests, you will have CCA involvements, tutorial work, and require some chill time with friends. All in 24h? Sounds like no time.

That’s where time management skills come in. Honestly, JC is more about pacing yourself to learn and do homework, but keep on the ball and don’t let things snowball all the way, or else you may cry. Time for prioritisation!


3. Napping in Lecture Theatres are Common.

You might have heard something like, “If your friend next to you is sleeping, do nudge them and keep them awake.” or “I’m not going to continue the lecture if people are sleeping.”.

Because there is so much to go through in lectures, it could get dry and become sleep-inducing with the aircon and with our sleep-deprivation… and the comfortable lecture theatres… and food coma.

It was interesting to watch my friends (vice versa) struggle to stay awake. To combat this, we would pop sweets in our mouths and would nudge one another to stay awake, especially when the lecturer was saying something important. 


4. Learn to save and spend on what you need.

Most of my notes were hardcopy notes, so I had to pay about $10 each time for each subject when new stacks of materials were out.

Also, because my combination had quite a fair bit of writing and calculations to do, I had to spend on printing my own notes and writing materials, on top of the free foolscap pads distributed outside the school gate. I had to use my angpow money, and I also aimed to save $5 each week so I could use them when needed.


5. It’s important to manage your emotions. It’s okay to seek counselling help.

The list of things to be sad about may be longer. When you feel that you’re under a lot of stress, or if your mind is going into darker thoughts, breathe and take a break. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Also, if you feel yourself heading to dark places, seek help early. I sought help for encouragement and emotional management, and it helped me to see the bigger picture as well. I felt better telling her (and crying to her) about my problems. Just sharing to her about my problems made me feel better, because I felt I was fighting alone for a while, and I started measuring my worth by my grades (foolish and unhealthy, I know). She also shared about the dot theory, which helped to open my eyes and could possibly help you too!


6. CDESU, your new friend.

(These are just some of my grades)

At the start, I got a shock. I used to score A’s in Secondary School but in JC, no A’s throughout the internal exams. There was also a time where I scored 1 out of 8 for a small quiz. Some students were flying high, and others had CDESU grades. It was many students’ new friends.

At times I would beat myself up, but thinking this way was not healthy, so I learned so think, “It’s okay. I’m falling forward. I’m better than the me that first started.”. Gradually, I grew used to seeing these grades.


7. You need to find your studying style.

Interestingly, during JC, I shifted my study style from writing on paper to writing on whiteboards (I crashed random empty classrooms) to giving up on writing notes halfway so that I could jump straight into doing questions and learn from Past Year Paper answers.

Your camera gallery may also just be full of notes because you took pictures of lecture slides, your (or others’) homework, your friends’ notes, or some interesting things for reference.

Frankly, it took a lot of practice and reading to finally understand how to think and apply my learning. It was only right before prelims that I started timing myself so I could pace myself well enough in exams.


8. Bad hairstyle choices.

In JC, I harboured this thought where “since I’m just studying, nobody will really care about my hair, so why not just try some haircuts? Besides, I can sleep earlier without waiting for my hair to dry.” Oh boy, much regrets.

I cut shoulder length hair which would get caught because it was touching my shoulders. I also tried having bangs, which was really horrible at the start because my hairstylist casually trimmed a pretty big chunk of hair… But after trial and error, well, I can only say, never again to the bad hairstyles. I’ll stick to my current hairstyle for a while.


9. Sleep is important, but… what time and how long you sleep could vary.

I was (and am still) easily tired, and my sleep cycle was never fixed. In J1, I started sleeping from 8pm to 3am, pushed it back to 11.30pm to 5.45am, then to 12.30am to 5am, and finally to 11pm to 4.30am.

The idea was to squeeze in some study time before/after school, but my sofa would be really, really tempting and comfortable at 4am.

Fun fact, the latest I’ve ever slept on a school day was 3.30am because we were rushing to submit our PW report on that very morning!


10. Persistence is key.

Source: Niklas Elmqvist, University of Maryland, College Park

Life isn’t fair. There are always going to be smarter and more capable people who seem to have everything done. These people could have better support at home or are naturally more academically inclined.

I started to focus on competing with myself. To get better, I accessed my factors and created a rough game plan:

  1. Where did I do poorly at? What (baby) steps can I take to get better at it? Fill it into the Planner.
  2. What are the questions trying to test?
  3. Set SMART goals to familiarize with question structures and content. If there are any questions, clarify with the tutors as soon as possible.
  4. [MY LAST STEP] Cannot finish in time? Do timed practices to think or write faster. Self-mark or submit the timed practices to my tutors to mark.

On the day I got back my results, I was really thankful to my tutors for the many hours of consultations, to my family and friends who believed in me, and to myself for not giving up. It was a long and hard journey which taught me a lot about self-help and responsibility.

Final grades: 6 distinctions (+PW and MTL)

Looking back now, I feel that JC life was probably the most challenging yet rewarding. Even with the troubles, I was a lot happier than before because I had support by my side. Thinking positively and self-care are also important!


This article is brought to you by Denise Ong. Denise is a first-year undergraduate in NUS Business School. She is currently interning with SNCF as a Marketing Intern. She is experimenting with designing on Canva and Photoshop, and enjoys playing volleyball in her free time.