What To Do After The A-Levels: Next Steps, Options, Resources To Consider

A levels

Is your teen wondering what to do after the A-levels? 

Results for the 2019 Singapore-Cambridge GCE A-level examinations will be released on 21 February 2020. School candidates will be able to collect their result slips from their schools — from 2.30pm.

However, because of the current coronavirus situation, candidates who are collecting their results in person must declare their travel history and take their temperature before they arrive in school. They will also collect their results in smaller groups in classrooms, instead of congregating in the school halls. Only candidates collecting their results will be allowed entry into the school premises.

School candidates who are not well, on Quarantine Order (QO) or Leave of Absence (LOA) as of Friday, 21 February 2020, or who are affected by travel restrictions to Singapore, should not report to their schools. Instead, these school candidates may view their results online. 

For details on results collection and online access, refer to the Singapore Examinations And Assessment Board website.

If your teen has done well for the A-levels, he or she may have access to many more opportunities than anticipated — the decision-making process may not be easy, but it is an enviable position to be in. If your teen has done badly for the A-levels or performed below expectations, you will need to support him or her through this challenging decision-making period. 

A levels

No matter the results, the important thing will be to listen to your teen, weigh the available options against consideration factors — such as personal interests, entry requirements for tertiary institutions, and the family’s available finances — and encourage him or her to keep an open mind.

Option 1: Consider A Gap Year

A levels

As Singapore moves towards a gentler education landscape, taking a year off one’s studies for self-discovery and growth may increasingly be viewed as a gain, rather than a loss. 

There are no readily available statistics about Singapore students who have opted to take what’s known as a “gap year,” but a report from a decade ago highlighted this as a “small but growing” trend. Typically, students take a gap year to travel, participate in volunteer work locally or overseas, or gain some professional or entrepreneurship experience. Some students do it with a clear direction in mind, while others want a break to ponder about next steps, due to poor results or being uncertain about their academic interests.

For local male students who are required to take two years off their studies to complete their National Service, an additional gap year is not out of the question either. TODAY interviewed a male student who had chosen to take a gap year after his National Service to focus on volunteer work. After he returned to school, he said of the experience, “When I go to class, I’m not there just to get the grades anymore. When I study… everything has an element of ‘how do I give back to the community,’ ‘how do I possibly earn a good enough profit to be able to give back?’”

If your child is considering a gap year, you can be supportive by checking with your social network to get in touch with those who have taken one. There is also plenty of advice available online. Should your child be interested in an internship, you can tap into your networks to help him or her get a foot in the door. Internship portals such as INTERNSG may also turn up interesting opportunities. 

The question that you do need to ask your child is this: What are your goals for the gap year? Be prepared that your teen’s goals may not align with your expectations — in which case, you may want to consult an education counsellor for an informed and impartial opinion.

Option 2: Apply To A Singapore University

A levels

How should you help your child to choose a university? When it comes to universities in general, you will want to consider these questions:

  • Where does your teen want to work in future, and will the qualification be recognised in that country?
  • Which universities have a good reputation, with regards to the courses that your teen is interested in?
  • How does the university rank internationally? You can consult guides such as QS University World and Business School Rankings and Times Higher Education World University Rankings. But you should not base your decision entirely on these rankings, as they may be highly subjective.
  • Is anyone within your social network able to give an insider’s or alumnus perspective?

Note: Singaporean male students who need to serve National Service (NS) can apply for university admission before entering (or during) full-time NS. Local universities will reserve a place for Singaporean male applicants until they have completed their NS. According to Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE), overseas universities generally allow a one-year deferment of student admission from successful placement in the overseas university — male students should check if their university of choice is willing to accept a one- or two-year deferment, and apply during the appropriate admissions cycle. 

If you and your teen have decided that a local university education is the way ahead, you can do your research online as well, on tertiary education sites such as Digital Senior. (Read their article on some differences between the local universities.) 

Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus situation, all 2020 university open house events are likely to be cancelled, but several universities have announced that they will be holding a “virtual open house” instead. 

Below is a list of publicly funded autonomous universities in Singapore, with links to their open house and admission pages:

National University of Singapore (NUS)

  • Online applications for A-Level holders will commence three working days after the release of the 2019 A-Level results, and close on 19 March 2020
  • Refer to the university’s Application Guide for more information.

> NUS Virtual Open House | Check admission requirements, apply to NUS

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU)

  • A-Level holders can begin applying to NTU on the day of the results release. 
  • Applications will close on 19 March 2020. 

> NTU Virtual Open House | Check admission requirements, apply to NTU

Singapore Management University (SMU)

  • SMU’s 2020 Undergraduate Admissions Exercise began in October 2019, and applications will close on 19 March 2020

> SMU Virtual Open House | Check admission requirements, apply to SMU

Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

  • A-level holders can begin applying to SUTD on the day that results are released. 
  • Applications will close on 19 March 2020. 

> SUTD Virtual Open House | Check admission requirements, apply to SUTD

Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)

  • SIT’s 2020 admissions began in January 2020, and applications will close on 19 March 2020. 

> Check admission requirements, apply to SIT

Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)

  • Applications for SUSS’s July 2020 intake are currently open, and the closing deadline is 19 March 2020
  • SUSS has cancelled its open house; instead, it will hold small-group information sessions in March 2020. (Check the SUSS website for updates.)

> Check admission requirements, apply to SUSS

Option 3: Apply To A Private University In Singapore

A levels

If your teen does not meet the requirements to enter the six local autonomous universities listed above, a Singapore-based private university could be an alternative. 

Worried that a private institution may not offer a quality education, or that its certification may not be highly valued by employers? 

A good gauge is the annual Private Education Institution Graduate Employment Survey, which is conducted by Singapore’s Committee for Private Education. You can refer to the results of the 2017/18 survey, which also provides the employment outcomes for students from local autonomous universities. For instance, the overall employment rate for private university graduates was 80.7% in 2017/18, compared to 90.2% for local autonomous university graduates in 2018. 

However, the recent survey does show that private university graduates are more likely to be engaged in part-time or temporary employment, compared to local autonomous university graduates. In terms of pay, there was a significant difference between the median gross monthly salaries of private university graduates (S$2,650 in 2017/18) and local autonomous university graduates (S$3,500 in 2018).

However, what matters most is whether the private institution suits the temperament and interests of your child, and if the fees are something that your family can comfortably afford. Some of the more prominent private institutions offering degree programmes in Singapore include:

You can check on the registration status of private institutions — and whether they have received the quality assurance EduTrust award — on the SkillsFuture SG website.

Option 4: Apply To A Polytechnic In Singapore


If your teen is unable to secure a place in a university with his or her A-level results, there is still the polytechnic route to consider. The emphasis should be on helping your teen to find a viable path for continued learning and growth, so as parents, do refrain from viewing the polytechnic route as “wasted time” for the A-level holder. 

According to the MOE, about 200 A-level graduates take up diploma studies every year. Interested A-level holders should apply directly on the relevant polytechnic’s website — depending on the course that they are selecting, they should be able to enter the polytechnic within the same year, and they may also be able to secure course exemptions of between six months and a year.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic

  • A-level applicants can apply for direct entry to the second year (Year 2 Semester 1) of selected three-year full-time diploma courses in February 2020. Applications open upon the release of the A-level results and the tentative closing date is 25 February 2020. (Check the website for updates.) 
  • A-level applicants can also apply for direct entry to Year 2 Semester 2 or Year 1 Semester 2 of selected three-year full-time diploma courses in mid-August 2020. 
  • For courses that are not in the above lists, students should apply using their O-level results.

> Check admission requirements, apply to Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Nanyang Polytechnic

> Check admission requirements, apply to Nanyang Polytechnic

Republic Polytechnic

  • Eligible A-level graduates can now be exempted from one semester, or one year of studies, for three-year full-time courses starting in April or October 2020. (View the courses here.)
  • Those applying with their A-level results should submit their applications between 21 February 2020 (2pm) and 28 February 2020 (4pm).

> Check admission requirements, apply to Republic Polytechnic

Singapore Polytechnic

  • Those who wish to apply to the three-year full-time diploma courses (using O-level results) or two-year full-time diploma courses (using A-level results) should apply between 21 and 28 February 2020.
  • The two-year courses are:
    • Diploma in Applied Chemistry
    • Diploma in Biomedical Science
    • Diploma in Food Science & Technology
    • Diploma in Human Resource Management with Psychology
    • Diploma in Perfumery & Cosmetic Science
  • Applications for 2.5-year courses will tentatively be from mid-to-end August. 

> Check admission requirements, apply to Singapore Polytechnic

Temasek Polytechnic

  • A-level applicants can apply for entry to the following two-year full-time diploma courses:
    • Diploma in Business
    • Diploma in Chemical Engineering
  • A-level applicants can also apply for entry to selected 2.5-year full-time courses, or use their O-level results to apply for three-year full-time courses. 
  • The application period is listed as “five calendar days, starting from the day of release of the 2019 GCE A-level results” — this should be between 21 and 25 February 2020.  

> Check admission requirements, apply to Temasek Polytechnic

Option 5: Apply to An Arts Institution In Singapore

Arts Institution

A-level applicants with a keen interest in the arts can consider embarking on a diploma or degree programme at LASALLE College of the Arts or the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA).

To check on the prospects for graduates of these institutions, you can refer to LASALLE’s Graduate Employment Survey 2018, as well as NAFA’s Graduate Employment Survey 2018/19. In general, the median gross monthly salaries reported by both institutions for degree holders was about S$2,500, while the median gross monthly salary for a Master’s graduate from LASALLE was said to be S$5,000.

LASALLE College of the Arts

  • Students looking to enter LASALLE’s degree and diploma programmes should apply by 15 March 2020.

> Check admission requirements, apply to LASALLE College of the Arts

Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA)

> Check admission requirements, apply to NAFA

Option 6: Consider An Overseas Education

overseas study

Is a foreign university the right choice for your teen? If you are only kick-starting this discussion now, be prepared to spend significant time and energy on researching universities together with your teen. 

Education fairs are a good place to begin your research, or you could make an appointment with an education consultant to get advice about the advantages of studying in different countries, the types of courses that might suit your teen, and financial aid options. If you can afford a consultant, he or she can be of great help when it comes to devising an application strategy for securing a place in a respectable university. 

As a start, you can read this Straits Times guide on picking a foreign university for further studies.

Curious about how many Singaporean students have chosen to study abroad in recent times? A 2019 Straits Times report stated that 4,727 Singaporeans were enrolled in educational institutions in the US in 2015, while nearly 1,800 Singaporeans started their studies at Australian universities in 2016. According to another report by The New Paper, 2,700 students attained student visas to the UK in 2016. 

If your teen does study overseas, it’s impossible to predict if he or she will eventually be able to work and carve out a life in a foreign land. About 213,400 Singaporeans — or 6% of the local population — were reported to be residing abroad in 2017, and this is apparently a growing figure. Of course, among those who have studied and lived abroad, some have returned due to a lack of job opportunities, or simply to be with family. 

Whichever pathway your teen eventually chooses, do give him or her your full backing. If you are having doubts about your teen’s choices, the oft-quoted words of Steve Jobs from his 2005 Stanford Commencement address may provide some comfort and reassurance: “[Y]ou can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future… This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”