Advice on applying to HCI via academics+leadership DSA pathway

A Secondary 4 student who hopes to study at a junior college next year is contemplating applying for entry into Hwa Chong Institution (college section) on an academics+leadership DSA ticket. His achievements include attaining consistently outstanding academic results, a distinction in the Australian Maths competition, honourable mentions for both the Singapore Maths Olympiad and Singapore Junior Physics Olympiad, a silver medal for the Commonwealth Essay Competitions, a champion for the Malay Debate Competition, having assumed the role of both head prefect as well as that of class chairman amongst others. HC alumni Jerrold Soh patiently offers his two cents at an online forum:

"Hi im not sure if you're still looking for information because the DSA window might be over, but here's what I know:

I graduated from HC some years ago. I didn't apply DSA because I very luckily got into HC from sec 1, and getting there through IP is easier than DSA-ing at sec4.

This means I don't know the application process very well, but I do know roughly what the school's like and how it thinks. Or at least what it used to think 3 years ago.

Let's start from the numbers. These are mostly estimates, but basically, out of about 1.5k places they have each year, 70-80% will already be taken up by IP students. Thats 1200 places gone.

Then there's always some places reserved for top A Level scorers which they won't release until after the exams. And also those reserved to bring in all-star sportsmen to win medals for the school and other *discretionary* admissions. Let's just assume each category has 100 places.

This means there are like 100 or less places left for DSA . So the basic chance is the number of applicants divided by 100. Hence if 600 people apply, then you have 1/6 chance just looking at numbers alone and nothing else. I'm not sure how many people apply per year though, but I suspect HC gets quite a lot.

Now from this basic 1/6 chance, let's consider your portfolio and determine if you're above or below the average 1/6.

From my experience, schools dig councillors and HC is no exception. Councillors are great because they (a) help the school run events, (b) help the school by getting into good universities and winning scholarships, (c) help the school because they usually are the alumnis who donate the most, and (d) love the school the most, and (e) keep other students in check. So from what you've listed 'head prefect' sounds pretty good. If I were you i'd emphasize that. And being class chairman (probably sec1-sec2?) and your good results does reinforce that image of the hardworking responsible councillor.

The next thing is i notice you're good at Math. Or at least it seems so. Not sure what "award for high distinction in A maths" is, but if it means you top your school level in Maths, thats a good thing. A silver medal in commonwealth writing is also not bad, but HC is more of a science than an arts school. In the same light winning a Malay debate is rather unique and does set you apart, but i think it's obvious that malay debate isnt a big thing in HC.

As for constant A1s, distinction in AMC and honourable mentions in SMO, these are fairly common. Not that they don't mean anything, but those who apply DSA usually have very strong portfolios.

As for obtaining a silver in the Olympiad, that really helps. HC likes winning international Olympiads (the school calls them world championships) so if they think you can help them do that, you have a good chance. So much so that imo if you have a gold, being accepted by HC is a done deal.

All in all I'd say you're an above average applicant mostly because of that head prefect thing. If there's an interview, be prepared to be asked about that. Since the base rate is 1/6, I'd say you have 1/4-1/5 chance.

Of course, this is assuming there are 600 people looking for 100 places, and all have similarly good portfolios. Any or even all of the assumptions I've made can be wrong, and things could have changed since I graduated. But I hope my analysis helps you. The best advice i can give is apply for DSA, try your best to get it, and if you do things will rock for you. If you don't i think based on your results you have a decent chance of getting in too. Just that you will have to study harder to make sure. I think that's not a problem for you."

Mr Jerrold Soh runs a peer learning platform at

The Czar (Site Founder)

Dated 7 JULY 2014


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