What is the DSA?
Short for Direct School Admission, DSA is a way for you to apply for a secondary school using your talents.
Say you wish to apply for a school known for its basketball because you are an outstanding shooter. The DSA is a way for you to secure a spot in that school early on. It is however, not a cheat code for you to be lazy for your PSLE! Your grades still matter even for DSA applications.
So how do you know whether or not you should apply to DSA? And more importantly, how do you do it?
There are two parts to this guide. Part One is a walkthrough on the DSA application. Part Two is a detailed guide on the DSA interview you will have to pass.
Part One – Is DSA For You?
Before you decide if you want to take the DSA route, ask yourself this question. It is important to be completely honest with your answer.
Say you want to apply through DSA for a school’s band. Ask yourself these two questions,
- Are you applying because you genuinely enjoy the band, and are willing to commit to the school’s band?
- Are you applying with your band experience because you want to enter that school?
If your answer matches the second question, DSA might not be for you.
As a DSA student, you need to be willing to commit to the skill you are applying with. Remember, DSA is not a cheat code for you to enter a school. If your answer was number two, we suggest you apply to your secondary school using your PSLE scores instead.
It is crucial both you and your parents understand the consequences of DSA.
Once you have accepted the DSA-school, you must commit to the programme or CCA for the next four years. It is easy to be distracted by other CCAs once you are in the school.
Have an honest discussion with your parents. Let them know whether you are confident in committing yourself for four years. If you have worries of any kind, even small ones, discuss them together.
For parents, remember that a DSA application can end up hurting your child’s grades. The T-score requirements for DSA students are lower than the school’s usual T-scores. Since many DSA schools are already popular choices, your child could end up in a class where he or she falls behind academically.
This can deal a painful blow to your child’s self-esteem and motivation.
For students, if you are confident in acing your PSLE, focus on studying hard. You do not want to make a promise you cannot keep, and four years is a long time.
This does not mean that every DSA student will fall behind, however. At the end of the day, it depends on the child’s own capability.
I’ve Decided on the DSA – What Do I Do Now?
Now comes homework.
Yes, we know what that sounds like. Trust us, it’s not easy. But if you do wish to take DSA, this is crucial.
First, get a blank sheet of paper and some stationery. You will need to start writing the answers to the following questions down.
What skill or talent are you applying with? Do you have a CCA you enjoy? Is there a particular subject you are especially skilled in?
DSA is not restricted to merely CCAs – did you know that you can submit applications based on your interests in a subject too? This is because some schools have specialised programmes in robotics and even coding.
You can see the list of talents / interests DSA schools want here. Clicking on each heading will show you a list of the schools with those programmes.
Here’s an example taken from MOE’s website.
What else do you have to consider when applying with DSA?
Well, some other factors include distance (how far do you have to travel) and school culture (what is the school life like). After all, if you enjoy the specialised classes but hate the school, DSA might not be for you.
It is very important that you select the correct school from the lists. Remember, this school will be your life for the next four years. Do not make a rash decision and select a school simply because it has a robotic programme. The school has to be one where you can be happy in.
Create a list of your top skills and the schools you are interested in. Make sure you do this early on, because you now need to spend time reading up.
What is the school campus like? Do you think you will enjoy spending four years there? Even better, attend their open-house sessions. Who knows, you might even meet students who have successfully applied there through DSA. They can be a wealth of knowledge for you to ask about their DSA experience.
Some schools focus on Academics while others emphasise on Sports Talents for DSA. Spend time with your parents to discuss which school is the one right one for you.
DSA application for students entering secondary school in 2019 will be starting soon. Do note that the application deadlines are NOT THE SAME for every school. You need to be careful to not mix up the dates.
Tip: Apply to a few schools to maximize your chances of success!
Your answer back from your DSA school will be one of these three types –
- Confirmed Offer (CO)
- Waiting List (WL)
If you get a CO, it means that you will have a place in that school. However, this is only valid if your PSLE scores fit the school’s criteria. So remember not to slack off for your exams!
If you get a WL, it means you only get your place if a student who received a CO chooses to reject the school’s offer.
If you get more than one CO or WL, you can select up to three schools in the order you prefer.
The last option is never fun but sometimes rejection can make you stronger and more determined. An “Unsuccessful” reply means that your DSA has been rejected. However, you can still apply to the school using your PSLE grades.
So if you do receive an “Unsuccessful” reply, buckle down and get ready to kick the PSLE’s butt! This way you can re-apply to that school with your head held high!
Now pay attention here.
First, if you are applying for DSA, you can only change or withdraw your application during the School Preference (ESP) period. Once that is over, no changes will be allowed.
Second, if you are successfully posted to a DSA school, you will not be allowed to take part in the S1 Posting Exercise to choose secondary schools. Transfer of schools are also disallowed.
How High is Your Success Rate?
Independent schools open about 20% of their student capacity up for DSA.
Autonomous schools tend to offer 10%.
Schools with MOE-approved niche programmes only offer about 5%.
Each year, the number of DSA applicants rise. 1000 more people applied for DSA in 2017 than in 2016. This will likely increase in 2018.
But do not be too discouraged. The total number of successful DSA applicants also jumped from 2,700 to 2,800.
Part Two – DSA Interview Questions
As part of your DSA application, you will need to pass an interview with the school. Do not be alarmed however.
We understand that this is most likely your first time doing an interview. So we have prepared a guide you can use to help prepare you for the big day.
Tip: Treat the interview like a regular English oral test or even a conversation with your future teacher. Practice with your parents and family members to build confidence in answering questions.
Questions to Look Out For
The DSA interview focuses on you as a student and person.
There is no right answer so avoid memorising paragraphs of answers. Instead, learn a few points and examples you can use to fit the question the interviewer is asking. Interviewers do not want to hear an essay for an answer either. However, that does not mean that you should give one-word or one-sentence replies.
Here are some to start you off.
- “Tell me about yourself.”
What they are looking for: your personal values and interests. What sort of strengths and achievements do you have? Try to give a simple example of how this is your strength.
For example, if you say that you are a good team leader, give an example of how you have led your friends or classmates before during a task.
- “What do you enjoy doing when you are not in school?”
What they are looking for: your hobbies and interests. Are you involved with any activities or clubs outside of school? Examples: volunteering or art classes.
- “Who is the biggest influence in your life?”
What they are looking for: something different besides ‘my parents’. Most students will end up saying their parents. While this answer is not wrong, it can be boring.
Try something different. Do you like art? Your biggest influence could be Vincent Van Gogh. Are you a footballer? Try Cristiano Ronaldo.
- “What are your strengths?”
What they are looking for: there are two skill types to consider – hard skills and soft skills.
Think of hard skills as ones you can give a grade to. Are you good with Microsoft Office? Coding? Or perhaps you are a genius with the violin.
Soft skills are about your personality. Are you a good team leader? Are you sociable and can make friends easily? Are you a generous person who enjoys helping others?
- What are your weaknesses?”
What they are looking for: honesty. Do not lie by saying that you have no weakness. You will only come off as proud, and not in a good way.
Your interviewer wants to know how you overcome your weaknesses. From your answer, they can tell if you are a hardworking person with a never-say-die attitude.
Now, not all questions are going to be as straightforward. Some questions are more unique.
- “If you were an animal, which would you be and why?”
This may be confusing but think about the positive traits of an animal. If you are a loyal person, you could be a dog. If you are not afraid to stand up to a bully, you could be brave like a lion.
Other comparisons can include anything from superheroes to fruit. Yes, fruit.
7. “If you were the President of Singapore, how would you make this country better?”
You do not need to think of a grand plan for this question. Start simple.
For example, your grandmother had problems climbing up the HDB stairs recently. Your answer could be to include more guardrails at HDB blocks to help the elderly move around easier.
Another similar question could be, “If one person in your project group does not like you, how would you deal with the situation?”
They might even ask you about the news. For example, “What was one interesting event that you saw on the news recently?” or “What type of news do you enjoy watching?”
These require some studying, so take time to read up before you go for your interview.
Tip: Do not try to absorb every piece of news available. Stick to topics or even countries you are interested in.
Finally, read up about the school you are applying for. You might be asked about the school’s mission statements and values.
It is important to prepare for your interview, but it is also vital to get enough rest. Do not burn the midnight oil the day before and have a healthy meal before your interview.
Always remember to smile and greet your interviewers!
Ace the DSA Like A Pro
The DSA application is much like any other test. You can prepare for it beforehand.
You should remember that even if you are not accepted, it does not mean that you have lost all chances for this school.
Do your best at your PSLE and re-apply for the school once you have achieved the necessary scores.
We at Grade Solution Learning Centre wish you all the best with your application!