Direct School Admission: Application Tips & General Guidelines

Entering TOP secondary schools is still a priority for parents and many students. But with the aggregate scores of these secondary schools going off the charts, entry via the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results is extremely risky.

DSA (direct school admissions) offers an attractive alternative to gain admissions into these top schools without the insane stress of the national exam.

In this post, we have charted out the areas of talents your kids can use to apply for DSA and what the schools look for in the respective areas.

We want to use the word “talent” loosely as some of these talents can be groomed or cultivated. For example, if your child has a flair in music or performing arts (dance or drama), you can groom these “talents” by sending them for appropriate classes and getting into the right school curriculum early in the school years.

If your child is very active and athletic, you can encourage his/her sporty activities towards a DSA goal. Or if your child has an aptitude in arts, math, science or languages, expose him/her to develop more in these academic areas. If you have a child who commands attention or is popular among friends and has a positive outlook, hone his/her leadership qualities. And try to aim for the benchmarks highlighted in the following tips.

Here are some tips and general guidelines that can secure a DSA for your child:

1) Build Your Child’s Resume Early   

a) Talented Kids — Music, Performing Arts & Dance: 

If your child is musically talented or inclined towards performing arts, start taking exams and compile a folder of relevant certificates and proof of performed performances. Most music, dance and performing schools like Kids Performing Academy of the Arts are able to advise, mentor and guide talented students to achieve their dreams. They will also provide certificates as testimonials of your child’s skills.

Benchmarks that schools look for:

  1. Represented the primary school in SYF Arts Presentation.
  2. Preferably won awards at the SYF competitions (minimum Silver Award / Certificate of Accomplishment).
  3. Preferably attained Grade 5 and above for Piano.
  4. Participation in any competitions is a plus, whether it is for the club your represent, your school, or your country. Winning the competitions or representing your schools are definite added bonuses in your child’s portfolio.

b) Sports

These sports are popular for DSA applications. Try to get into the school teams as that will be an advantagae.

Popular Sports Other Sports
  • Athletics (Track & Field / Cross Country)
  • Badminton
  • Football
  • Gymnastics
  • Hockey
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Table Tennis
  • Tennis
  • Squash
  • Basketball
  • Cricket
  • Floorball
  • Netball
  • Rugby
  • Softball
  • Shooting
  • Volleyball
  • Wushu
  • Waterpolo
  • Taekwondo

Benchmarks that schools look for:

  • Member of Top 4 Team in National Inter-school Championship.
  • Member of Top 2 Team in Zone Inter-school Championship.
  • Quarter-Finalist in National Age-Group Individual Championship or a major Championship organized by the Singapore Primary Schools.
  • Evidence of participation/awards achieved at other competitions.

c) A Strong Academic Fort

If your child is strong in academics, build up a strong repertoire of academic results especially in these years:

  • P4 end-of-year (SA2) results
  • P5 end-of-year (SA2) results
  • P6 SA1 results

It also helps if your child has any participation and achievements (e.g. competitions) in the talent areas applying to Art, Languages, Mathematics and Science. Enter your child in national or international academic competitions like Math Olympiad or UNSW adds value to your child’s application. Of course a win is even better.  If your child is in the GEP programme, this is an immediate eligibility for DSA.

d) Character and Leadership Positions

Encourage your child to try out leadership positions in school or CCAs (including sports).

Benchmarks that schools look for:

  • Must have held a key leadership position in the Prefectorial Board, Student Council or CCA during the primary school years
  • Preferably held leadership position in related CCA at primary school.
  • Uniformed Groups in their primary schools (e.g. Boys’ Brigade, Red Cross or Scouts),
  • Demonstrated exemplary character and leadership — received at least school level recognition and awards for contribution as a student leader.

2) Put Together Your Child’s Portfolio

Compile your child’s important certificates and awards into a folder. These could be academic certificates like math olympiads, commonwealth essay writing awards, UNSW, iVp awards etc.

If you have any particular projects you’re particularly proud of, you might want to make a copy and insert into your portfolio as well. Some secondary schools require the certificates to be certified true copy (CTC). You can get these certified by your own primary school general office.

3) Prep Your Child For DSA Interview / Audition

If the DSA school has an interview stage, it is necessary to prepare for it well. We put together a list of interview questions to help your child face the interviewers.

For those applying for DSA in the sports, music, dance or performing arts, they have to audition or showcase their prowess in their areas of expertise. This interview or audition could be the deciding factor amongst candidates.

ONE FINAL NOTE: I will not lie to you. Competition is tough. We have many very talented kids in Singapore. That said, here is a word of caution to the parents:

Do not get suck into the world of Kiasu-ism. LISTEN to YOUR CHILD and then coach him/her accordingly. 

If your child (like mine) is still exploring, that’s ok too. They will just take different paths and end up on different mountain tops.

Again, best of luck in your DSA journey!

If you like this post, please share your thoughts with me in the comments below or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Till our next post, love yourself, love one another.

Related Posts

Direct School Admission — Is It As Sweet As It Sounds?

Common DSA Questions Asked In Interviews


Meiling Wong

Meiling is a Singaporean mom who loves spending time with her 2 kids until they ditch her for slime-making and digital gaming. These days, she keeps herself busy trying to keep up with the social media while still contemplating if she should learn how to play "Clash Royale".

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