MRS Kelly Ang, the mother of this year's President's Scholar, really believes in the benefits of being a big fish in a small pond.
Eight years ago, instead of sending her son Scott to the popular Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), she was bent on finding a school that would best fit him.
He had an offer from ACS(I) through the direct schools admissions scheme, but she enrolled him in the then two-years-old Singapore Sports School (SSP).
The former Shuqun Primary pupil had scored 233 in the PSLE, which was "not fantastic".
"There was no point going to ACS(I) then. He would have been at the bottom of the class, and may have missed out on many opportunities," said the 51-year-old housewife.
"At the SSP, we felt he would stand a better chance of representing the school in swimming. He would also have more chances to take the lead and more choices."
That decision turned out to be right. There, he trained as a swimmer and then a triathlete, and took part in many competitions.
Mrs Ang said her 20-year-old son is a "late bloomer", weak at spelling and reading in his early years. His grades improved in secondary school and he won several awards for his studies. "That gave him assurance and confidence that he was on the right path."
Eventually, he bagged six distinctions in his O levels, and scored 44 out of 45 in his International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma examination at ACS(I), which he joined in Year 5.
"Rather than be demoralised at the bottom, we picked the school based on his abilities and interests at that time, and he rose from there," she said.
Now in his first year of law at Cambridge University, he also represented Singapore as a triathlete at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, and earned the prestigious Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship last year.
Mrs Ang's husband is a deputy general manager of a company dealing with lifting machinery in the marine industry. They have three children.
Mr Patrick Hon, 23, is another student who chose his schools quite differently from his peers.
From kindergarten to junior college, he attended schools near his home in Pasir Ris.
In 2002, in Primary 6 at Pasir Ris Primary, he did well with a PSLE score of 267, but he chose to go to Ngee Ann Secondary.
He is now in his third year studying applied mathematics at the National University of Singapore.
"I believe that if I can study, I can study and succeed anywhere. The name of a school and how popular it is didn't cross my mind," said the older son of a housewife and technician.
"It's about making use of the environment and opportunities to grow further."
At one point, he was taking part in four co-curricular activities in secondary school.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, two days after the release of this year's PSLE results, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat encouraged parents choosing a secondary school for their children to look beyond its cut-off point, and consider a learning environment that best suits them.
Pupils have until Thursday to submit their school choices either online via the Education Ministry's website or at their primary schools.
They will be notified of their postings on Dec 20 and are to report to the schools they are posted to on Dec 23 at 8.30am.
This story was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 26, 2013
To subscribe to The Straits Times, please go to http://www.sphsubscription.com.sg/eshop/