He had opted to do an engineering diploma, but was told during a medical screening that the course might be too strenuous for him.
Mr Mohamed Najulah, who was born with brittle bone disease and uses a wheelchair, decided to take up a business information technology diploma instead.
The former Queensway Secondary Normal (Academic) student was keen to explore how business and information technology could be used to help others. He enrolled in Singapore Polytechnic as part of the pioneer cohort of the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP).
That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The 21-year-old is now one of the poly's top students and will graduate with a grade point average of 3.89 out of 4.0.
Mr Najulah, who will be awarded the Chua Chor Teck gold medal, said he could not have come so far without the PFP, which allows students to skip the O levels to do a one-year programme that prepares them for a diploma course.
"It allowed me to transition seamlessly into my course," he said. "Without this alternative pathway, I would have to take my O levels, and I may not do as well to meet the entry requirements."
The programme helped nurture his speaking, writing and presentation skills. "Going through the PFP allowed me to be more confident, outspoken and articulate during presentations and group work."
The aspiring software developer will pursue an information systems degree at the Singapore Management University in August.
"Application development is not restricted by physical capabilities, and provides the freedom and ability to convert what I think mentally into reality," he said.
Mr Najulah described his poly experience as a roller-coaster ride, filled with ups and downs. But he will always remember the help offered by his peers.
"As I am a wheelchair user, I would never forget the moments when my friends and classmates assisted me to get to my lessons and lectures," he said. "It might be a simple act, but it meant a lot to me."