Mr Ihsan Ridzwan Azman thought he would not make it to a polytechnic after scoring 27 points in his O-level preliminary exams in 2016 as a Secondary 5 student at Naval Base Secondary School.
He applied for a place in Republic Polytechnic's (RP) biomedical science course through the Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) that allows students to get conditional offers for poly admission before getting their final grades.
Students are selected and admitted based on their aptitude and interests, besides academic grades.
Mr Ihsan eventually scored 13 points in the O levels that year.
The 21-year-old, who will be graduating from RP next month, said: "I had been interested in the sciences since secondary school and felt the EAE was a good opportunity to secure a spot in a poly because they look at your passion for the course of study."
He started out wanting to be a doctor but in the course of his studies at RP, he decided to study dietetics and nutrition instead. He will be applying for a place at the Singapore Institute of Technology's dietetics degree programme.
Thanks to multiple internships, his time at RP exposed him to various science fields.
But it has not been an easy journey. Last November, he was scheduled to go on an overseas internship at a medical school in Bandung, Indonesia. Ten days before he was due to fly out, his 54-year-old father died of a heart attack.
Said Mr Ihsan: "It was very shocking and a very tough period for me and my family - my mum, older brother and younger sister. Some people in my place might not have wanted to continue the overseas internship.
"I didn't feel like doing anything for a few weeks because I was grieving, but I knew my dad would want me to continue living my life."
Mr Ihsan decided to continue with the internship as scheduled, with his family video-calling him once every few days to check in on how he was doing.
"We weren't very close before my father's death but going through something like that together changes things. Now we share everything with one another."