Her interest in art began in secondary school, and that passion later prompted Ms Chia Ke Xin, 21, to apply for a place in the space and interior design diploma programme at Nanyang Polytechnic.
She graduated from the course last month with a near-perfect grade point average (GPA).
But the former Kranji Secondary School student might not have secured a spot in the course if not for the Direct Polytechnic Admissions (DPA) scheme. The DPA allows polytechnics to select students based on criteria other than academic results, such as their suitability for certain courses and how they fare in an interview.
The DPA exercise is now being replaced by the Early Admissions Exercise.
Ms Chia, who took her O-level examinations in 2012, scored two B3s, one B4, one C5 and two C6s. Had she applied via the normal admissions route, her L1R4 score of 21 points - for English and four relevant subjects - would have put most of the courses out of her reach.
She said: "I can draw well and I felt that the poly route would suit me because of its hands-on learning approach. With my O-level score, it would have been difficult to get into a course of my choice via the normal route. The DPA was a safer route for me to get into a polytechnic."
During her secondary school years, she had progressed on to the Normal (Academic) stream from the Normal (Technical) stream, but had struggled with the change. She said: "I also had difficulty in English, which affected my grades."
Encouraged by her form teacher, she applied for her desired course via the DPA four years ago.
After undergoing tests and interviews, during which she was quizzed about her interests, she was granted a place in the three-year diploma programme.
She graduated with a GPA of 3.82 out of 4. She also snagged a place to study project and facilities management at the National University of Singapore.
She said: "I think that as long as I have the right mindset... I can achieve my goals. The DPA route gave me an opportunity to enter a polytechnic and excel in something I love."