Mr Aw Hong Wei, 19, had a lot of help on his way to polytechnic, especially from teachers.
Said the Spectra Secondary School alumnus, who will begin his diploma in accountancy at Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) today: "Regardless of what people think, it's quite an ordinary secondary school where people have fun and do normal things like play football."
Mr Aw said that Spectra Secondary - a specialised school in Woodlands which offers vocational training and has only students from the Normal (Technical) stream - quickly introduced him to the adult world through courses which focused on employable skills.
He said this prepared him well for his years at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
Mr Aw credits the teachers he met at both institutions, and the Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) programme with helping him find a polytechnic course and potential career which he sees as both challenging and rewarding.
"Through innovative ideas like using escape rooms to teach us maths, my teachers at Spectra helped me to find a love for what is usually considered a difficult subject," he said.
His passion for mathematics led Mr Aw to consider a career in accounting after finishing his Nitec qualifications at ITE.
But he was initially discouraged when he found out that his Nitec course - finance services - did not directly map on to any accounting courses offered at the polytechnics.
Under the Joint Polytechnic Admissions Exercise - the route that the bulk of polytechnic students take for admission - it is necessary for students' Nitec qualifications to map onto their chosen polytechnic diplomas.
His career counsellor at ITE helped him to get around this hurdle by helping him prepare to apply for admission through the EAE.
This included a write-up, a portfolio and an interview with the polytechnic.
The EAE process allowed Mr Aw to showcase his non-academic achievements, such as taking on the role of president of the investment club at ITE College Central.
"It (the EAE) is the gateway that allowed me to pursue accountancy," he said.
While the door may be open, working life is still some way off for Mr Aw, who completed his orientation at NP last week.
"It was a little awkward meeting people online because half the orientation was virtual, but at least I got to know some people before the first day," he said.
"I'm excited and nervous to start. This is totally new ground for me," he added.
Ng Wei Kai