How to prepare for the DSA application

Once you have considered what the DSA means for your primary 6 child, you need to start preparing your child’s application for it. Typically, the entire application process takes around 5 months and begins in the second quarter of the year. Here’s what you should do:

1. Breakdown and shortlist applicable participating schools
Different schools have different DSA niche focuses, some in character development, others in academics, sports and aesthetic arts. It’s important that you correctly scout for schools based on your child’s talents and abilities. By this time, he or she should already have strongly demonstrated such interest and aptitudes, with tangible results to show for it. Here’s a reference list that helps to highlights each school and their corresponding niche areas.

2. Check out schools’ websites and open house dates
Once you’ve nailed down the selected schools, spend time going through their websites to understand more on what they stand for and what they look out for during the selection trials and tryouts. To be safe, it may benefit your child if you actually go together to some of the open houses available for each school. Talk to parents or teachers who are familiar with said school’s program and niche areas. That way, you’ll not only be more prepared, your child will also have a better idea if he or she enjoys the culture and vibe of that particular school. Here’s a compiled mommy forum thread that tracks each school’s 2017 open house dates as they are made available.

3. Get required documents ready and note the date of submissions
Each school you apply to will require your child to support the application with documents to substantiate his suitability for the program. If your child is looking at the DSA Academic route, he should have prepared at least the past 2 years examination results, as well as achievements on academic competitions done on behalf of the school at the district or national level.

DSA Sports and Art applicants should have prepared a list of competitions and awards attained at their institutions up till that time. Others applying for character development programs like entrepreneurship or leadership should garner the necessary accolades, proof of positions held, and testimonials to help support their applications. File all of these neatly into a portfolio folder.

Once you have those, take note of your selected school’s document submission dates found at the respective schools’ websites. Most online submissions should end sometime by July.

Do note that with effect from 2019, students will submit their applications on a centralized online portal using a common form process.

4. The written tests
After submitting your online application, your child may be invited for the written tests. These could include comprehension, math and abstract reasoning tests. The style and difficulty of the questions really depend on the school. While there isn’t a proper way to prepare for these written ability tests, your child should already be adequately prepared if he or she has been consistently learning and performing in said subjects throughout primary school.

5. Prepare for the selection trials and interviews
After the written tests, some schools will call for a selection trial and/or interview. Often, this is the part that gets parents the jitters; in part because how you prepare really matters. It’s one thing for your child to be excellent at his or her niche area; it’s another to communicate and convince the selection panel that your child is a good fit for the school’s program.

For Academic DSA up to 2018, your child may be required to undergo the General Assessment Test (GAT) if he’s not already part of the Gifted Education Programme (GEP). For DSA Sports and Arts Programmes, your child may be called down for trials to assess his or her skills for the chosen niche. Many will also be required to undergo some form of interview with selected panels. This interview is often crucial to determine the child’s fit and social aptitudes. And the right interview techniques and dos and don’ts can help your child stand out here.

The interview rounds typically start around August each academic year. To gear for it, some may choose to prepare as early as February, depending on how comfortable and familiar you child already is with interviews.

Do note that every school your child applies to and get called down for will mean an entirely new interview and selection process for him or her. For some children, this may be stressful and could take away from the focus on their studies. Therefore, it’s better to remain selective on which schools you decided to prep for and only interview for DSA schools your child has an interest in joining.

6. Wait for your DSA Offer letters
There are 3 main outcomes you may received from schools your child applies to the DSA with: Confirmed Offer (CO), Waiting List (WL) Offer, or Unsuccessful.

If your child receives a CO from a school, it means that she has been given priority over those offered the WL Offer. But it does not yet guarantee him or her a place in the school. To do so, she needs to make sure to submit that school preference during the Exercise School Preference period, and ensure her PSLE results qualify for the minimum T-score for an academic course in that school.

If your child is offered the WL by the school, it means that he or she will be considered only if the school has enough remaining DSA-Sec places after other students given CO have made their choice, and if your child manages to meet the minimum T-score for an academic course offered by said school.

Receiving an Unsuccessful reply means that your child’s DSA application has not made the cut. In that case, you can still focus on the S1 Posting Exercise when the PSLE results are out in November.

7. Wait for the Exercise School Preference period
If you do receive one or more CO or WL Offers, you will receive a preference form to allow you to participate in the Exercise School Preference. This usually takes place sometime in October.

Each child can only declare up to their top 3 preferences, even if they receive more than 3 CO or WL offers. So take time prior to this period to discuss with your child which 3 schools he or she would like to apply for. Take note that the order of preference makes a crucial difference in this exercise.

If your child uses 3 CO offers, she will be allocated her first choice if she manages to make the school’s minimum T-score cutoff for her chosen academic stream. If not, the same process will play out for her second preference.

If your child receives a WL offer and 2 CO offers but would like to go into the WL school, she should place that as the first choice. If she manages to make the school’s minimum T-score for her chosen academic stream, and the school has extra placings after all their COs have been selected, she will be allocated to that first choice school. If not, the same process will play out for her second preference as did above.

8. Prepare for the PSLE Examinations
Congrats! The tedious parts of the DSA application is over. Encourage your child who has made it all the way to this point. While securing a DSA offer does mean your child may have entry into a good school with a lowered PSLE T-score requirement, it’s still important for he or her not to neglect her academic foundations. Afterall, when your matriculates with peers applying via the S1 Posting Exercise, they will be competing on level ground for every test and examination thereafter. Thus, it’s important for your child to still focus and build her foundations right with the PSLE.

If your child had been following this application for the past months, he or she would have dedicated a sizable amount of time to the process itself. Now is a good time to get back to the books and prep for the final examination. Then come November, when the DSA and PSLE results are out, both you and your child would finally see the fruition of all this effort pay off.

Are there questions you have that we left out? Let us know in the comments and we will update the article accordingly.

Geraldine Lee
Geraldine lives out of bubbles and dreams. She writes primarily about parenting and learning. Her work has been featured on TheAsianParent, Singapore's Child, and now even Yodaa.