Parents’ Panel on Schools in Singapore: ‘How hard is the application process?’

save article
We asked our panel of parents about their experiences of applying to school in Singapore, and what they would do differently next time.

There’s no question that the quality and choice of educational institutions available in Singapore is second to none. There is, however, a widely held belief that schools, both local and international can be notoriously hard to get into. With different rules for Singaporeans and foreigners, and breathtakingly high fees (sometimes just to grab a spot on the waiting list), for some it can all be a bit of an ordeal. Others seem to breeze through it all without ruffling a feather. Are you just about to embark on the your journey? We asked our wise panel of parents how they navigated the process. These are the lessons they learned:

Describe the application process of applying to your chosen school in Singapore – what was involved and what would you do differently next time?

“We applied for our children to attend the school a year after our arrival. Our daughter was registered to attend nursery and our son, reception. Our daughter was guaranteed a place however our son was 80th in the queue. Thankfully, as soon as our daughter was officially offered a place in June (to start in August), our son was offered a place two weeks later on sibling preference.”
Priscilla Gosh, Australian, two kids

“We found the whole process to be relatively easy.”
Roberta Ciccone, American, five kids 

“Mostly it involved a lot of scouting in person and word-of-mouth recommendations, followed by the visits. We should have started much earlier!”
Lena Lee, Singaporean, two kids

“Our child is currently at montessori. It was pretty easy to get in there as we applied almost six months in advance.”
Aruna Rao, Indian, two kids 

“We had to email many schools to inquire about openings. A few responded, but a majority mentioned they had no vacancy for the P5/ P6 level we were looking for. We went to the Ministry of Education to seek assistance, but even they recommended we go straight to the schools to apply. We did a sweep of the schools closest to our condo, and eventually found a couple of schools that allowed her to take entrance exams. Yhangzeng in particular was very welcoming, which helped a lot. They even helped us get our daughter exempted from the mother tongue subject, which has helped her cope with the new educational system.”
Maria Athena Catedral Bughao, Filipino, two kids

“The process entailed a tour, an application, a large deposit to join the waiting list, and then finally a phone call to say our child had a place. It’s tough getting your first child into school, but once you are in the school you have a lot more influence due to sibling priority.”
Carrie Gray, Australian, three kids

“It was only a form and interview – pretty easy and straight forward.”
Jess Hart, Australian, three kids

“We had no problems. There was availability, and we enrolled. Easy!”
Olga Grant, Netherlands, two kids

“We applied online in the US before we moved to Singapore; it was very straight forward. We wouldn’t change a thing, nor do anything differently.”
Britney Williams, American, three kids

“We put our youngest into nursery to try to get sibling priority. If we had a chance to do it again, we would not have enrolled in SJI and wasted years, without even moving up on the waiting list. We would have hounded them monthly to see if we were progressing in placement, and if not, withdrawn the application after one year.”
Sara Valentine, New Zealand, three kids

“We only applied to Tanglin Trust School. It was very straightforward.”
Emily Brown, British, two kids

“Given we chose a for-profit school, we found it quite easy to apply. Perhaps we lucked out that a new classroom opened up in our eldest’s grade that they were just beginning to fill with students. There was plenty of space for our youngest. Some paperwork, and plenty of money is all the application process entailed! We can’t think of a thing we would do differently. We are big proponents of public schooling in America, but will admit that for the price we pay for private school here, we are absolutely satisfied with the experience our children are having.”
Faith Chanda, American, two kids

“We were fortunate enough to have this done for us through work.”
Helena Ramsdale, British, one child 

“Being Singaporean, we are privileged to be given priority in school admission procedures.”
Sri Rahayu, Singaporean, two kids

If you’re after more help in choosing a school that is right for your child, then visit our School Selector. This handy tool will help you honestly compare schools, side-by-side, based on your own set of criteria. 

*Some of the above names have been changed, as requested by a handful of members in the panel.