Try interacting with any A2 student and the conversation will likely dissolve into a rant over their Application deadlines, missing supplements, countless unfilled financial aid forms, and the consistent postponement of the SAT’s before you could even say: “How are you?”
Surprisingly, however, they tend to reply quite quickly since they’re always begging for new ways to put their futures in jeopardy. Some may even begin writing an article for the college newspaper if that means staying away from the corporate cesspool that is Higher Education.
But hey, we all go through it, don’t we? I can still vividly recall how my History professor described the mental torture students go through in their second year of A-Level, and while I never really gave much heed to his pleas to take things seriously, the past few months have given me a clear idea of just how overwhelming things can get in A2. Add to that the uncertainty created by the Pandemic, and the realization that we are still in denial over the fact KE EXAMS ACTUALLY HO RAHE HAIN?? even a day after the traumatic January Send-Ups have ended, and it becomes clear why A2 has the reputation that it does.
And in all honesty, while I would love to continue this rant (the fact that I had three exams today means I might turn this into one, and remain unabashed while doing so), I wanted this to be more of an advice article for the juniors; you know, something you can come back to when you realize you’ve made the exact same mistakes that this article wanted you to avoid (sorry, I genuinely believe in all of you). In any case, before this article once again dissolves into a rant, let us begin:
- Give your SAT ASAP
Starting off with the obvious, the SAT is like that one toxic relationship which you need to get over with before it starts hurting other aspects of your academic and social life. Yes, while it may be difficult to muster up the strength to face this seeming monolith, the quicker you get Collegeboard out of your life, the better. Delaying the SAT to your A2 with the Dekha Jaye Ga mentality is fantastic if you like to suffer mental torture, but that’s about the only category of students which it suits. You’ll get a chance for retakes, and a good first try score genuinely boosts your confidence for the rest of A-Level. Lastly, the Pandemic has seen many SAT centres cancelling their exams a day before the test (this definitely didn’t happen to me twice :3), and experiencing such weird heartbreaks is better when it’s not hurting an already alarming amount of workload in A2.
- There are no “A1 Summer Vacations”
While our batch discovered this in a much more surreal manner since we quite literally never got to experience a proper summer vacation, I stand by my quote nonetheless. Assuming there are a couple of readers here whose aspirations go beyond LUMS (ew, nerds), these vacations are going to be vital for you to not only contemplate over your academic and personal ambitions, but also for researching various institutions; their faculties, location, financial aid eligibility, and their general atmosphere. Make up a list, have reasons to go where you want to go, and maybe start working on your personal statement too. Honestly, it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s these mundane things which end up being super annoying when you sit down for the “Why Us” supplements (a short essay where an institution asks you to glorify it. Jk don’t…do that).
In any case, while marathoning the works of Marx and Lenin (or hanging out with your friends, if that’s the sort of activity you enjoy) does seem quite appealing during these vacations, do set out some time for actually planning out your life in a future filled with really fun activities such as surviving the Climate Catastrophe and increasing economic meltdowns owing to a fragile socio-economic order.
- This isn’t an individual journey
Yes, Mr Edgelord 101, I’m looking at you. University Applications are a process of growth and learning; while you may have confidence in that one really cool Supplement you wrote about Quantum Mechanics, an impartial observer is always essential, and this doesn’t always have to be the school councillor either. Throughout the process, don’t be afraid to reach out to people whom you feel could give honest critiques on your applications. Yes, sometimes you’ll be faced with criticism on a supplement you feel is impeccable, but at the end of the day, pleasing blood-thirsty corporate businessmen who have turned education into a source of profit and social capital requires a specific sort of experience and expertise.
Oh, and PS: while the CSS Financial Aid will make you despise Collegeboard and Elite universities, some of these Capitalist P*gs give Fee waivers as a pittance if you reach out to them, so keep that in mind too. <3
- UniApps aren’t the end of the world
Ok, forgive me if there wasn’t actual advice in this article asides from some basic platitudes which you may have heard a million times. But let me just assure that it’s ok to be overwhelmed by the uncertainties and magnitude of the decisions you take during these years. It’s honestly fine to procrastinate and hang out with your friends if you’re not getting inspiration for your 50th Personal Statement draft, and rejections are an inevitable part of life (wait till someone takes this out of context). Also, it’s fine to not be as ambitious as you’re supposed to be in this time period. The system loves to alienate you from education only to demand you to give it your all, and to follow your dreams. This is a time period where Biology students realize they have a passion in Computer Sciences, where students who studied Pure STEM realize they have a knack for historical analysis and politics, and where some are avoiding that one inevitable encounter with their parents over their interest in the Arts and Music. In short: it’s a lot.
And with the Pandemic and a very controversial Send-Up exams in the backdrop, no wonder some of the current A2’s are so stressed they decided to write a rant in the form of an advice article for the college newspaper.
So yes, we are all flawed humans caught in a terrible time period in an already overwhelming period of our lives. And while our society tends to rationalize and sort things to their appropriate times, self-discovery is timeless; whether it be at a white elitist university like Princeton, an institution known as “The Lahore School for Everyone” or during a gap year, the process of learning about oneself, and opening up to the world is one which may initiate during these University Applications, but they by no means are the end, or the defining factor, of your life. In short, using decent English Language to hide from your complacency and failures is quite satisfying, so join TLC. <3