Congratulations youngling, on passing your SSCs – the first of many unfair public examinations in life. I know it hasn't been easy, and from now on nothing will get easier, ever. But I can try and help ease some of your burdens. One of the first big decisions you will have to make in life is choosing what you want to do after SSC. Many of you might be confused about which college you should go to. Should you pick the one that's attached to your school or one that offers better facilities? This article should help you weigh the pros and cons and make a well-informed decision that you hopefully won't regret.
SHOULD I EVEN DO HSCS?
There are two available options for completing grades 11 and 12: you can continue in the national curriculum and get an HSC degree or you can switch to the international curriculum for A Levels. This depends on what your goal is for higher education. If you are absolutely sure that you want to go to a Bangladeshi public university, then it would be best for you to continue the national curriculum, as public university admission tests follow the same syllabus. If you definitely want to get your bachelor's degree from abroad, then A Levels might give you an advantage.
DOES IT REALLY MATTER WHICH COLLEGE I GO TO?
In the grand scheme of things, nothing matters. But in the short run, yes it does. One thing you must remember is that college is supposed to prepare you for university admission tests and university education itself. Going to a college that helps you to not only pass exams but also have a perfect understanding of basic subjects is essential. Of course, there are many people who did terribly in college but ended up in great universities. Nishantika Neeher, a student at Dhaka Dental College, talks about the downsides of not taking the HSC syllabus seriously, “I was quite laid back in college, even failed a subject once. I ended up in a good place but for that I had to go through double the pressure than my friends did. I had to learn everything perfectly in the span of 3 months before HSCs, and then sacrifice my social life, my Facebook account and my sanity before admission tests to make sure I had a solid preparation. If I had learned the basics well in the previous two years it definitely would've been easier for me.” Personally, I have seen that learning a subject well in college helps a lot if you choose a similar discipline in university. My classmates who had studied accounting before had gotten easy A's in our beginner accounting course in university, while the rest of us science students had to learn everything from scratch.
FINISHING THE SYLLABUS
Some college teachers often expect that students will go to private coaching classes anyway, so it wouldn't matter if they don't discuss certain topics in detail. The problem here is, some students cannot afford to take so many coaching classes, and doing well in coaching centres is not enough of an incentive, so properly exploring the topics taught there is never a priority. Students put an effort only when there are actual grades on stake. Colleges that teach the entire syllabus thoroughly, give their students a head start for HSC and admission test preparation.
“In university, professors don't continuously help each student during lab classes. They only check the results and if it's not right in the first try, you get a repeat. Many of my classmates struggled with this in our first year. But due to the extreme practical class workout I had gotten back in college, lab experiments have been a breeze for me,” says Saraf Mahnaz, a student of Electrical Engineering at BUET. If you want to pursue a STEM field, remember that an in-depth understanding of practical experiments will definitely be useful in the future.
DISTANCE AND COMMUTING
Azmin Azran went to Notre Dame College, making a 4-hour commute every weekday. According to him, “It's acknowledged that Notre Dame is a good college, but you must look at the trade-off between how much time you're spending on the road vs. how much time you're getting to study on your own. In hindsight, I probably should've gone to a decent college closer to home because the commute took all the energy out of me.” Azmin believes that regardless of how good your college teachers are, at the end of the day you have to utilise the lectures and study at home. Unless the college has some special facilities that are important to you, you should consider if it's worth making long commutes for the same education you could've received somewhere closer to home.
In case there are any ECAs that you are very passionate about, make sure that the college of your choice has enough opportunities for you. Exploring the world outside of textbooks is vital for gaining useful experiences, and for foreign university applications. Nazifa Raidah, a first year student at Viqarunnisa Noon College, says, “I could choose a college with a stricter academic system but many colleges don't have a great debate club. I don't think I could sacrifice debate at any cost, so VNC works just fine for me.” If your college encourages competitions and sports, it is definitely a huge plus.
Ramim Ahmed, currently a student at IBA, DU had moved to Dhaka from Chittagong to study at Notre Dame College. “NDC offered the kind of competitive learning environment that I don't think I could find in Chittagong. It wasn't very difficult for me to fit in as I had some of my old friends with me. I love playing football, so I made new friends through the game. My parents also moved here after a while and eventually this city became home,” he says. Susmita Pally, a student of Economics at Jahangirnagar University, reminisces about her school in the small town of Rajbari and the shift to a renowned college in Dhaka: “Our school barely had a building, let alone a beautiful campus complete with greenery and a basketball court and all sorts of scientific equipment. Moving to Dhaka to attend Holy Cross College opened up an entirely new world to me. At Holy Cross, the teachers gave it their all to make sure we not only passed the exams but genuinely learned something. There was healthy competition; college really pushed me to do better. The only thing I had a major problem with was my living arrangements. I was living at a private hostel at first and it was a terrible place, barely even had any electricity. I later moved to a rented flat, which turned out much better.” Big cities can be scary places, so before moving, make sure that you have a safe and secure place to live.
Students who are currently studying in college will only tell you how much they hate it. But one only realises the value of those 1.5 years after it's over. This will be your transition from a school-going child to university-going young adult. So go to an institution that will challenge your abilities and prepare you well for the many terrifying exams of the future. I wish you the best of luck.
Aanila Kishwar Tarannum started hating on everything the moment she realized why her parents put so many As in her name: because they knew her transcript would be devoid of any vowels. Find out about her relentless rants at firstname.lastname@example.org.