I sat for admission tests back in 2014, and things were no easier for me than they have been for you in 2017. Everyone told me to study engineering or medicine. Some told me to study business. Some advised me to study abroad. No matter where I went, there would be 50 relatives ready to smother me with advice on how I should live my life. But all I could do was spend sleepless nights, bloated with caffeine and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
University admission tests in our country are like battlefields. This arduous process leaves you questioning everything. You find yourself wondering whether all this was actually worth it.
If you cannot relate to the aforesaid statements, then kudos to you. You're one of those rare specimens who have got life all figured out. Not belonging to this rare species, I was presented with a rather unprecedented conundrum that surely a lot of other students are facing right now. This conundrum presents itself in two forms—a sweet dilemma where you get into all the elite universities of the country and have to choose one, or the less pleasant one where you don't get in where you wholeheartedly wanted to and need to pick a field which is still pretty good but not your first choice.
This decision seems easy enough: go for whatever you had planned before sitting for the tests. But that's exactly where the problem stems from. Very few things in life go according to plan, and even more so in a society where we are riddled with preconceived notions on education. We learn that science is good, arts and humanities are bad. We confine ourselves in a way that we are either ill-informed or misinformed about what culminates from the degrees.
I had never considered pursuing anything other than science, but a lot of things changed while prepping for engineering schools. I realised that it wasn't what I wanted and that made all the difference. I decided to enrol in a business school instead, which turned out really well for me considering my personal growth.
The key is to be self-aware. You need to assess yourself before you can make a concrete decision. There are three important things you need to keep in mind: your personality type, interests and your competencies. For example, I had my epiphanic moment when I realised I was decent with numbers but not good enough. In order to well in engineering, I would have to put in many extra hours just to produce a half-decent result. So I decided to go to a good business school which would allow me to work with numbers in a moderate dose, but would also leave me with enough time to explore ECAs.
Ask yourself what truly interests you and what your long-term goals are. Subjects like medicine and law demand heavy reading hours and real. The key to success in these fields is perseverance and slave labour—if you don't want to put in that effort, then you'll get frustrated by the pressure. The same goes for subjects like CSE, as writing codes relentlessly can get very tedious. If you are someone who is more career-oriented you could pick one of the business departments. On the contrary, if you think less objectively and want to research, you can go for either science or humanities depending on your area of interest. However, if you are still unsure of yourself, the best option is to enrol in universities which allow you to pick and choose different subjects and let you dip your toe in. Public universities chain you down with pre-selected subjects so enrolling in private universities or applying for scholarships abroad is the wiser option.
The secret to academic excellence is not where you get in; it is defined by your conviction. If you take an active interest in the field you choose and commit to it, you don't have to get accepted in the top public universities. It all comes down to what you make of your opportunities. So my advice: stop looking for which is the best department; instead study what interests you and it will bring out the best in you.
Onish is a junior at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka.