My name is not Joe. To anyone who reads this, this is actually a list of mistakes I made while preparing for JEE. Then why do you care? (Unless you’re a student currently preparing for the same). Honestly, these mistakes aren’t all academic. I don’t mean to preach, or proclaim that I know a lot of stuff, because I don’t. The given statements are merely opinions and not facts or anything that you should take too seriously; after all when it comes to educational qualification, I hold nothing more than a humble passing certificate from my state’s higher secondary board.
So along with a couple of million batch mates, I too took the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) for undergraduate courses to the IITs and other national engineering institutes, earlier this year. Although my result wasn’t exactly life altering, the preparation process was. To be honest, my performance was not terrible, but not astoundingly good either (the only category that is smoothly assured of a great spot). And here’s the deal, throughout preparation, I searched very often for guidance on what to do, which, is very often given by people who excelled at this stream. Though frankly, I wish I had some insight on what not to do. But in a world with no place for mediocrity, I feel like an “average Joe” might be the best guide (okay not the best, never the best) to what not to do on an impossible looking endeavour.
- Don’t underestimate yourself : I entered this stream knowing that there were tonnes of people better than me in this. Honestly, it would be stupid to enter anything assuming you’re the best. But don’t let that turn into persistent self doubt. I clamped my thoughts and possibly hidden potential (mostly nonexistent) with the thoughts that there was no way I could be one of the best. What I learnt consequentially was that there’s no way you’re going to be able to aim higher if you yourself put a cap on your growth and decide something is unattainable.
- Don’t overthink : As a habitual over thinker, I’ve done everything including imagining apocalyptic scenarios in my head or self triggering mental breakdowns and imagining the worst possible scenarios, in the middle of exam papers. Sounds nuts, but it happened. I learnt, that for best results, don’t of think how the cake will look or taste while baking it. That’ll end up distracting you unnecessarily, leading to errors, like inaccurately measured ingredients, inefficient stirring or overheating. If you waste that time, dreaming about the finale and not focus on the task at hand, your end product will be a gooey puddle, that hardly qualifies as a cake ( almost as much as I qualified for the IIT rank lists.)
- Don’t jump to conclusion: On the exam day, your strong chapters might betray you and the weaker ones might save the day. Nailing a weekly test on a strong chapter is one thing, the bigger picture is another. Basically, don’t classify tasks as too hard or as too easy, very quickly and develop a biased opinion too soon. I learnt that paying attention to both your strengths, and your weaknesses, is what truly pays off.
- Don’t mess up the isolation balance: When you need it, don’t shy away from isolating yourself; maybe to work and grow, or to get clarity on impending decisions. But don’t overdo it. At the same time, get it when you need it. There’s no perfect formula, but when your mind calls for it, go into your shell. And when your heart calls for an escape, get the hell out of it.
- Don’t pre-plan an elaborate backup plan: You dream of successfully executing Plan A, with realistic back up Plan B, and actually end up straddling between Plan C and Plan D. Why? One of the reasons is simply because Plan C and Plan D existed. Don’t weave out an elaborate network of backup plans. A lot of time and effort could go into that itself. One sturdy, reliable one should be great. Remember back up plans arise when you don’t find yourself in the most preferred position. The emergency exit is sufficient for emergency landings but is nothing compared to the main exit. While building your plane, make sure you include it, but don’t devote more time and resources to it than making the main exit. My point is, during preparation, don’t spend too much time thinking about your backup stream or college. I learnt that while a back up is definitely needed, the more comfortable that backup begins to appear, the more likely you are to give up the effort required to execute your Plan A, even before the need to settle for Plan B arises.
- Don’t get intimidated by big numbers: If your are busy analysing the number of people competing, the cut off trends or the sheer lack of good seats, stop right now. It is better put these numismatic talents and appetite for research into productive work. Not just in this context, but in any field. We live in a world of 7 billion people and infinite competitive capacity. In literally any stream , there are around a million people, if not more, trying to pursue their dreams, be it struggling actors, writers, cartoonists, retail store owners and so on. The difference is maybe just that no coaching institute will print a badly clicked image of theirs in the papers.
- Don’t get mad: Okay this one is actually hard. When you feel like you’re going through a rough phase, suddenly everyone turns into insufferable pricks. Right from newspapers with pictures of inanimate toppers, to relatives who scarcely bother to ask if you need help during a mental breakdown questioning your result. Especially your supremely arrogant distant cousin who has gotten everyone bragging about his neat NEET (the medicine entrance) score. This guy is as old as you, and when you guys were eight you could read Harry Potter, while he was barely a literate human. And now, when his parents talk all day about how he’s already started studying Grey’ s Anatomy, all you want to do is pick up the nearest knife and teach him anatomy with his own insides. But hey, you can’t do that; it’s not his fault. He probably knew his textbooks from cover to cover; while the only book you know that well is still…um….well….Harry Potter. Try your best not to lose your cool, especially during the ever agonizing result period, or even during the process. It’s the most damaging source of energy and strength drain that you can inflict on yourself.
Trying not to be excessively optimistic, I now look forward to college, armed with a little more self generated philosophy and perspective than knowledge of physics, chemistry and maths. And maybe a dash of hope that on the next four years, I won’t come out a “Joe”.
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