Being a part of a society with the thought “an excellent score means a successful life,” the pressure is real, especially now. The perspective is changing gradually about having a degree, but at the same time, basic education doesn’t do any harm. It is natural to assume that students are having a blast with online classes, and now other work to do. But let’s be realistic: it’s much more than watching a lecture. It is about how we manage our thoughts and routine to bring out some bare minimum outcome of it, at least to compensate the fee paid.

In recent events, the perspective of how people live has changed. Seeing so many deaths has created an unknown fear for many. This kind of fear is a first for many young students out there. Before life was all about going to classes, having fun, and possibly thinking about the near future. The main concerns were usually about taking exams, having a date, or maybe managing a part-time job and academics. Now, it is about life, dealing with technology, coping up with loneliness, and try not to be devastated about the death of a loved one or most loved celebrity. Having an experience of uncertainty along with having ample time to ourselves is a huge deal, and it can be stressful.

Exams during the pandemic – mental health

Recent drama on whether or not to conduct the National entrance exams for students in India has shed some light on how different things will be from now on. Despite many objections from parents, more than 90 percent of the registered students could successfully write their exams. The increased stress on students to do their best while being safe (using sanitizers, masks, maintaining social distancing, etc.) can be disturbing.

At Miranda House, the highest annual package this year was ₹18 lakh per annum as compared to ₹20 lakh per annum last year. The average package, however, rose from Rs6 lakh per annum to Rs7.33 lakh per annum.

For two years, these kids were preparing to write an exam, and since the last six months, the chaos has got them confused. Many students, with the potential to score higher, might have faced unexpected challenges. They probably messed up at the last minute. Colleges do understand it and will hopefully accept students next year, too, without making it a big issue. However, the uncertainty left students tensed up about their future.

Working hard for another year can be difficult, especially in fields with high competition, like engineering and medicine. In India, these are the two mainstream fields that students fiercely study to get into top colleges. The pressure from family and society is high, especially on kids who have been studying from school for the same national exam. Besides all this, it wasn’t fun for students to make these exams a political issue without giving a concrete final decision. It wasn’t an easy journey for students too.

The tech transformation

For the ones who previously had access to technology, e-learning can be fun. Others find it is very different. Puns about teachers are all good to laugh at when your life doesn’t seem to depend on it. The feeling of uselessness, increasing anxiety levels, and distracting thoughts are just a few things experienced by students trying to learn online.

The chaos at home

I am preparing for my higher studies, and online classes are so messed up. For once I fix a suitable timing, my distraction levels increase exactly during that time. Then, I take deep breaths to stay focused, and my mother gives me some snacks. Finally, I just decide to get along with the flow by setting short term goals. Somehow I end up feeling sleepy all the time. I keep trying; I keep failing.

Suddenly, I notice my fellow mates preparing for the same exam are far ahead of me in terms of the syllabus. Comparing with others isn’t the best idea, but I can’t help it. There is no denying that negative thoughts have been eating me up. Socializing is one way for many of us to relax and have fun. Though social media fills up a certain gap, adapting to new ways has an impact on the things I do.

Making the most of technology

At first, it seemed really confusing. I did use free courses from before too. I learned many things online. But now, completely relying on gadgets for learning is a first for me. Reading from pdfs, having online notes, learning about different apps that help you study: all were fascinating things to know. At the same time, a lot of my time goes into adapting myself to the website and its features. I felt the need to utilize everything as I paid for it. For those who have enough exposure to technology, e-learning might not seem a big deal. In fact, these are the people who might make the most out of it.

Studying as an adult

This is a huge deal for those trying for a job change. Taking up courses to learn new skills, managing both work and study, and preparing for the future is a difficult schedule to follow. Being an adult and learning online don’t go hand in hand, especially if you have certain responsibilities. Even as a working unmarried person, it is normal for many to support their parents or siblings or sometimes friends. As an adult, the pressure while studying is exceptionally high.

Staying within four walls and doing all of it within the walls is not easy and convenient. It takes real effort, the kind of effort which we haven’t put in before.

The pressure of failing – what is my future?

If it is a situation with pass/fail, it can generally be managed. For others, who have been working hard for government job exams, post-grad exams, and other crucial exams which make a difference in their lives, have fears for their ability to succeed. Not everybody is an excellent student. Being an average learner doesn’t mean you need to adjust to something without giving your full effort.

I myself am in a situation where my progress seems to be messy. It feels crazy to come this far and fail. I keep thinking of the alternate options I have and how to make the best out of my failure. Though I sound like a realist, it might not be a good idea to think about this before I even attempt my exam. Self-criticism can be toxic as well. Only when a friend wrote her college entrance exam did I realize that I might still have a chance. I don’t need to be perfect; I only need to do better than others.

The reality is different

When we have plans for the future, any drastic change where we need to adapt ourselves takes a lot more time than expected. Theoretically, things are simple: study hard, score well. Realistically, it involves physical and mental well being, good conditions in our home/surroundings, and opportunities. In addition to this, it doesn’t come cheap for everyone. The more time one takes to figure out solutions one by one, the more time it takes one to achieve their goals. It is scary to think about uncertainty.

Studying is for everybody – let’s call it learning

Studies aren’t everything. A degree holder doesn’t necessarily mean the most successful. Learning is where all the difference comes. A 30-year-old lady who failed her university exams can still have a successful career if she learns and applies her knowledge through experience effectively. In education, the curriculum is made only to provide basics and not real-life situations. However, our curiosity and efforts lead to a fulfilled life, irrespective of whether you are a student or not.

Why call it pressure when it is out of interest?

As a kid, I enjoyed doing math. It got tough each year; the harder it got, the more curious and hungry to solve more problems I became. The obsession I had for the subject didn’t allow me to feel the pressure of consistently practicing. I worked madly, wasted my time, and went crazy every time I failed to solve a problem. It was a good pleasure that benefited me. I utilized my time effectively and learned from my mistakes.

What you like can be different from what you are good at

A positive attitude does wonders. That doesn’t mean there is no negative aspect of learning at all. There are struggles from outside sources (like family/friends judging you) and inside your own head. The main reason for this would be your history. Having a reputation at being bad at something can stop you from doing what you like. As we grow old, these struggles seem different because our view of the world changes, and we become more conscious of failing. This is okay, but it should never stop one from learning more. As a university student, we need to have lots of energy and time to do multiple activities at once.

We go with the flow when young, but with time we come across things like family, empathy, relationships, connections, etc. which occupy our lives because those matter the most. This never means one should stop learning. There are probably a million new things each day that need to be learned. So, if you are curious, don’t let your ability to learn stop you. Anybody can study anything, despite the pressure.

 “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” – Albert Einstein

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