What should be STRESSED in secondary school...

"You need to ace your exams and in the same time pile up as many certificates as you can." This used to be a statement usually emphasized when I was in secondary school and that's what I practically did. So, what's the hiccup (problem) here? Well, if you're going for an interview or a selection process for a really great place (an Ivy League University for instance) then there's the problem. Let's get into the details.

     This is a challenge that is directly related to me. I am currently studying with a Public Service Department (JPA) scholarship, in preparation for study in the United States in Computer Science. In relation to that, I am going to go through an application process to Ivy League Standard Universities (please wish me luck!). This requires me to submit a full spec of details - academics, co-curricular, and the like. The part which I am very concerned of is the Co-Curricular (besides the Entrance Essay..and that's a different topic).

     When reviewing an application, the admissions officers of these universities want to find a holistic idea of oneself and they have to filter out a number of super lucky students from a batch of 30000+ applications. One of the things that make a big difference in applicants is the co-curricular part. In reviewing ones co-curricular participation, these officers search for 4 things:
Passion - showing interest in participation
Initiative - showing effort in participation
Intellectual Curiosity - the spirit of learning new things
Individuality - being own self.
These are the qualities that are needed and what most students lack of (this is mostly an assumption based on experience).

     If you read the first sentence of this article, you can see what I mean. My mistake was that I somehow participated in some things with the certificates as the main goal while what's most important was passion. Nevertheless, I thankfully had my own principle of "liking what you do and doing what you like" which paved my way to the numerous scouts activities and my wholehearted commitment to the school resource center (simply called librarian) in school. Unfortunately enough, I didn't participate much in sports besides being a runner (not that good too) in the Sports Days at school. Then again, there were others much more unfortunate.

     Some students were reluctant in participating in activities that required a lot of work, a lot of commitment and a lot of time. In short, a bit lazy. They believed that there was no point in doing so. Some others participated in a lot of stuff but they were not focused. For example, going for different clubs every year or becoming the head of a society without doing anything. This is going to be a challenge because admissions officers want to see how much passion you had for the clubs or activities. Did you do anything significant or big in the society? Did you try to learn as much as you can? What made you different in the group? All of these questions should be answered well enough.

     Getting back to the topic, in school nowadays, participation in co-curricular activities has been widely encouraged. That's great! Then, they say, the more certificates you have, the better you are. This is in most cases not true. The main thing here is that quality wins over quantity. It's what we do rather than what we're in. A president of the Photography club with project management experience is much better than a member of the Mathematics club, English club, History club, and Culture club. Schools should be stressing on the commitment and passion of a student rather than having them get "papers with writing" only. Students should be aware that the experience they have can be crucial to their resume and henceforth, their application to universities.

     Besides that, another unfortunate batch of students are the "study only" ones. This is a trait that's mostly planted in by some parents and teachers. I've always held on to the perspective that life is not all about exams (though they do determine some part of our future). These students maybe do not realize that their chances to their dream college can get slimmer as they will have a hard time proving to the admissions officers of their significance and well-rounded aptitude as they only scored exams; believe me, anyone can really do that. Taking on sports and societies or participating in competitions shows that you've committed yourself to something worthwhile and you've challenged yourself to a certain level. With that, it makes you a whole lot better and different from the average straight A's student (but it still doesn't mean you can forget about those A's).

     Basically, students don't give a care about this issue because they don't realize what lies ahead of them, what they actually need to have in the future and the reasons behind the difficulties that they should face. Therefore, the responsibility of letting these prospective candidates of universities and careers be aware of these things should be taken by schools, secondary schools. I have to say that even I didn't know anything in detail about Ivy Leagues, overseas studies application, the importance of my interests, and lots of stuff! The main objective was to get straight A's for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and get going from there, which proved to be very challenging.

     In conclusion, being a student is not just about passing exams (isn't it ironic of me saying this as I blog about study?haha) or even just playing around in jerseys. It's about building a holistic, well-rounded true self. To be a successful person in academics and co-curricular, and later on in career and life. And..getting into that university..


  1. assalamualaikum....

    hey, i like your writing.... and absolutely, i am agree with that....
    some students just think about the examinations without thinking the other important parts instead of exams. well, here, can you share with us your past interviewed experienced? somehow, students are not really exposed about interviewed especially in applying something maybe, like you. can you?

    thank you and hats off to you and good luck!!!

  2. Waalaikumussalam!

    Alhamdulillah. Thanks! Really appreciate it. I have planned to write about my past JPA interview. I'll be sure to post as soon as I can.

    It's pleasure to type! Thanks! ^_^