Originally published on 23rd September, 2014.
”3.94 is just a number. It’s the learning that I really value.”
Last week, more than half the class was without a pen when the lecturer wanted to assign a task. Just as one of my classmates went outside searching for the resources, a surprised voice sarcastically wanted to confirm the presence of the ‘topper’ in the same pool of students. Shaking my head with discontent, I looked at Shristi (the recipient of that sarcasm) and recalled a relateable experience from a year back.
A few weeks into my internship, I was lunching with a senior and he told me how I was totally different from what he initially expected me to be. I was really curious about the change in perception he had. Somewhat funnily, I got to know that my senior had thought of me as a geeky person with no idea of the ‘real market’ and only bookish knowledge. Why? Because I had proudly flaunted my 3.94 GPA status on my CV! Such irony when you think of GPAs being the first basis of filtering a CV. I wouldn’t blame the guy either. It’s a general notion that toppers carry- bookish with no idea of outside world, boring, teacher’s puppets and what not! Whilst many who have come to know me better have realized over time that toppers aren’t always geeks and that the role portrayed by Amir Khan in 3 Idiots does exist in real life, it’s still very frustrating when classmates and others perceive you as a nerd just because you are serious in academics.
However, the truth is that not every topper nails an exam just to score good grades. In fact, most people I know have the amazing ability to balance study-work and social life. I wouldn’t look any further than my best friend Shristi Mishra. A 4.0 student who is the most spontaneously fun loving person you’ll ever come across-you couldn’t tell she has an examination tomorrow. She starts quite late, in fact only opens up her books around 3pm today for a final test tomorrow. As for me I start early and once I finish, go out and relax the whole day before the exam. I’m sure the ones at Ace Institute of Management will have their eyebrows raised already; they won’t quite believe that the ‘topper’ is outside of home, relaxing on the eve of a board exam. This is the image that has been set in these minds and I won’t blame them. After all, it’s a general perception that high scorers will lock themselves up in a room and prepare for a month before unleashing their force in the exam hall on the ‘big day’.
Some other top misconceptions include:
- A topper always maintains his notes during class and makes sure to go through them every evening.
- They build relations with teachers just to be on their good side: a technique that greatly aids high scoring.
- A topper knows every bit of theory taught in class and will never forget because he/she has mastered the art of rote learning.
- A topper does not step out of his/her room or house during exam times and can easily compromise on his/her sleep during exams.
Whilst it’s a general notion to think that every topper is the same and that the above statements are relevant to everyone who scores well in their exams, I’d warn you from being stereotypical. For not everyone studies for grades and still scores well, does not maintain class notes but still knows the art of expressing well in exams.
Now let me make some confessions as a topper.
Don’t forget the existence of ‘Type Y’ toppers.
The Type Ys who try to dig out relevance between what is taught in classrooms and their application in the world outside. Those who seek to ‘learn’ rather than just ‘study’ for grades. These toppers will question authority and won’t hesitate to challenge the status-quo.
Type Ys have interest in ‘learning’ and not just studying and hence grades, scholarship refunds are bonuses. 3.94 is just another number. It’s the learning that we really value. What we get to learn from lecturers, their experiences and stories stays fresh in the mind because there’s a genuine interest to learn from everything and everyone.
Like someone once said, “Every person you meet knows something that you don’t.”
We do have a life too.
Type Ys- we go out, hang out, have fun and some of us, we work too. It’s difficult enough to balance class hours, work and social life. We also have 24 hours in a day. So you can’t expect us to be going straight back home after classes and revising our notes. In fact, I’ve had no note copy for almost two semesters now. No kidding.
Toppers are NOT masters of rote learning.
- Personally, I will never rote learn certain slides just because it’s deemed important for the exams. It should make sense for me to understand it and write it in my own words. If not, I’m leaving out the topic. I’ve done it a lot of times before. Regrets? No. Again, scoring high will come naturally if I understand the topic and link it with real life. The reason why Type Y toppers score better is because they are updated with the latest news, happenings in the world of business and economics through newspapers, articles and journals. Writing from experience gets you a good score too and many toppers score better because they are good writers and are better at expressing their opinions on paper.
We are students, after-all!
We are students after all and have our share of fun. We also make noise in class, bunk the odd classes and get tired of assignments and tests. However, we enjoy the process of learning and that’s why we have had a good share of success in academics. We interact more with lecturers because we have interest in learning beyond classrooms and not because getting on their good side will get us extra marks. It’s OK for us to forget our assignments or in that case, not bring a note or pen to class. Like I said earlier, I’ve not had a note copy for two semesters now (not that I’d endorse the same).
So next time you bump into a ‘topper’, don’t judge them straight away. Give them a chance. Try your luck- ask a few questions. Their level of intellect and perspective might give you the next breakthrough your company needs. Or, if you’re just looking to hang out, ask a topper out. I’m sure it wouldn’t be that bad- they are only human!