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Why I questioned my decision of going to university (even after getting into my dream school) and what I did next

Diploma Programme (DP) graduate of Fountainhead School, Priyanka Tulsiani, shares her journey of self-discovery during her university experience. She shares the importance of finding your own reasons for higher education and the support systems that helped her along the way.

Why I questioned my decision of going to university (even after getting into my dream school) and what I did next

By Priyanka Tulsiani

Stage1: “Should I really go ahead and apply anyway?”

On 15 July 2020, I received an email that mentioned that I had gotten accepted to my dream school,​ Symbiosis School of Economics in Pune, India. Honestly, I did not think I would get in not because of how I had performed on the entrance test and the interview but I underestimated my actual ability and was accepted to a (fairly) competitive school that offered quite a rigorous course for my major.

Until the last day of the application deadline, I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t apply even though I had always secretly dreamed of moving to a different city for university. This​ is​ how much I doubted my ability―I (almost) decided to not even give it a try. After a few very long and frustrating conversations with my elder sibling (who still remains my biggest cheerleader), I ended up submitting the online form and paying the application fee. He made me realize that I was coming from a place of insecurity due to which I was giving up an incredible opportunity, something I would certainly regret later.

On the day of the entrance test, I told myself that I would give it my best shot. Even though it was a non-proctored test, I wanted to get into university on my own merit and not by cheating my way through it. After that came the interview. I was torn between two questions: Should I be 100% myself and answer all questions with utmost honesty or should I give them the (perfect) answers that they have been looking for in candidates? I chose the former and surprisingly, I got in​ !​

Stage 2: Figuring out what was going wrong

“I had actively stopped​ chasing the thrill that came with discovering and learning about new ideas”.

However, soon after I began attending online classes, club meetings, webinars, etc., I realized that I was never 100% present. It was as if I quit learning new things. Now, I wouldn’t say I said no to opportunities (that earlier I would have killed to get), but I had actively stopped​ chasing the thrill that came with discovering and learning about new ideas, experiences and people in general. And the sad part about this was that I attributed my behavior to trying to adjust to the online mode of learning, a concept that was foreign to me before the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic hit us. Without even realizing it, I slowly began to recede into a shell that I called my comfort zone. My instincts and friends both tried to rationalize this behavior―this inadvertently slowed me down.​ The worst part of all this was that I stopped fulfilling the highest and most authentic version of myself; I stopped trying to find my truth and attempt to live it.

Stage 3: Following Dumbledore’s advice―“Help is given to those who ask for it”

Luckily, I noticed these changes and decided to talk to Vardan Kabra (co-founder of Fountainhead School, Surat), someone I genuinely look up to. He was kind enough to invest his time in a 30-minute session where he patiently heard me talk (or rather rant) about all the things that caused confusion and frustration, finally leading up to me questioning my decision of going to university. After speaking with him, I realized I needed to make an action plan that incorporated my academic goals and also personal ones regarding my fitness and overall lifestyle.

I came down to three goals for myself:

Goals Steps that I have been taking
I will attend online classes with the intention of genuinely learning, rather than attending classes just for attendance. I read up the class material or go through the concepts that were taught in the previous class.
I will do some sort of physical exercise for at least 20 minutes every day. I started following the 20/20/20 rule (by Robin Sharma), which is 20 minutes of movement, 20 minutes of reflection and 20 minutes of learning.
I will look for passion projects by approaching organizations that interest me. I approached around three to four organizations I was interested in and am currently in touch with Teach for India for an internship position.

Most days, I would wake up 10 minutes before my first class and just login immediately. Changing my habits and, more importantly, changing my attitude towards learning was important. No one could help me if I did not help myself. I stopped taking things easy. I learned that it is not a bad thing to go hard on yourself, to push yourself to a point where you thought you cannot take it any further than beyond that.

Stage 4: What next?!

The purpose of penning this down was to not only share my journey with others but also to articulate my feelings and dig deeper into my willingness to ask uncomfortable questions. I’m looking to learn what my​ reasons​ for going to university are, apart from getting a fancy degree and taking a bunch of extra-curricular activities on my plate at best.

This is no movie where I happily walk into the sunset or end up making a monumental decision of stepping out of university. This is my real life where I make small (yet cardinal) changes that have led to (somewhat) substantial results. I believe this is the first (baby) step to discovering the person I am.

Here is a comprehensive list of all things I did during this time of abysmal confusion:

  • Sat down and penned down my thoughts (no, just thinking about it is not enough, journaling is key).
  • Took reading seriously    
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • That will NEVER work by Marc Bandolph
    • Digital Minimalism by Carl Newport
    • The 5 am Club by Robin Sharma
  • Reached out to people who could help

Final stage: A lot of love and gratitude

I feel the endearing mix of challenge and support people laid out for me has been nothing short of overwhelming and inspiring.

Starting with Vardan​ sir​, the person who helped me unleash my ardent desire to do more and be more. It all started with you, this journey goes back to when I joined Fountainhead. So, if you’re reading this, thank you so much.

Mekin Maheshwari (ex-COO of Flipkart and founder of Udhyam​​), who almost refused​ to​ offer me an internship because he felt like I had, “easy access”, to him, in turn challenging me to embark on this journey alone as I independently looked for internships and passion projects. ​

My elder sibling, Dhairya, who served as a reminder that it is okay to feel confused and lost. Ironic, because he is the most ambitious 20-year-old I have had the pleasure of knowing.

Last but not the least, the boy who never ceases to amaze me. Hitarth Kheni, I can never thank you enough for continually inspiring me to be my own person and for making me believe that I am good enough—for that internship position, that university, that college club, everything.

Rather than coming from a place of judgment, they cared, they loved, they guided. I feel indebted and grateful to them for making me feel supported while I continued my quest for answers, in extension to the person that I truly am.

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Priyanka Tulsiani is an IB graduate and is currently pursuing BSc economics at Symbiosis School of Economics in Pune, India. She identifies herself as a passionate economist in the making, an obstinate feminist and a lifelong learner. When she’s not engaging in meaningful discussions about the power of education, you will find her curling up in the corner with a self-help book and her favorite teppan soba noodles. Also, she prefers staying low-key so the only social media you will find her on is LinkedIn.

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