Charu Vaid (SCMP with Alberta Health Services, Canada)

Opportunities Galore!

Grade 12, 10 + 2, high school, or whatever else it may get called, is an important, and humongous milestone in an individual’s life. It is a joyous juncture, and that of exploring new opportunities on various levels. It is also a time of experiencing a mixed bag of emotions. One is happy to the point of exhilaration, a moment of rapture; as if one has been holding one’s breathe for the longest time. An apnea notion of sorts, as one is so deeply engrossed in making it to the finish line — the finale — that one, figuratively speaking, has even forgotten to perform the oh so mundane respiratory function. On the flip side, there is contemplation of moving on; the myriad thoughts of leaving so many bonds behind; the palpable tug at the heart strings, which holds the promise to undoubtedly make a rebound in the form of nostalgia.

Many have decided by now, as to what academic and career path they want to pursue. There are some though, who are either undecided, not very motivated, or just plain and terribly confused. Also, associated with all of this is parental, peer, and societal pressure. The pressure to perform, excel, succeed, and get on the right life trajectory of being able to achieve goals, and live dreams, of others, and one’s own.

In reality, it is true, that the world is essentially your oyster, which entails that you can avail of all the opportunities that life has to offer.

When I graduated from high school in the early 1990, there were very limited, and local academic avenues that one could explore and pursue. In today’s day and age, however, the world is an open arena, full of a multitude of opportunities, ranging from digital media development and the culinary arts, to nanotechnology and space exploration. And the possibility of these opportunities is not limited by localized availability. The Internet has made it possible for many programs to be available online; to be, quite literally, available at the tips of your fingers. Even in exploring the more traditional modes of education delivery, a wide spectrum of opportunities is available in India, and in countries across the world. There are several current, and live examples of that, from Shimla itself, where individuals have pursued what their heart desired, and excelled in the field, by not only holding lucrative positions in multinational corporations, but also by attaining celebrity status. That is of immense significance, as it clearly indicates that anything a person sets his or her heart to, can be easily achieved. High schoolers, and those who have just graduated from high school, should be able to draw inspiration from such examples, and fire up the engines of the vehicle of their dreams.

So far, we have taken a very generalized, and motivational view of the possibilities after higher secondary education. Let us look at all the various permutations and combinations of options, at a more granular level.

Exploring Options

In discussion, and in consensus with their parents, many have looked at, and decided on whether they want to pursue their post-secondary education in India, or in another country where better, and more refined options may possibly be available.

A lot of the students have also already made up their mind regarding which academic field they want to pursue about the time they enter high school. It is interesting to note, that even in these broad areas and categories of study, there are many specializations and options available. For example, in the field of medicine, one can opt for Allopathic medicine, or several alternative medicine fields, like Ayurveda and Homeopathy.

Across Borders and Waters

Let us first look at options and opportunities available in countries other than India. When this option is being explored, it is of paramount importance to keep the financial implications in mind. Pursuing post-secondary education abroad can be an expensive proposition. Regardless, once an individual has decided the area of academics to be pursued, there are several ways to ensure sufficient financial support.

In this ever-changing world, it is also important to look at the political scenario in the country of prospective higher education. Case in point, in the very volatile and uncertain United States of America, currently, the future of many people is hanging in limbo due to changes in immigration policies and procedures. Under such circumstances, the risk of uncertainty increases. It is then advisable to explore higher education in countries that can provide some level of certainty, so the time, effort, and money potentially seeking investment, is not in vain.

Based on the grades achieved in grade twelve, one can explore several options in the many fields in universities, many of which are centers of excellence for the said fields. Each program and university combination will have a different financial implication. Once it is clear as to what kind of monetary investment is required, there are several grants and scholarships that foreign students can avail of. Such financial aid is sometimes so extensive, that the out-of-pocket expense is either negligible, or nothing at all. The major up-side of enrolling in any of the universities in countries outside of India is that individuals can actually be instrumental in evolving and shaping their academic careers, based on what they desire to learn as they progress. Unlike many of the programs available in India, the courses at the Bachelor / under-graduate level are not restrictive, and are immensely helpful in ensuring that students are participative, and instrumental in shaping their final profile. In the formative semesters, the courses can be chosen to be a fair mix of science, humanities, and business. This allows room for individuals to evolve, and leverage their strengths.

In many universities, the option of having a mix of study programs, and professional internships in the specific field of study, are also available. This option allows the individual to gain workplace experience at a very rudimentary stage of their post-secondary education.

At Home

Within India, there are several highly economical options available for post-secondary education, which, given the proper guidance by mentors and choice by students, can entail a potentially successful and lucrative career.

There are several benefits of pursuing graduate level programs in India. First off, one is well averse with the cultural and socio-economic fabric. Mentors and peers are aware of the number of viable options in various fields, and how to go about getting into them. The social support systems are much stronger in India than anywhere else in the world. All these make attendance of graduation programs within India a highly attractive proposition, which is not a bad thing at all, as India is home to some world class institutions in many arenas.

There are post-secondary options available with or without entrance exams, from engineering, to statistics, to armed forces.

Specifically, for engineering and medical fields, there are national level, and then state level entrance exams. Admission to any institution is purely on the basis of merit, and the level of competition is extremely high.

Some of the better-known entrance exams to get into engineering colleges of good repute include the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE), for admission primarily into the various campuses of the Indian Institutes of Technology; and the BITSAT, for admission in to the various campuses of Birla Institutes of Technology and Science, each of which are sprinkled across many cities in India. Students from these institutions, once they successfully complete the program, end up being picked up by Fortune 500 companies.

Then there are state level entrance exams for admission into National Institutes of Technology, which are also institutions of high repute, and have produced and pollinated engineering professionals in several companies within India, and across the globe.

Similarly, there are national level entrance exams for admission into medical schools, exemplary out of which are All India Pre-Medical / Pre-Dental Test (AIPMT), and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) entrance exam. As is for engineering, for the field of medicine as well, there are state level entrance exams.

Most of the other entrance exams for statistics, or to attain admission in the National Defense Academy, are National level exams.

Such National level exams are also available for admission into law schools via the Law School Admission Test (LSAT); fashion technology via the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) entrance exam; and design via the National School of Design (NID) entrance exam.

It is important to state that all these institutions are of great repute, and have produced some world renowned and famous professionals.

There are also a myriad of options available for vocational programs that train students in several skills, which are not necessarily taught at school, but form very important parts of several industries. These include, but are not limited to, Information Technology, Beauty / Aesthetics, Photography, Garment Design, and Catering.

All states also have degree colleges, that provide undergraduate programs in several subjects, ranging from basic sciences, to major programs such as English Honors, Economics Honors, Zoology Honors, and Geography honors, just to name a few. Admission to such colleges is generally based on the mark achieved in grade 12.

You Decide

The academic options after high school are endless. It is for the individual to decide and pursue what the best fit is for them. With that, I bid all the readers all the very best in all their endeavors, especially those who have just graduated from high school, and are on the threshold of the exciting opportunities that lie ahead of them.

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