Some years’ back, if someone would have asked me what are your plans after passing class 12, I would have said taking admission in some college around my native place. Like many boys in my village, we don’t have big dreams. After passing class 10, I took humanities and studied sociology. The subject made me question many biases prevailing in society like caste, gender. I started reading more on the cultures of other countries, especially the United States. From the same year, I thought of pursuing sociology in my undergraduate in a culturally diverse and vibrant environment.
My teachers in the school told us how one can apply for a scholarship and study in the most prestigious universities in the world. I read about it on the internet and took help of my teachers’ in filling Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) form. While in class 12, I secured admission in Washington and Lee University, Virginia, US on full financial aid. I will pursue my undergraduate studies in sociology. I will also be the first one in my family to sit in an aeroplane.
The source of inspiration to pursue sociology comes from the quest to understand the society to which I belong. My village Niyamatpur — roughly translated in English means land of blessing — is a remote and drought-hit district of Jalaun in Uttar Pradesh. Though the village is economically backward and has suffered many droughts, the larger issue here is of gender discrimination. Girls are not given equal education opportunities. They are forced to marry at a younger age. Their fate is decided by the men of their family.
My father, a school teacher always told me and my sister that hard work and dedication is the key to success. Many times, he failed to answer our questions on patriarchy and casteism. I felt we need to bring a change and only education can do that.
Therefore, I took up sociology for an in-depth understanding of society. I also want to learn about other cultures of other countries. Studying this subject from Washington and Lee (the US) will not only help me learn about their societies but also have a different perspective on our society.
I read about how one can apply in the US varsities on various websites. The admissions are based on several criteria. It requires a good SAT/ACT score, sound academic performance, a record of extracurricular activities, community service and leadership. Firstly, I appeared for the SAT, which basically tests a student’s ability in mathematics and English. The test has four sections: reading, writing and language. The fourth section – mathematics further has two parts — math without a calculator and math with a calculator.
In my understanding of the exam, the reading section checks candidates’ ability to comprehend the text in a limited span of time. The writing section is about grammar. The math section includes algebra, arithmetic, geometry and some trigonometry questions. What I understood from my preparation was to read a lot. It enhances the ability to comprehend. One must attempt as many sample papers as one can to obtain a good SAT score.
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Many colleges require students to take the TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language). It tests students’ ability to communicate in English. It has four sections: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Students should take the official sample tests. Instead of TOEFL, many colleges accept IELTS and GRE score as well as the English-proficiency test.
Apart from studies, every student who aspires to study abroad should have a good resume which reflects their participation in co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Community service works and activities which can display leadership skills can make a resume stronger. In my case, I participated in various activities during my school and took responsibility in the school council which represents the student body.
I also did a project to spread awareness regarding voting in my village. I also organised a rally in the nearby village to spread awareness about the ill-effects of stubble burning and providing alternate solutions to it such as ploughing the remaining harvest back or using it even as bedding material for the cattle. These things worked in my favour and built a strong profile.
Most colleges in the US have a need-blind admissions process. It means that the financial requirements of a candidate are not considered while assessing the application. Applicants who need financial aid must complete the CSS profile. Applicants must provide certification of their income and wealth. Students whose parents earn less than $2000 annually are applicable for the full financial aid. Income certificate of the guardian is also needed.
I completed the entire process by November 2018. Then I began preparing for my boards. My joy knew no bounds when I received the offer of admission on December 14, 2018 – coincidentally my date of birth. My parents were anxious and hesitant about sending me abroad. But I assured them that many Indian students study there and I can communicate well in English.
I am very excited about the opportunity. At the same time, I am also ready to face the challenges that will come in my way. I hope to do my best to learn about new cultures and experience new things. I hope when I will come back to my country, I will be able to bring a unique outlook and make significant inroads into creating a more equitable and just social order.
— Vivek Kumar is a student of Vidyagyan school.
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