POV: You had to start the most important and memorable part of your life during a pandemic, online, and after only a month-long summer vacation.
With the cancellation of the May/June CAIE session and the palpable euphoria that came alongside the result, the sudden commencement of A Level was a marvellous way to add to the celebration. All of us had been waiting tirelessly, day and night, to enjoy the burden of mountains worth of assignments and deadlines demanding to be met right in the middle of a Pandemic. After all, who cares about mental wellbeing, right?
“Online Classes bhi tou holidays hee hotein!”
It’s obvious that considering the ominous reputation A-Level has, many enter the campus unprepared, yet well-aware, of the trials and adventures that lie ahead. Taking that as our starting point, we wish to try and guide our future juniors (and remind ourselves and the seniors of our terrible life decisions, jk) to what we believe are some of the most integral aspects of life at A-Level. That, and considering the fact that we have ‘Peer mentoring’ activities upcoming with our juniors, we feel that it is only fitting for TLC to have its own version of an A-Level Survival Guide:
• Choosing subjects best for you:
The first step to your A Level journey is opting your subjects; it is arguably the most integral and daunting task, and rightfully so: the subjects you opt will shape and define your A Level experience so it is key that you find—not necessarily perfect—but the subjects best suited for you. I could ramble on for hours and hours about which combinations to take or about which subjects are relatively easier than others (I see you urdu kids, jk), but what it ultimately comes down to is which subjects you personally find the most compelling (Shocking, ikr. You don’t want to spend two years mad at your parents); you want to enjoy the academic side of your A Level, and not contemplate whether to start coughing before every math class. Also, every senior has made it very clear that it is absolutely dire that you give your SAT in A1. We don’t know how true that is, given ours is in March, but if the A2s are saying it then it must be true, right?
• Extra Curriculars, Societies, and Getting Comfortable:
We get it. A Level is a lot to take in: new subjects, a completely foreign environment, and so many unfamiliar faces. So, our readers with social anxiety, we’ve got your back!
The most fool-proof method that allows you to seamlessly fit in and make new friends, in the shortest amount of time, is taking part in extracurriculars. Not only do your extracurriculars play a significant role in building your resume, it is THE best way to get to know more people and familiarize yourself with the student body. That being said, it is equally important to apply for management positions whenever your school is hosting an event—it will always be worth the anxiety and stress that comes with having to give an interview.
Join societies! Societies are another great way of interacting with the student body, and the A2s. For us, one society in particular (read: MedPub) played an extraordinary part in shaping our A Level experience as it was our only form of communication with the A2s at the beginning of A Level. You might even find yourself a parent there!
• Interact with your Seniors!
This might seem extremely hypocritical coming from us, but believe us when we say: you want to warm up to your seniors (not just online) as soon as possible because your time with them is limited. It’s natural to get intimidated at first, but once you make it past that hurdle, you’ll realise how your relationship with your seniors moulds your life at A Level. Allow me to introduce you to The Parent Phenomenon: Now, if you do happen to find a ‘parent’ at A Level—congrats! You’re one of the lucky ones. Some people (read: my co-author) may, unfortunately, lack the sheer likeability to get ‘adopted’.
But all jokes apart, the Parent Phenomenon is one of the most wholesome things to happen to A Level. You not only find a friend, but a mentor that has been through exactly what you’re going through at that point in time. They will give you advice, tea, help with homework, and will generally take care of you the way a guardian would. However, you may want to steer clear of any discussions regarding whose Parent is the best, even though we all know the answer.
• Choose your company wisely:
If you’re like us and extremely awkward in real life (read: don’t let my co-author tell you otherwise) then interacting with new people will seem next to impossible. Especially if you’re like me who’ll awkwardly cling to his friends for support when an unfamiliar face appears, but, and I cannot emphasise this enough, INTERACT! The first few minutes are more awkward than anything fathomable. You may ask everyone their favourite colour or something of the sort but after that phase is over, the bond that forms between everyone is unbreakable and in some cases, leads to lifelong friendships. Your company might be the most important factor in making or breaking your A level life. If you find your ‘clique’ early on then that is amazing, but if not then no worries, keep trying; there is always someone out there for everyone. Even finding happiness in your own company is admirable and respectable on its own. And hey, if you’re lucky then you might even form your own cult (CCC and BP represent!). Social interaction is inevitable anyway, so it’s better to embrace it than to resist it.
• Take your assignments and assessments seriously:
If by some tragic circumstance you guys find yourself in front of a laptop screen, studying through the power of Zoom, then do not, I repeat, do not be like us and lose the entire concept of self-studying and giving tests, because when schools inevitably do open, you’ll probably want to transfer out when you see the almost never-ending messages on Whatsapp informing you of the next monthly assessments. Even after our threats of rioting, our seniors constantly remind us:
“A1 bachon ka khail hai,” and judging by the dark circles around their eyes that might just be true. Assessments will play a huge role going forward into your (ew) midterm examinations as they will make up 30% of your final grade, so it’s important to nail those dreaded assessments allowing you to go into your exams with a confident mindset.
That being said, if we seem unapproachable on campus then it’s probably because we’re stressing about our never-ending syllabus and not because we hate you, or at least that’s what our A2s tell us. It may seem to them that they haven’t made any impact on our lives but we (okay, me mostly) are already dreading the day they graduate. Obviously, we (okay, just me again) wish that we had spent more time with them and made more memories with them but they have still managed to leave a lasting impression on us and we hope to be as good to you, as they were to us.
On that oddly sentimental note, we hope to see you all on campus in a few months!
Arooj Tiwana & Mustafa Faisal