The teenage era in a student's life is a whirlwind of complex questions that serve as hours of procrastination on end, defining our responses to certain situations and subconsciously shaping our personality.

Life shifts gears when the transition into our O’Levels or Matriculation, which serve as the 2-3 years preparing us for the future, where the fear of life truly sets in. However, it needs to be said that although these years may surely seem like the penultimate era of the life of the student going through the motions, life throws multiple chances of redemption our way; one just needs to be prepared for when the moment strikes.

One’s O’Level or Matriculation journey births questions about the future aspirations, majors to study, universities to get into, and generally the path one wishes to lead in life, and although these may seem a tad far-fetched in the eyes of a 15-16-year-old, preparing well in time and adjusting oneself accordingly goes a long way to help make dreams a reality.

Venturing beyond convention

The Pakistani educational ecosphere, although constantly evolving, does posit a series of opportunities that can be availed to help students polish their portfolios and make the most of their early years to help them to the brim when it matters.

Being a country of brilliant minds with our youth serving as our pride, we have no shortage of seasoned individuals who yearn to go beyond the traditional curriculums and become disrupters. Which warrants the need to be averse to boxing oneself into general societal norms. Venture beyond and explore what it is out there that truly excites one to the point it serves as a constant dose of endorphins. For most educational institutions, students have the opportunities to study and experiment with new subjects which they can choose to be tested on to have added to their portfolios. While it is no doubt that the bare minimum requirements for completion of this stage require a decent amount of effort and dedication, the passion for going beyond and experimenting is what helps differentiates hustlers from the herd. Although choosing such risks is in no way necessary or a true indicator of one's hustle, inculcating these pressure-handling abilities at early ages, surely serves to one's advantage in the longer-run and is also something that is appreciated by top universities in Pakistan and across the globe as well.

Hence, exploring beyond the usual is a key way that can assist and aid in the polishing of one's portfolio, not just complementing one's abilities, but helping instill a hard-working acumen and mindset which solidifies when dealing with the challenges life throws one way.

Developing strong extra-curriculars

Another key avenue that a huge chunk of students tends to overlook is extra-curricular activities, which refer to all of the activities one indulges in outside the classroom. These can range from sports, competitions, debating, community service, or even starting one's own initiative in any field they find purposeful. The Pakistani ecosphere presents countless opportunities that students can indulge in and staying true to the essence of indulgence, this can revolve around anything that excites an individual and serves as a source of joy. These activities are integral to shaping an individual's holistic persona, as excelling academically, although commendable, remains somewhat one-dimensional. Like any delicious dish requires different sets of ingredients to make it appealing and mouth-watering, these additional traits help shape one's portfolio, adding uniqueness to one's personality and making them more desirable to the different sets of people that they come across in life.

The best part about this ingredient is that it can be anything one can imagine. From being an avid debater, and being a skilled sportsperson to having one's entrepreneurial venture, something ‘extra’ sets you apart from the rest and serves as a source of relatability when engaging with like-minded individuals. As of late, students across Pakistan are breaking any stereotypes that may have existed by doing anything imaginable, from being published authors to having their own thriving businesses; the sky is the limit. The most important element of this accolade is originality to one's identity, students tend to jump on preconceived bandwagons by doing activities that they think would make them desirable, ignoring whether it is something that truly excites them. It is absolutely pertinent to use this opportunity to discover one’s own unique element, something that excites them. Thinking about the projections of their interests kills the purpose of this time because undoubtedly, everyone will surely find like-minded individuals who shall treat their interest with the respect it warrants.

Attaining Soft-Skills

Another important feat to conquer or at least venture into is the development of soft skills. These refer to personal attributes that one personifies, which help them interact with the world. Imagine any commendable movie you have watched and enjoyed; everything in the execution could have been second to none, but if the communicational element and story-telling were not aptly worked on and perfected, you would not have been able to enjoy that movie.

Similarly, you can have lists of accolades and achievements in your portfolio. Still, if you cannot communicate them aptly, your value will not be communicated properly, underrating your abilities and your hard work.

As was the case with extra-curriculars, soft skills are also not uniform across the masses and vary from person to person. It is equally important here to understand that one must not dedicate their time to emulating the qualities of others or what they believe would be deemed desirable, but rather explore their own strengths, capitalizing on them and working towards perfecting them. Figuring out your set of strengths warrants self-reflection and feedback. One must critically analyze the areas they are proficient in and delve into discourse about them with people who have your best intentions at heart, discussing how they feel about that trait of yours and how they believe you may work on perfecting it further.

However, being able to exhibit certain traits in front of your loved ones does not tick all the boxes, as you shall come across countless new people throughout your life, and it is integral for you to be able to interact with them comfortably, banking on your strengths. To prepare yourself for this endeavor, one must venture out of one's comfort zone, and interact with new peers, professionals and new people you come across daily. This surely may seem daunting at first, however with time, it becomes second nature to you, making you an individual people enjoy interacting with. This shall be extremely helpful in the long run as approachability, and a strong grip on communication automatically makes you more desirable and primed for amazing opportunities.

Moreover, based on your strengths, you can do multiple exercises to solidify your skillset, such as writing, leading a team, or even exploring courses online. The only thing to remember is to be true to oneself, and perfect avenues one truly is unique and talented in; the rest shall automatically fall into place.

Lastly, ENJOY!

These are just some of the ways a student can make the most of this reformative time of their lives, preparing themselves for future endeavors. However, all of this effort shall remain futile if it isn’t memorable and enjoyable. Hence, it is important to undertake all these ventures not only for the sake of doing them but to enjoy them because regardless of how unbelievable it may seem, memories outlive any accolade or achievement you attain in life, so balancing out productivity with pleasure is the epitome of success and both need to be given their due importance to make life truly cherishable.

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