What does it mean to you to be in the top 10?
It’s a reflection of all the hard work I’ve done through high school. When we first got our GPAs, it was really nice seeing that it paid off.
What advice do you have for younger students?
Balance your time. I know that seems counterproductive, but if you do too many AP classes you are going to get burnt out. By the time you’re in your senior year and junior year, you will feel incredibly exhausted. Balance your time by doing extracurriculars, but also push yourself by having a more sustainable academic life.
What is something you wish you told your ninth-grade self?
Not stress as much and everything will be OK. I know that when I was in ninth grade, I was super stressed about getting one more point on assignments. In the end, it turned out OK and I didn’t need to do all of that. I feel like I could have enjoyed myself a lot more and felt less stressed.
What is your most memorable part of high school?
I’ve been part of debate for the entirety of high school. In ninth grade and 10th grade, they were in person, but because of COVID-19 they became remote. Being with my team and being able to represent the school at something and having fun in an extracurricular event is memorable.
What are your thoughts on the current education system and the college admissions process?
I think people put too much of a stress on specific AP classes and GPA. I know it’s hard to change an individual’s mindset about it because that’s just how the culture is. There’s too much emphasis on that to the point where people are cheating or becoming so stressed and getting depression and anxiety just because of grades. That’s way too far. I think with the college admissions process, it’s good but it needs to be more holistic. It needs to change; the emphasis on SATs, when they are not really accessible to everyone. One test that costs money to take, not everyone can afford it. Plus the tutoring and things that people go through, not everyone has access to that. I don’t think it’s fair to put such a huge value on something that only people who have a lot of money can do. It needs to change. While it has benefitted me and I’ve done well, I can recognize that it hasn’t benefited a lot of people. I think schooling and education in general needs to become more accessible to people. It makes more sense to look at people’s grades overall. But, it’s not like a simple fix. You still need to be able to quantify a person somehow so that you can compare to other people. But I think a lot more transparency in the process would help.
How have you worked towards this honor?
Having a study plan. Whenever I have a test, I am not like, “oh, I will just study the day before.” I am like “OK, this is what I am going to do this day, this is what I am going to do this day and this is what I am going to do this day,” so that I know exactly what I’m doing. Just having a plan in mind has really helped me become more efficient with my studying.
What are your goals for the future? How do you think your hard work will contribute to that?
I am going to be majoring in finance at UT. I don’t exactly know where I am going to end up, but I just want to do something that I have a passion for. That’s why I chose finance because it is such a versatile field, I can do a lot with it. As for my goals, I just want to have an impact on the world and help people and be happy and make people around me happy.
What is your secret to success?
Putting in the work. It doesn’t really matter if you are naturally smart or not naturally smart, or however you measure that. But if you can put in the work, you will be able to succeed. Some people put in more work than others, but if you are willing to show effort and put in that time that would bring you success.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned?
Cramming your schedule with AP classes is not good for you. Yes, it will give you a GPA boost if you do well in them. I know last year it was online, but I had a lot of AP classes and felt completely burnt out by Thanksgiving break which is way too early in the year to feel burnt out. So I would say don’t do that and make sure you take care of your mental health because that always comes first.
How do you stay motivated?
To be honest, I didn’t. It took a long time to figure out “maybe I shouldn’t be feeling like this. Maybe it’s not right that I’m scrolling through TikTok the entire day instead of actually doing my work.” I had to self reflect for a while. I made sure I scheduled my time and took breaks. Doing that and especially with senior year being a little more relaxed. Now I have been stepping back and taking time for myself so that I can stay motivated.
How much effort did you put into studying after school?
I don’t have a set amount. I do it until I feel comfortable with the material. I am like “you know what, I have an understanding.” At first, that was a problem for me because I would overstudy. I would review all of the quizlets out there and everything. But now I’m like “you know what, I’ve spent a few hours and I know I have a grasp on the material, and I’m confident with it and it’s going to be OK.”
What did your after-school routine look like? The weekends?
Well, there’s not much of a structure. Especially second semester senior year, I haven’t had much work. I like to go home, eat a snack, talk to my family and sometimes I go on the treadmill. Then I sit down and think, “this is what work I have, this is what needs to be done today,” and I just get it done in that order. I will take some breaks and watch a TV show in between. That’s basically what I do, even on the weekends. I try to balance my time so I am doing stuff that I like and enjoy, but also I am not neglecting my academic work.
How were you able to balance academics with extracurriculars and a social life?
It was hard. Sometimes I would say on Fridays and Saturdays, “I want to go hang out with friends.” I like to have my stuff planned out ahead. I am like “OK, I have to go out on this day so I am going to get my work done before that.” Just an insane amount of planning was the only way I can be on top of everything.
Follow Varshitha (@varshitha1128) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.