The RISE Blog

Stories about education. About students. From Kashmir

Success stories: Aqsa Rouf, the girl who defied all odds

This year, our student, Aqsa Rouf, became one of the very few Kashmiris to have secured an admission to B. A. (Hons), Economics course at St. Stephen's, New Delhi. She also bagged the 3rd position in the class 12th JK Board examinations. She had appeared for JEE Mains, and as a result was able to secure admission to NIT Srinagar. Currently she is pursuing Electrical Engineering from NIT Srinagar.

Given her incredible feat, we decided to ask her a few questions about her achievements. We also requested her to share her perspective on the current education scenario in Kashmir, especially for high school students. She also gave some valuable suggestions for class 11/12 students preparing for various examinations.

Q: What, according to you, is the key to success?
A: The sole key to success is hardwork. It is perserverence and determination to achieve something which pushes you and makes you come out with flying colors.
Factors like appropriate guidance and constant encouragement are also very important, but they only matter if you are motivated and willling to work hard.

Q: You were able to secure admission to St. Stephen's. How did that come about?
A: To be honest, neither was I aware of the courses taught at St. Stephen's nor was I well-acquainted with the educational standards pertaining to this institute. It was my mentor, at RISE, Mr. Mubeen Masudi, who introduced to me these institutes and advised me to apply for courses offered there. Since my percentage in the board examinations was very good, I was shortlisted for the aptitude test and, subsequently, the interview.
I spoke to a few students of St. Stephen's through facebook, who advised me to brush up Current Affairs knowledge for the interview. I had no prior experience of personal interviews, so the faculty at RISE scheduled mock interviews for me. This helped me in preparing for the interview in the best possible manner and also developed confidence in me to crack the interview. I was very confident going into the interview, which was primarily due to me being well prepared for it.

Q: What are your suggestions to your juniors who aspire to secure admissions to St. Stephen's or similar institutes of DU?
A: As far as the admission to the institutes of DU is concerned, board percentage is of prime importance. However, if you aspire to study at St. Stephen's, you need to be a bit ahead of the curve. You should have good mental ability to crack the aptitude test. The aptitude test is followed by an interview which aims at testing your basic knowledge and understanding of the society, true aim in life, character as an individual, and more importantly, the potential and desire to achieve something in life.
Ensure that you ask yourself these questions, and frame clear and concise answers to the same. Work a lot on your communication skills
Based on my personal experience, the best way to prepare for an interview is through mock interviews.

Q: Students from Kashmir are not able to secure admissions to prestigious institutes of the country, and perform dismally in competitive examinations like JEE Mains or Adv. From a candidates perspective, what do you think are the primary reasons for the same?
A: The first and the foremost reason is improper planning. While the students from the rest of the country start their preparations immediately after secondary school examination, students in Kashmir are dubious about their goal even after class 12th. The most common and halfwitted decision made by students in class 11th is to opt for PCBM combination of subjects. This results in failure in most of the cases as the minds of students get biased and they ultimately leave their career stream to what exam they qualify. This could primarily be attributed to lack of counselling at an early stage.
The next very crucial factor is lack of proper coaching at higher secondary level. Most of the coaching centres that students join in class 11th aim to cover the syllabus prescribed by JKBOSE and hardly pay heed to the format of questions being asked in the national level competitive examinations.

Q: What steps should school authorities take to ensure that students perform well in competitive examinations?
A: School examinations, currently, revolve around the concept of mugging up and hence contribute nowhere in increasing and sharpening our mental skills, on the contrary, good mental ability is fundamental for cracking competitive examinations like JEE mains and advanced. Students are suddenly introduced to objective pattern questions specifically testing their understanding and application of concepts after class 12th which is quite traumatising for them.
The examinations held in schools need complete transformation in their pattern. They need to shift to a pattern which tests students understanding and application of concepts, instead of simply testing the knowledge

Q: What's your advice to class 11/12 students preparing for JEE?
A: I strongly advise them to focus keenly on their goal, work hard and keep away from all the distractions. They should make it a point to be consistent, revise whatever they are taught in class and practise questions on the topic.
Develop a habit of solving numericals at a fast speed. This can only be achieved by solving as many numericals, difficult and easy, as possible on a daily basis.
If one wants to do do well in JEE Mains and Advanced one has to study sincerely and consitently for 2 years after class 10.

Q: With board examinations just a month away in Kashmir, what things should students keep in their mind so as to ensure a good performance?
A: Proper understanding, detailed study and numerical analysis of each topic proved very fruitful for me in securing high marks in 12th boards. When the board exams are approaching, the best method is to sketch a proper plan and work accordingly. For Science students, I highly recommend to study physics or chemistry for 3/4 of the attributed time and maths for 1/4 of the attributed time, each day during the board examinations preparations.
Schedule time for relaxion as well. Don't schedule more than 16 hours of studying in a single day or isolate yourself from the surrondings; it only leads to more stress.
And most importantly, have faith in yourself, you will do well!

Q: You joined NIT Srinagar. What are your career goals after graduating from NIT Srinagar?
A: I will soon start preparing for the GRE examination so that I am able to apply for Masters in the area of my interest. Hopefully, in near future, I will be pursuing M. S. at one of the finest technical institutes of the world.