Discover Studying Abroad

The Person, or the Persona?

When acceptance from others becomes the axis of our lives, panic hits. When the desire to learn, live and explore starts within, excitement drives us.
BY Shibani Chaudhury |   30-04-2019

Student Stress

College applications. Two words that can either strike a panic rush or a flood of excitement in students and parents alike. The deciding factor of which one it will be lies in negotiating the run-up to this time.

Increasingly, families in privileged India are setting themselves up for studying abroad as the only option for their children. While this creates a great flow of aspiration and effort in both students and parents, it  also has the corrosive undertow of anxiety, stress and fear of failure.

Sweet Sixteen is more like Stress Sixteen for thousands of teenagers who find themselves stretched between preparing for, and taking, SATs, ACTs, APs and more, in addition to managing gruelling school curriculums, co-curricular activities, music exams, high intensity sports performances, science competitions, internships — and now the new thing — starting up of social initiatives. Students are programmed to outperform. Each activity is a critical layer that they must add to the resumes being carefully constructed in the battle rooms of highly paid college counsellors. While every action is weighed for its value add-on in an application profile or statement of purpose, the question that becomes crucial is, how deeply are these interests, ideas and aspirations rooted in the student’s own identity?

In the final college applications run-up why this question becomes crucial is because it determines the panic or the excitement; the make or break. Not the make or break of achieving that coveted college acceptance, but the more enduring make or break of that young life.

As these young minds are trained to achieve their top tier college aspirations, their beings get coded to get there. In the frenzy of developing that extraordinary profile, adding the extra high score, polishing the facet that will ‘jump out’ — often their identities get dangerously linked to the pursuit of the aspiration. At a highly vulnerable time in their lives, instead of the space and support required for self reflection, awareness and rootedness, they are crammed into sweat shops where their identities are cut, shaped and trimmed for presentation. Unwittingly, well-meaning parents, teachers and counsellors abet this insidious damaging process ­— where the perfect college app persona replaces the person.

This transition often repeats itself in other aspects of emotional and social identity as well — in love, loss and survival — both in real time and digital spaces. Somewhere between high school and young adulthood the sense of self is overtaken by the importance of being seen. Instead of anchoring themselves in who they are, kids morph themselves in body, mind and spirit to become who others will accept — be it in the eyes of parents, the significant others, social inner rings, or college leagues.

It is when the persona overshadows the person that panic replaces excitement, and the break is more imminent than the make. When acceptance from others becomes the axis of our lives, panic hits. When the desire to learn, live and explore starts within, excitement drives us. Uncertainty is no longer a threat, it is an opportunity. 



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