Monday, November 25, 2013

Open Letter to SPM 2013 Students

An Open Letter to SPM 2013 students.

As you guys may or may not realized, the end of SPM examination means that school is finally over. A new fresh wings are bestowed upon you as you can finally take those precious steps into the outside world. 11 years of incubation and preparation in school are all for these steps. As you step outside your school’s compound for the last time, be it physical or hypothetically, this question may come across your mind, “Now what?”
Many of you guys may think, “Hey, I’m free. Now I can relax and enjoy my 6 months plus break.” Yes, you are correct. Do take a break. SPM examination is a pain but remember, your break is not definite. These months leading up to your SPM results and your enrollment to the next stage of education (Assuming you are taking this step) is arguably the most important time of your early adulthood. Six months is such a long time; there are much that can be done. I’m here to guide you throughout this six months and hopefully it will be a help towards you.

What do I need to do?
1.      Character Building
Sure, take a break for two or three weeks or so, then start get cracking. One thing that you really want to tackle upon is character. Without doubt, character is one of the biggest determinants of life. Look around and observe successful people around you. Their skills aside, all of them has some sort of strong character which enables them to climb the ladder of success. Character traits such as integrity, responsibility, dedication, discipline and perseverance play a huge role be it in college or in life itself. So, build them NOW. The time between post-SPM and SPM results is a great time to do this because you have no pressure from school or homework or assignment. This is your ‘ME TIME’ so, proceed smartly. Read self-help books. Read biographies of successful people. Join a volunteering club. Join and fight for a cause. Participate in seminars. Start a personal or group project. Build up those characters now and you will see the results in the future. In my personal observation, my friends who took up volunteering and start up a video project about Islamic dakwah has a strong character and better start to his college life than my friend who merely works part time for six months. Don’t get me wrong, I am not wrong part time jobs are useless but it is highly dependable on your goal of taking up that job. If it is solely monetary, then chances are, you will not invest much into building up your character via the part time job.

2.      Skill Building
Aside from character, another important thing to work on during your long break is your skill array. It compliments a strong character and it is more concrete and easily seen by scholarship scouts and employers in the future. Skills can go from something menial like cooking, sewing, household chores to something complex like computer programming and website designing. Whatever it is, if the skill is beneficial, take it up and learn it. Heck, it might even be something you are happened to be interested in like photography or singing. Nowadays, to learn a skill is fairly easy with the advent of technology. Wikihow and Google can provide readily-available steps and methods in learning a new skills. Youtube also has a wide array of ‘How-To’s video to guide you in learning a skill. Not only by learning a skill you will get a cool skill into your life, it helps into building your character too. For example, learning how to play a guitar requires patience and perseverance as you repeating boring scales and chords over and over again to get it right. This builds up those character traits indirectly as you get better at it. And also, having skill sets is important for socializing too!
PS: Learn the skills to learn faster and efficiently like mind-mapping, holistic thinking, lateral thinking. It helps your college academic work A LOT.

3.      Networking
Social media is a big thing nowadays but to have only a huge quantity of friends does not and will not help you in the future. Quality relationships, be it professional or personal, are a way to go. A relationship network that is not too big nor too small is one of the key to a fulfilling life. To start building up that network starts now. Go to social events or volunteer for an organization. Don’t limit yourself to someone who is the same age or shares the same interest as you. Open up to new friends and connections. I found a group of highly motivated friends solely by serendipity in a blog group. Soon, we became 94fs, a community that strives to inspire the 90’s generation. A strong network is also essential for you to find opportunities like projects and events. So, turn on your extroverted persona and get socializing.

4.      Find Your Path
Arguably one of the hardest question to be answered. “What path of life do I want to take?” The Malaysian university system works like a specialization institute; you pick a course and specialized in it. Unlike the US college system which I am currently in where students are given the first two years of their college life to explore and decide their major and concentration, you don’t have that liberty in Malaysia. So, like my previous advice, start now. Research on possible degrees that might interest you and GO DEEP. Yes, I intentionally bold and capitalized that because it is something that 95% of SPM graduates failed to do and they jumped into the hype bandwagon and ultimately screw up their entire life doing something that doesn’t interest them. RESEARCH REQUIRES TIME. And such a life-changing decision won’t come to you overnight. When I say ‘GO DEEP’, I mean to go find out everything about that degree you can possibly find like job prospect, syllabus, the knowledge you might get, its application in the modern world etc. Also, ask yourself about your existing skills and passion and how can you use that to make your decision easier. Let’s take myself an example. I went to a Science-Stream school for my entire high school. I was born, raised and molded into a Scientist of sorts. However, deep down inside, the job prospect of a Scientist does not interest me as I was more interested in human interactions and psychology. However, Psychology might not be suitable for me as I want a more rigorous academic life with math and deep analysis. Then, I found economics which essentially deals with humans (Behavioral economics FTW) and requires A LOT of analysis and also theory crafting (I mean, come on, speculating the world economy is crude yet so fun. Kay, I should stop econ-fanboying) And that’s when I know which path I am going to take. You can achieve that too! You just need to GO DEEP.

5.      Never be Afraid
More of a general statement than a legit advice. NEVER EVER BE AFRAID TO STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE. (Yes the caps is necessary) If you never speak a word of English, for example, DO IT. If you never write an essay just for fun, DO IT. If you never tried cracking a mathematical formula, DO IT. Because during this slack time, exploration is easier to do because you have nothing to lose, no grades to maintain and no homework to stand by your way. Explore and see the world outside your own coconut shell.

Closing Words
            I hope my 1000+ words of advice will help you guys. As a SPM 2011 graduate and an avid follower of Malaysia education (Is this the correct term? Let’s just say I always keep up with the progress of SPM graduates), I found out there are a lot of lost souls after SPM. Even more heartbreaking, people with potential were swept away in blissful ignorance as they burn out their ‘vacation’ and suffered through college. Although, I have also seen people who are thought to be ‘without potential or hope’ to rise up from mediocrity and rose to success. It is possible. If I could do a research paper about the correlation between the time spent effectively during this period after SPM and the student success in life, I would do it. So yeah. Take my advice, young ones and may I see you at the top.