A drop year is becoming wildly popular abroad. It allows you to re-calibrate yourself. It allows you to experience the world firsthand before you go to college and hit the ground running trying to change the world. (Good luck with the last bit!)
In India, you don’t take a drop year because you can. You take a drop year because you have to. I suspect thousands of students pass their 12th Boards without a clue about what they want. I know because I was one of the clueless. We are a tough breed – ready to struggle till we find our place in the sun. (Or in any college our neighbour finds respectable).
I had gotten into a mid-tier NLU and a very reputable social sciences school. I was plain dismissive about the former and confused about my chances at the latter. The extended family – neighbor – well wisher complex didn’t approve of either. So I was sent on the year-long Haj to the Mecca of Indian droppers- the city of Kota. I stayed there for an year. I didn’t want to prepare for medical school. So I whiled an year away. Just like that.
Drop Year 2 started with not-so-surprising disappointments. I didn’t get into a medical school. I got into a further lower ranked NLU. I came back home. I had decided to sit back and prepare for law school entrances later in the year. But I started getting bored with all the sitting at home. So I googled if any colleges in my city were still accepting admissions. One was. I sat for the entrance and I got through. Suddenly, Drop Year 2 started looking like College Year 1. But I flunked the first semester. I loved the subject. I didn’t like the course.
I took CLAT again this year and I got into the same NLU I had gotten into right after 12th. It felt stupid. I didn’t want to go because duh! Also because the second semester had been better. But I left to join the college I had dismissed 2 years ago. It’s very weird in the beginning. You realise that the 3rd years there would’ve been your batchmates. Your immediate seniors are your seniors only by circumstance. It is a mad world.
How Does It Feel?
When you’re taking a drop year, there is an urge to prove yourself. This works on two levels. Superficially, you want people around you to know what you’re worth. Deep down, you want that validation from yourself. You want to see how you’d have done had you put in as much effort as your friends did. If you’re taking a drop year, know that you’re competing against yourself. That might sound preachy but it’s true. You’re fighting your own procrastination.
It feels like a never-ending downward spiral. More often than not, you wonder if you’re good enough. Self-doubt is poisonous. Once you’ve started doubting yourself, you’re set to slide down a very slippery slope which lands you in self-pity. That is when you console yourself for your future failures. You tell yourself that there is no way you can set things right. So you sit back and wait for the storm to hit you. You have convinced yourself that it is the honorable thing to do. Only that it is not. The honorable thing to do is to cut the crap you’ve been telling yourself and work your way out.
You might also start feeling that people around you like you less. You’re imagining it all. Take my word for that. People who’ve been by your side for years – family and friends – are not sadists that you’re taking them for. It’s important to talk to people if you’re going through this phase. I know that your instinct is to clam up and shut people out. Lay off your instinct this one time. You need normalcy. You’re not the first person taking a drop. Relax. But don’t let that warp into procrastination.
Make a schedule and stick to it. A year is a long time. There’s no school to attend. You might have told yourself that there’s enough time to finish the course. For non-sciencey entrances like CLAT, this is more so because there’s not much to study. But if you’re not sticking to a schedule, you’ll soon enter a phase where there won’t be enough time. It happens to everybody all the time. Also for the love of God, have a Plan B in place. There are so many things beyond your control that can go wrong. It always helps to have an alternative in place.
Once you’re through to a college, know that the past is past. You can either worry about shaping your future there or wallow in self-pity over your past mistakes or freakish bad luck. There will come a time when you’ll realise that the past holds no answers. I wish it comes fast for you. This is very important because otherwise it interferes with your growth and learning. A lot of us waste a lot of thinking about the alternative universes we could’ve been in.
Dropping a year is not the end of the world. There is no end of the world. I hope you never fall into the wicked comfort of self-pity and I wish you just enough self-doubt to make you work consistently.
We’d like to thank Ayush Kashyap (Batch 2021, HNLU) for taking out time from his busy schedule and sharing his experiences with all of us.
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