Academics is not everything. It must be balanced with extra-curricular activities.

A 99.5 %  record holder in the Class 12 (Indian School Certificate Board), topper Rohan Sampath does not strive to excel only in academics. This teen is a sport even on the tennis court. When he doesn’t clinch scores there, he just smiles and takes defeat in his stride. ”Defeat has helped me build my character,’ says this Indian-born student of Dubai Modern High School.

Over a long distance phone call with Urmila Rao,
Rohan shared his winning tips on how to understand Gauss’s Law Derivation and more. And even over the phone, one could sense the maturity and humility behind the perky voice.

Q: You have set an all-time record for the highest ever score at the Indian School Certificate (ISC) Exam Board. What was your first reaction on hearing the news?
A: Initially, when we saw the results online, my parents and I were in complete disbelief. I thought there must have been some typographical error.  The next day, when my Principal told about the record, ‘our’ achievement slowly started sinking in; ‘Our’ because, so much of the credit for this feat actually goes to other people in my life.

Q: What has been your overall strategy towards studies?
A: It is very important to get the basic concepts right. If you have clarity, you will not be able to forget those years later. For instance, in physics, in a Gauss’ Law Derivation, the Gaussian surface is the basic concept. So, to understand the concept better one needs to figure out what shape the surface will take, what would be the symmetry and enclosed charge etc.

Q: Share some more…...
A: I visualise the basic concepts at the end of every class. If there is a diagram on optics, or a graph in economics that has just been covered, I visualize and mark every important angle, line segment/ maxima, slope etc.

I also analysed the question papers of past five years. I didn’t write the answers but just noticed the patterns.  By observing the patterns, you will realize that, for example, Question 4 on a Math paper will always be a question on trigonometry.This is a part of studying smart. You can afford to skip a chapter you aren’t comfortable with, and still max the paper, if you understand the pattern.

Rohan with his family.

Q: In what ways did you receive support from family and school?
A: My mother Sandhya and my father, Sampath Shrinivasan's attitude was very helpful. They never put pressure on me for studying and gave me enough leeway to play. I think this attitude is more important than sitting with the child and making him study one extra chapter. My school is an Indian School and it has preserved Indian values. It also gives us exposure to other cultures. I will credit the school for combining best of both the worlds.
Q: What keeps you motivated?
A: Debate, swimming and tennis. I was president of the debating society in my school. I represented UAE in Scotland last year. I have bagged a few medals in swimming. I have been playing tennis for six to seven years now. These activities keep me motivated. Playing with my sibling, Karan, refreshes me too.

: Want to be a winner? Just do it!

Q: Some believe that extra-curricular engagements are a waste of time.
A: Doing well in academics is about hard work and not long hours. Extra-curriculars keep your motivation levels high, and refresh you. People underestimate their importance.

Q: We heard you are packing your bags for Stanford?
A: I had applied to and was accepted by three universities - Stanford, Yale and Berkeley, University of California. I have chosen Stanford. After two years I will decide whether to major in economics or engineering.

Rohan's tips:
  • Treat academics with bit of a carefree attitude. By this I mean, developing an all-round personality. It is far more important than getting that one extra mark. Ironically, such an attitude may actually help you get that extra mark!
  • Never underestimate the power of strong work ethic. For example, being regular in your assignments.
  • Get a very clear understanding of  basic concepts. It will help you build your study on it later on.  Contact the teacher the next day if you didn’t understand something,
  • Visualise diagrams, important slopes, an important angle will help you remember concepts.
  • Observe the pattern of last five years’ question paper.
  • Mnemonics (techniques that aid memory) are always helpful. But you must be able to create your own. I also used to make a list of really interesting short questions that I came across in class, or in the textbook.

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