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Gaokao Memories

The following is an essay by one of our colleagues, Zhao Dan, who is originally from Sichuan and recently graduated from Beijing University. In light of the recent press about students who received the highest scores on the gaokao, we asked if she would recount for us her own experience from when she was one of those students.

News of the gaokao always brings back memories of taking the college entrance exam.

Because of my high score on the gaokao, I was the “Number One Scholar” in my city that year. When the scores first came out, my mother and I jumped for joy. That night, my parents and I didn’t sleep – we spent the whole night talking about every effort that had been exerted from my birth on for this day. The next day, I found a huge banner with my name by the school gate and several media outlets wanting to interview me. My graduation speech became part of our school’s promotional video and it was broadcast over and over again. I was congratulated by students, teachers, and the principal as if I were the hero of the school

I know that the gaokao “Number One Scholar” is not everything. I just happened to figure out how to take the test. Several of my classmates actually had the same strength and ability – in fact, they did better than me on all our mock exams. I’m just the one who saved the best play for game day.

Six years have quickly passed, and while you can still find the collection of articles about my success, time has diluted its glory. With the passing of time, we realize how our scores and admission, things that we once valued over everything, are only a small part of the big picture of life. And the gaokao for me is just a special memory.

Here at InitialView, I get glimpses of another kind of “gaokao”. On first glance, students applying to study abroad seem to have escaped the pressures of the college entrance exam. Yet, for many of these students, their faces aren’t much more relaxed. The same high-pressure mentality of the gaokao is just transferred to the application process to an overseas college. There IS a difference, however – with the gaokao, you only have one score that determines everything; in applying abroad, you have an opportunity to express your ideas and show your personality. While the application process isn’t easy either, you have many more options.

A few words of advice to those of you preparing to enter college: College is but a stage in your life. During this stage, live life to the fullest, get to know yourself better and find your passion. Learn what you love and love what you learn.

I am sincerely grateful for my college experience because it allowed me the opportunity to try new things. I hope that you will discover that no matter what you attempt, nothing is wasted. Whatever road you take, do your best and do not be afraid of failure.

From someone who has walked in your steps, I wish all of you the best, regardless of the road you are preparing to take.