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Dear Madam,
I am a First PUC (state syllabus) student. I have finished my mid-term exams and one test. I am not satisfied with my performance. My Class 10 score is 75 per cent. I used to score well above 95 per cent  earlier. But I am unable to attain high scores in college as I find it difficult to learn the subjects. How I can improve my scores and my level of concentration while studying? How many hours should I devote to studying?
Chaithra M N

Dear Chaithra,
Are you getting very stressed about your marks and results? You seem to be someone who is enjoying her studies, and has high aims. Then you should study for the joy of learning new things. Don’t treat new concepts as hard and, therefore, problematic. Treat them as hard and, therefore, opportunities to learn something new, and to prove to yourself that you can understand them. It is not about how many hours you study, but about how focussed you stay during the time that you do study. Remember, putting in your best effort, is what matters the most. If you can honestly tell yourself, that you have put in your best effort, then that is all that matters. Sometimes, that may not result in the maximum marks, because marks are dependent on many external variables over which you may not have control. But, if you have put in your best effort, then at least the learning stays with you. Remember, success in life, is dependent on a lot more than just marks. Marks simply open a few doors for you. If the doors you wanted, don’t open, some others will — you may just have to look a little harder for them.
Good luck.

Dear Madam,
I am a Class 10 student. I have scored average marks in the mock tests. But I am confident of scoring above 95 per cent in the coming test and final exams. But when I sit down to study, I am haunted by memories of the past and I lose interest in the subjects before me. I can’t share my feelings with my parents. I am a sensitive girl and silly things hurt me a lot. How can I study with an uncluttered mind? I am also very short-tempered.
Thirtha Rai  
    
Dear Thirtha,
It is very important that you deal with your past if it is bothering you so much. From your letter it seems that you don’t talk to anyone about them, because of which your mind is always preoccupied with them. If your mind is not free, then how will you be able to concentrate on your studies? I suggest you speak to someone you trust, or to a counsellor, who can help you. If your school has a counsellor, that may be your best bet. My sense is that these unresolved sorrows are also leading to your anger which keeps surfacing.
What are your fears about sharing your feelings with your parents? Sometimes, our actions and our fears are based on irrational beliefs that we must learn to challenge and then change.
The best way to deal with anger, is not to suppress it, but to express it in a non-destructive way. Try maintaining an anger journal which will force you to think about your anger after every angry episode. Think about what made you angry, how you expressed it, whom did you express it to and what did it do to your relationship with that person. Do this every time you get angry so that the story of your anger is there for you to see and revisit and analyse once the incident is over. Also remember, every time you are angry, count to 10, and ‘let it pass’ before flying off the handle. When we are angry, our amygdala (the feeling part of the brain) hijacks the thinking part of the brain and does not let us function normally.
If none of this helps, then get the help of a counsellor. You could also call some free counselling helplines which may be helpful.

Dear Madam,
I am a third-year engineering student. I have always been the class topper.  I have never had any close friends. I used to be a loner in school. After school, I joined a Diploma course in Bangalore. I made new friends in college and ended up neglecting my studies. Are my friendships causing my grades to fall? If yes, then how  can I overcome that and get back my percentage.
Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,
Remember, that life has to have many dimensions at the same time for it to be meaningful and enjoyable. It does not have to be only studies, or only friends. In fact, it should not be one or the other. You must be able to maintain a healthy balance between the work that you need to do, and spending time with your friends.
Possibly because you never had friends earlier, studying was your way of escaping that reality. And you justified it to yourself saying it was important to keep getting good marks, and that you could not do that if you had any friends. Now, that you have tasted the joy of having friends, you may be trying to catch up for lost time by focussing only on your friends and not on your work.
I am glad you had made friends, and are learning to enjoy life as well. However, be careful about not falling prey to peer pressure. In the fear of losing your friends (and maybe having to go back to your friendless days) don’t lose yourself. Don’t just blindly follow everything they say. Remember, you come first. You need to respect yourself and your needs, and others will automatically learn to respect you.
Friendships cannot give trouble. They add meaning and a very important dimension to your life. However, you cannot give up control of your life to your friendships. You have to keep the control with you, so that the friendships are a support to your success, not an excuse for your failure. All the best.

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