Tying It All Together



Updated June 8, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Admitted by Soundarya Balasubramani. Written by an Ivy League graduate from India, this is the proven guide for students worldwide looking to pursue undergraduate or graduate study abroad in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Purchase for instant access to the guide and other exclusive resources—including sample SOPs, sample resumes, scholarship lists, and a private community with other readers.

actionComing back to our ikigai Venn diagram, begin filling in the quadrants. Take your time. It doesn’t have to be completed in an hour. Have a first stab at it, and come back again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. Until you feel you have a stable, final version of it.

You will begin to see correlations and new possibilities between the various quadrants. Like me, you might have thought you were supposed to become a researcher, but all your thoughts on paper say otherwise. Whatever you come up with, find out the closest major that will get you there eventually. Your ikigai should be thought of as a north star. You might never reach there, but as long as you are tending towards it, all is well.

You aren’t right or wrong in picking one major over the other.

Even if you don’t end up picking the most optimal one (assuming it is possible to quantify this process), you know you picked one after careful thought. That already puts you in a better position than most people who live their life on autopilot.

Take Your Time and Find Your Path

We all know someone who derives pure joy from what they do. One of my best friends works 12 hours a day, including the weekends, at a healthtech startup in New York. Yet he enjoys his work deeply. If you’re lucky, you might feel this way about the domain that you’re in already. However, from personal experience, we know that’s not always the case. Sometimes we find ourselves following a path because we were good at it or because someone else thought it was the right path for us. You need to shrug off all those preconceptions and start from scratch.

Enter ikigai. An ideology that originated in Japan and percolated in the rest of the world over the past two decades. Ikigai is the sweet spot that resides at the intersection of what you are good at, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you love. We posed a few questions for each of the quadrants that will help you figure out the answers to these. You don’t need to write down the answers right away. Take your time. This is not a simple problem.

At its core, ikigai requires you to introspect. That is not something we all enjoy because when we begin to introspect, we begin to find a lot of imposters in the basement of our mind. Even though we are in a constant five-way tug-of-war between the various tentacles of the Yearning Octopus, one always takes the upper hand. To find out the motivation behind these creatures, you need to be alone with your thoughts.

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