Students in a classroom | Bloomberg
Students in a classroom | Bloomberg
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Being a topper helps for a while. But it also comes with added pressure to stay on top.

New Delhi: Every year after the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) declares Class 12 results, the toppers make it to the headlines splashed all over the country.

After that brief, one-day fame, they vanish into anonymity. So what happens to them once the spotlight is gone?

In a world of cut-throat competition, amid the mad race of scoring nothing less than 99 per cent marks, ThePrint explores the importance of being a topper.

The success stories

Delhi’s Dravyansh Sharma, currently working with Google, enjoyed the celebrity status for one day after topping in 2011. However, he believed that what you do in life matters more than marks.

Speaking to ThePrint, Sharma said, “It’s been seven years since I took my 12th boards. Following 12th I pursued a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering for the next four years at IIT Delhi. After that I joined Google, where I have been working for three years now. In my experience, marks in Class 12 do not have a significant bearing in the long run. Persistence in finding what you want to do and then doing it with focus is the key according to me. It can help you get in good college but that’s just a beginning.”

However, he does agree that he enjoyed making headlines for a day. “It was a pleasure to get a good result in class 12 boards. I was interviewed by a lot of newspapers and was felicitated by my school, and by the government on Republic Day. The recognition of hard work was very encouraging and made me realise it always pays to be dedicated.”

The achievers agree that the topper rank does not have any relevance beyond Class 12 but they also feel the tag of being one puts an additional pressure on them.

Savinay Kapur, another topper, made news in 2007 after he aced almost all the medical entrance exams that year, including AIPMT, PMT and DPMT. He is now pursuing specialisation in Radiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

“Marks are important, they give you that initial spark but after that it is all about how you deal with situations in life. Also, the fact is, once you are tagged as a topper, there is always an added pressure on you to do well,” said Kapur.

“I chose radiology as a branch for my specialisation and people consider it as a laidback branch. They ask me why I chose this and not something like paediatrics, surgery or medicine. I sometimes feel that there is always this additional pressure to prove oneself,” he added.

Aruna Kesavan, the CBSE topper for 2004 from Kerala, went on to study engineering in Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani and further pursued a PhD in Physics at Penn State, Pennsylvania. Kesavan is currently a prominent researcher in Physics. She was also declared as the brand ambassador of the union ministry of health and family welfare in 2004. In an interview to a national daily in 2016, she said that at that juncture in life, she didn’t really think of the school rank anymore.

The unconventional stories

Even as some of these toppers are excelling in their respective fields, there are others who have had to struggle. Imphal’s Mohammad Ismat managed to top the exam in 2012 despite a monthly family income of Rs 2,000 with eight members. He went on to study in St. Stephen’s College for graduation. Currently, he is preparing for the civil services examination.

Then, there are some others like Jaipur’s Roman Saini who didn’t top the Class 12 exam but remained an excellent performer throughout. At 24, he had achieved almost everything, from securing a good rank in the AIIMS entrance exam to clearing civil services in his first attempt with an all India rank of 18. Then he left it all in 2016 to start his own venture — an online platform to help candidates prepare for civil services exams through lectures and tutorials.

What the teachers say

School teachers largely believe that the importance of being a topper is only limited to giving an initial boost to the student.

Principal at Delhi’s Springdales School Pusa Road, Ameeta Wattal believes that those who do reasonably well but do not necessarily top are more successful in life.

“I have been working for the last 42 years now and what I have noticed is that young people who have been good public speakers or involved in other co-curricular activities, who may not have topped have done really well in life. They have been in very different kind of work. I found them in area of development, some are in the UN, they have done exceptionally well for themselves,” said Wattal.

“In the last 15 years or so, people are looking at young people to do interdisciplinary things. This is what makes those who have done reasonably well, do better in life. Toppers have mostly gone for fields like medicine or engineering but the other group has done some very interesting things in life,” she added.

Ashok Pandey, principal, Ahlcon International School, said, “All the students who have worked hard and have scored above 95 per cent have the same cognitive ability. It is just a matter of chance and how they perform on the day of the examination which makes them a topper. Just because one student has got one or two marks more does not mean that they have an edge over others.”

“However, the qualities that the students who top are something that can take them ahead in life. Like these students have good study habits, time management, discipline and focus. These qualities will take them where they want to but if they lose them as they grow old in life, their being a topper would not matter at all,” he added.

For ThePrint's smart analysis of how the rest of the media is doing its job, no holds barred, go to PluggedIn

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13 Comments Share Your Views


  1. Silly article. Telling people, what they already know.
    It’s pretty obvious, that success is a combination of many factors, which includes luck and chance. In fact, Napoleon Bonaparte once said give me lucky generals, not necessarily great ones!
    Let’s put it this way – toppers have a better chance at success because they carry the confidence and are hungry for achievement.
    These kinds of articles, allow slackers to believe, that working hard is not required and one can make a success story, by chance. Tough luck mate, it’s not going to happen!

  2. For an exclusive, I thought this story was poor (am being kind here, poor is an understatement) on many levels. I did not see any research. Forget that, there seemed to be no thought devoted to the idea apart from the headline. Even though the scope was huge, it was not explored beyond the obvious headline by the reporter and editor. Shocking really for all the praise you seem to be expecting, please do the job first. if I may ask, you spent how much time chasing these sources and how much time did you spend on it?
    Ideally, you should have brainstormed first. Look for all kinds of students with varying views and conflicts. nobody will give you the real juice if all you want is mush.
    Did you look for a topper in a remote area? A topper who took an extreme step such as quit a well paying job? Did you read up about education and behavioural science? Can’t imagine this is a platform run by a veteran journalist. There is so much you could have achieved in this but hats off for trying and inspiring a growing youth.

  3. only those candidates will top at d state level in 12th who study well which is the most important point of time where you can make your career .I have seen those the toppers excelling in every sphere of life.

  4. Amazing article and very relevant to present scenario.We are putting more n more stress on our kids to do best but marks are the matter of chance.As a mother of two kids,try to make rational myself.

  5. Staying topper in a class, increase the responsibility, dedication, determination of a child. That leads the children highly competitive to get the job relevant to them.

  6. Plan track those students who are toppers thanks to the maths paper leak 2018, and no re exam too , chori oopar set seena chori ….on the whole of India. Maths paper leak toppers India from Delhi Haryana jai go. Continue the celebrations.

  7. Nobody works hard to become a topper but they just do things well enough to begin the count from them.Getting good marks is not a pressure.It just reminds you to learn and know the things well so that you can represent and utilise them in your life .As we want a child to eat, drink, sleep and play properly and safely ,in the similar way we want them to learn properly.However inclusion of cognitive activities has changed its meaning to “pressure”.Its not pressure.Just as we want a tailor to stitch properly, similarly we want a child to learn properly.Once they understand properly they will automatically get good marks.:).Good Understanding implies good marks and vice versa .The only need of the hour is to approach this implication.

  8. I fail to understand why the media and everyone print the success stories of children who have secured 90+or the toppers.does that mean that children with lower grades are not successful.please try to print the stories of those children also who could not score high grades but have done extremely well in life.

  9. So according to “ThePrint” the people who are only working with google and who are pursuing their degree from Pennsylvania are successful and those who chose to stay in their country are fools as well as unsuccessful.That man who started his own online platform to teach us something is far more successful than all of them.

  10. It’s very relevant post, has more meaning in contemporary context of competition that is encouraged by the Schools, parents, peer group and society. Let’s educate children to do well and develop holistically rather than a topper..Maj Gen Sunil Chandra

  11. Toppers top and get one day glory. It is not that marks and topping. Parents,teachers everyone forces the boy/girl to put more stress on getting top marks,Marks do not make what you are. It is your passion and love towards a particular field.comparing.condeming complaining. Do not lead them anywhere. Life is for living,smiling,laughing and enjoying.Make them productive citizens and not mug pots.The day must come when all we do realise this. This is a good article to ponder upon and decide what we really want and find out the need of the hour.


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