Q & A with the 2021 Valedictorian Meera Kochhar


This week I had the privilege of sitting down and getting to know the face behind this year’s valedictorian, Meera Kochhar. We had an incredible conversation over Zoom talking about not only how she achieved the position she is in, but also what her next steps will be to make sure her future is just as successful. I have video footage of all of the questions, but I have also typed out the Q & A below.

Q & A:

What are some of the strategies you use to stay motivated and complete your work?

“I’m probably not the best person to ask in terms of time management (it’s really bad that’s why I have a weird sleep schedule) but honestly my main thing is that motivation is never going to come when you feel like it. So you just need sit down down and do it honestly. There’s only one place I can get my work done, and that’s where I am currently sitting. If I sit on my bed I am going to sleep, if I sit in the kitchen I’m going to think of food, so just sit in one spot every time and just do it, because the motivation is not going to come on your own until you actually start. I’m not good at time management, but I am good at just sitting down, and it might take some time to get the motivation, but it gets there. In terms of a little bit of time management, I just like to do things while doing other things. For example, if I am on a long boring car ride, I am not going to be ignoring the people around me, but if the conversation is really just dying down after two hours, I’ll just see what I can get done now so I don’t have to do it later. Or if I am at the airport and I’m doing something I be like ‘Oh let me get this done so I can enjoy later’. It is just finding the time to do the small things, because when you do the small things you just feel better about yourself.”

What are some of your main goals/plans for the future?

“I am not certain on any certain path, but I do like a lot of things, so I guess the first goal would be to go to college and study something that I am interested in so that it can open up opportunities in the future. I am currently leaning towards Princeton, but I also really like Yale. I am looking into the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, because I want to work in policy in India. It sounds weird to work in a foreign country, but I am really into the educational policy and environmental policy, and just in general reducing governmental corruption. I am also really into entrepreneurship because I think that’s where you can make a quicker impact compared to policy, because that takes a while to convince a lot of people. So I might get a certificate in entrepreneurship and I do want to have my own startup or something; maybe expand a current venture. I currently have a language learning service, so we’ll see if I take that anywhere. So in general, policy in India but also entrepreneurship related to the educational field.”

What advice do you have for other students who aim to be academically successful?

“My advice is just to find something that interests you, because if it doesn’t interest you, you aren’t going to get far with it. For example, I have not gone anywhere with bio or chem because it does not interest me. So I took it, but I am not doing anything more with it. But I really love math, so I have done a lot with math. I feel like if you really like something, you will just tend to do better. So find that thing that you like, and put your best into it, because you already like it, so it’s easier to do better. Don’t be like, ‘my friend really likes English maybe I’ll be into English’; everybody likes their own thing, and that’s fine. The whole point in being able to have good grades is to love what you do. Even if you don’t love it, you just have to get through it. For example, on the SAT, I really did not like a lot of the science passages, and I am not really an English person either, so I would draw little hearts on them, just to make myself like it a bit more, and I guess it worked.”

Was it hard to balance school and extracurricular activities?

“With the extracurriculars, I did what I loved. I really love Spanish and the global perspective, so I really took that far. I did Spanish competitions, I did my own language learning service, and a lot of other things. So with extracurriculars, it wasn’t hard because I really liked it. It would seem like a break from my schoolwork. I also did weightlifting, which sounds weird, but I actually really enjoyed it because it made me feel strong, so that was good. It was definitely hard to manage weightlifting seasons with meets and then a calc test the next day; it was a lot. But choose those things that you like. Sophomore year I did have a lot of sleepless nights because that’s when I couldn’t manage my time, but junior year and senior year now is a lot better. So do the ones that you love, and if you don’t like it, quit it. I wasn’t the biggest fan of debate, it was just so many hours of research, so I quit that. I also quit swimming, because I hated that. Don’t be scared to quit something if you don’t like it.”

When did you start aiming to become valedictorian, and how did you plan to achieve the title? What made you strive for this goal?

“I think it was mostly end of freshman year, because going into freshman year I didn’t even know what valedictorian was. In middle school I was scrolling through musical.ly like two hours a day every day after school, that was like my thing (I have a lot of embarrassing ones still on my phone). I heard some girl say the title valedictorian and I was like ‘What is that why are you thinking about high school already’, but once I got into high school I started learning more about this stuff. I was like, ‘Ok I really want to go to a well-reputed college because I think the connections could get me to the future I want in terms of a career’. I don’t think in terms of making money, because at a certain point, how much money are you going to have? I knew I wanted to go to a good college; not that Florida colleges aren’t good, those colleges are amazing. I just wanted to go to a college where I could study what I want but still get into the job I want. So my main goal was aiming to be valedictorian because I knew they really cared about academics, and they want to see how competitive you are in your school. End of freshman year I was like ‘I want to go to these colleges, so let me try that out’. The way I got a higher GPA was by doing a lot of dual enrollment. I did some of those over summer, and it might sound like ‘Oh my god, wow, why the heck would you want to do that over the summer’. I didn’t really mind, because I did like math I, and I really like math. I also did accounting and that was interesting, because I don’t know how to do it. It was cool, I don’t remember a single thing, but it was cool. I think finding ways to help reach that goal outside of the normal school year as well did help, because my SAT was lower than what other kids have at these colleges. So I guess it was worth the extra effort, but it was definitely a lot, especially during the summer.”

What was the easiest AP class you took? What was the hardest (and why)?

“A lot of freshman might not think that AP human is that easy, but I did think it was really easy because I really enjoyed the material. It was so cool to learn about how things we don’t even realize took place, so I really liked it. I also think that the AP exam wasn’t like the AP English exams, in which you have like three hours, three essays, and multiple choice. So I think the AP exam was easier too, so I really liked that. I do think that AP psych is pretty easy, there’s just a lot of memorization, so AP human is easier in terms of less memorization. The hardest would definitely be AP physics I and II. The both are pretty hard because you have never seen that stuff before. You maybe did physics in middle school, but you only did like F=ma or something. It is a lot to take in, and the tests are so hard. Although it is pretty rewarding to know that if you put in the work, you can get a good grade. You just feel good that it seems so impossible but you can actually do it.”