on education

September 27, 2006

College should be about learning, right? About meeting new people, experiencing a different place, and about developing as a person? It is, and so why is it that just this evening I was struck by a sudden, irrational fear that somehow things wouldn’t work out for me after graduation, that no graduate schools would be interested in a person of my particular talents, and that I would at some vague future time be alone, penniless, and without prospects.

It’s silly, of course; there really is nothing to worry about. But why would I think of such a thing in the first place, putting aside the universal tendency for self-doubt at certain times? The answer was not immediately obvious at the time, but thinking on it now it seems that grades may be the object of my fear, the ever-present threat of a not-quite-adequate transcript that some admissions officer will, someday, skim over and summarily dismiss, my life along with it.

Grades are helpful, certainly, for evaluating one’s standing and grasp of the material relative to other students, but they also create an acute awareness of one’s own failings (or, at least, of one’s weaknesses). There are always better, smarter, and quicker students in a given subject, and, combined with the impossibility of being “the best” in everything, the competition can grow fierce enough and stressful enough to generate significant doubts and feelings of inadequacy, even at the best of times (academically speaking).

But like I said, it’s silly to worry about it. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself:“You’re at an Ivy League school, darnit, and you have as much to offer as anyone!” I think. A few rounds of that, and everything is fine. At least I hope it is.

–D. S. W.


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