Editorial Notebook

College isn’t a competition

Here’s the thing about going to school with a host of really bright and talented students: you will never measure up all the time. You were all told right before the start of your freshman year that 50% of your class will be in the bottom 50% of your class, and that tautology contains a truth that we’ll run into again and again.

This is a tough school, and it’s where many of us will learn our limits for the first time. Balancing our expectations of ourselves with the realities can easily become a large part of our experience here. These pressures are exacerbated especially around this time of the semester, when we run into a fresh wave of tests and have to navigate through course registration.

We all have that friend who’s about a year and a half ahead of us, has a GPA about twice as high, and still seems to have about twice as much as free time for clubs, Greek life, or just hanging out. We all have that friend who’s been taking 21 credits since he or she was a freshman, reads widely, and saves cats from trees on weekends. If you don’t have a friend like that, then you probably are that friend.

But no matter how naturally, or unnaturally, things seem to come to you, college is not a contest; just because your friends are taking seven classes doesn’t mean that you should feel compelled to. While some classes are graded on a curve, and others become easier or more difficult on the fly depending on how the class is doing on the whole, the accomplishments of our peers don’t detract from our own accomplishments.

In other words, you’ll be fine. As we wind down toward the end of the semester and start to look forward to the next, it’s easiest to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and lose sight of what really matters. If your friends scored ten points higher than you on the last test, congratulate them. If you feel like you need to go back and retake some of your classes instead of moving to higher ones, don’t feel like you’re falling behind. Sometimes it can feel like acing higher-level courses and graduating in fewer than eight semesters is the norm, but the only one who should be setting limits on what you should be doing is you. Figure out realistic standards for yourself, and then do your best to adhere to them. Don’t take too many difficult courses all at once because you feel like you have to. Don’t kill yourself trying to achieve an academic standard that isn’t realistic for you.

It’s not about lowering your expectations; it’s about being happy. While you might have come here for academics, these four or however many years you spend here can and should be the best of your life. Don’t waste them being unhappy and sorry that you couldn’t be better.

Just because the weather is getting bitterly cold doesn’t mean we can’t stop to smell the roses.