What It's Like To Learn You're Not The Smart Kid Anymore

What It's Like To Learn You're Not The Smart Kid Anymore

I was content to stay in my bubble where I was successful without ever having to work for it, but that bubble popped when I got to college.

I used to be the smart kid. By no means was I the best of the pack, vying for first place in grades and extracurriculars, but I was definitely above average, scoring easy A's in honor classes that soon evolved to AP and dual enrollment and being praised by teachers for my quick wit and verbatim memory. This only held true in some subjects, specifically anything to do with English and literature, and my heightened proficiency gave me an edge throughout my 13 years of primary and secondary schooling — all without trying.

Sure, I studied, as in read the text once and just paid attention in class. And sure, I did homework, in between classes and lunch so I rarely had to do any at home. And yes, I would stay up late to do two-week projects within a 24-hour time limit and still impressed the teachers with how polished my work was.

But I never exerted any extra effort to do anything that didn't interest me and was relatively easy to do. I never tasted failure because I had never put myself in a position where I could fail. I passed up contests and competitions that would have challenged my intellect. I skipped out on extracurriculars and after-school meets. I never stepped out of my comfort zone of schoolwork and classroom praise, content to stay in my bubble where I was successful without ever having to work for it.

That bubble popped when I got to college.

I learned the hard way that whatever talents and skills you may have, none of it can compare to consistent effort. If you don't hone your talents, they will eventually wither away whereas perseverance and gradual improvement is what truly lasts.

I could not longer sit in class and recall everything perfectly the next day without taking a single note, because now the classes were spaced days apart, and it was up to me to study in between those hours. There were no in-class worksheets to practice a new concept — rather, it was expected we would do it all at home and simply turn it in. If I wanted to ask the professor a question, I couldn't swing by on my way to another class; I'd have to shoot an email, schedule an appointment or make time to visit during office hours.

What used to be one chapter studied over a period of three to four days in high school soon became four textbook chapters per college class — all read on my own time, totaling to an average of over 500 pages read in a single week. Then there were the dreaded group projects, papers due next week without a single deadline reminder in between, online homework and "suggested" book problems and comprehensive tests with hand-picked questions about every single detail as though you were majoring in the class rather than just taking it as a requirement.

All this work in classes with professors who the earned the five-star rating on RateMyProfessor and then some (meaning, chilli peppers — more lies).

Some professors were easier than others, but every single one pushed for excellence in their subject, and not many cared if students had a calculus II exam and sociology paper due the same day as their class test, because we were all adults and expected to be on top of things.

I was not on top of things.

I struggled to catch up, fraught with nerves and terrible study habits that prioritized indulgence over self-control. I was used to kicking back the day before tests, not frantically re-reading the text to see if there's anything I missed from the third time I read it. I couldn't handle the sheer pressure of being expected to earn high marks at every single exam that came and went in a consecutive collision. And when I thought of taking a semester or two off, the regretful tales of fellow students who had done the same and simply ended up wasting their time kept me chained to my desk.

College wasn't just a life-changer in the way those whimsical sorority articles had made me think. It was consuming my life. I had little to no social life, and my entertainment options were restricted to a couple YouTube videos a day to get by. This was because I wasn't the average hardworking student. I was the privileged above average who thought she could get through college like she got through her high school classes with the help of teachers drilling the material into her head for eight hours a day, five days a week.

This realization was a blow to my ego. I had never been "smart." I had just been lucky.

I was lucky that I went to a high school where my teachers pushed me in class and gave me room to grow and master skills I would not have even attempted on my own otherwise. I was lucky that my parents diligently made me attend class every single day and checked my grades on a regular basis. I was lucky to experience all those opportunities without ever having to step outside my bubble.

Instead of understanding how easy and comfortable life had been made for me by others, I had credited the success to myself, even though I didn't do anything to deserve it. And now that I'm finishing up my second year of college, I realize that more keenly than ever now that the advantages are gone.

If high school is a series of stepping stones to young adulthood, college is a bungee jump into the real world. It's up to you to make the most of your experience — to control yourself when it's time to study and know when to kick back and relax, to schedule out time for your friends, family and strangers in between class hours, homework time and extracurriculars, to truly embrace the visceral, volatile, voracious life of a college student.

Only then will you succeed, having stood up on your own two feet, scrabbling your way to the top, triumphant in becoming more than just "lucky."

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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7 Truths About Being A Science Major


Whether your major is Human Bio, Chemistry, Neuroscience or any other that deals with a lot of numbers, theories, experiments and impossibly memorizing facts, you know the pressures of pursuing a career in this field. So without further ado, here are seven truths about being a science major:

1. There is no “syllabus week.”

Coming back to college in the fall is one of the best times of the year. Welcome week has become most students' favorite on-campus holiday. But then you have syllabus week: another widely celebrated week of no responsibilities… Unless you’re a science major that is. While your other friends get to enjoy this week of getting to know their professors and class expectations, you get to learn about IUPAC nomenclature of alkanes on the first day of organic chem.

2. Your heart breaks every time you have to buy a new textbook.

Somehow every professor seems to have their own “special edition” textbook for class… And somehow it’s always a couple hundred bucks… And somehow, it's ALWAYS required.

3. Hearing "attendance is not mandatory," but knowing attendance is VERY mandatory.

Your professor will tell you that they don’t take attendance. Your professor will put all lecture slides online. Your professor will even record their lectures and make those available as well. Yet if you still don’t go to class, you’ll fail for sure. Coming into lecture after missing just one day feels like everyone has learned an entire new language.

4. You’re never the smartest person in your class anymore.

No matter what subject, what class or what concentration, there will always be someone who is just that much better at it than you.

5. You get totally geeked out when you learn an awesome new fact.

Today in genetics you learned about mosaicism. The fact that somebody can have a disease in part of their total body cells but normal throughout all others gets you so hype. Even though you know that your family, friends and neighbors don’t actually care about your science facts, you HAVE to tell them all anyways.

6. There is never enough time in a day.

You are always stuck choosing between studying, eating, sleeping and having fun. If you're lucky, you'll get three of these done in one day. But if you're a risk taker, you can try to do all of these at once.

7. You question your major (and your sanity) almost daily.

This is especially true when it’s on a Tuesday night and you’ve already consumed a gallon of Starbucks trying to learn everything possible before your . Or maybe this is more prevalent when you have only made it through about half of the BioChem chapter and you have to leave for your three hour lab before your exam this afternoon. Regardless, you constantly wonder if all the stress is actually worth it, but somehow always decide that it is.

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How I Escaped My Hoarding Tendencies

I was once a hoarder.


Up until my third year of college, I kept everything. I had notes, homework, and tests from all of my classes starting in kindergarten, all the way until my college years. My walls were filled with photos, art, birthday and thank-you cards, plane and movie tickets, receipts, and even interesting shopping bags I'd collected over the years. Drawers were stuffed with random pieces of toys with which I felt strong emotional connections. I still kept clothes from elementary school that I certainly could not wear anymore, but for some reason felt that I needed to keep.

Despite being a hoarder, I was still quite organized. My room, usually messy, was relatively well-organized. However, during college, something for me changed. I was suddenly annoyed with all of the things I had kept over the years, and wanted a clean slate. I tore everything down from my walls, pulled out all the clothes in my closet, and decided to start over.

This whole adventure of me decluttering my room took three full days, dozens of trash bags full of items to donate, and so much excess emotional garbage. When I was finally finished, I felt so much emotional relief. While I really enjoyed sifting through every piece of paper that I had written, every exam I had taken, every toy and card that had been gifted to me, and all the clothes that no longer fit me, I was happy to finally be finished. My head hurt from the nostalgia, but I slept incredibly well that night.

Since then, I've learned how to live on a minimal amount of stuff. My room is usually tidy and I've found cleaning and organizing to be addicting and cathartic. I now keep only things with which I have strong emotional connections, like the bracelet my now-deceased grandmother gave me and the farewell letters written by my friends before I moved away for graduate school.

With fewer concrete memorabilia stowed away, I can cherish the memories that mean the most to me and focus on identifying the memories happening in the present that I want to remember forever.

Tidying up also helped me achieve a lot of my career goals in life. I don't think this success would have been possible if I had been disorganized and distracted by the past that cluttered my room.

With all of that said, I still have a long ways to go in terms of tidying my life. My work life is definitely not as organized as my home life. My desk and computer files are not organized in the best way, but I hope to implement my personal life philosophy into my work life in the future. My social and familial life are also quite disorganized. After moving to a new city, I found the initial socializing to be overwhelming and struggled to prioritize the people I wanted to spend time with. However, I am slowly working to improve this balance of my social and familial life.

While I am still on this journey, I wanted to share the impact that decluttering has had on my so far and hope that this would inspire you to identify things you can declutter in your own life.

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