For Aron: Getting More than You Deserve

>> Thursday, June 4, 2009

Aron asked: I got into Columbia University but I'm starting to worry and I'm confused. I really don't know what the university sees in me. When I look at the other two people who got in I feel like I haven't done enough. I feel as if I have this huge expectation for greatness and I'm not sure if I'm going to make it; maybe I'm just un-confident. I feel as if I need to work extra hard to college to meet this expectation. I just have no idea why they admitted me. Why me? There are people who are smarter then me in my high school. Why me? They are taking a huge risk on me and I feel I must do everything in my power to return their investment, but why me? I mean, they gave a crazy space cadet like me this opportunity and I can't let them down. But, I have so many flaws and so much personal development to do before I could even call myself an ok guy. Why me?

Aron, darling, take a breath. I have other friends like you: brilliant, capable, hard-working overachievers who can't figure out the big deal about themselves, and yet, every time they're tested, they come through brilliantly. I don't expect I can convince you to look at yourself differently; it's very hard to do. But try to realize that you didn't win a lottery here. They didn't bring you in because they were doing you a favor. They expected that you'd be a boon.

But that's the wrong way to look at it anyway, because it's not about them. It's about you. You don't owe them an education. You owe it to yourself, as a reward for all the painful hard work and dedication you put into everything you've done.

Don't think they gave you this opportunity altruistically. You earned it with hard work, determination and likely a larger than average share of smarts (as if often the case with dyslexics). You also have an ability to look at things differently than average, which, let me tell you, is a pearl beyond price. Universities can gather up the smart but unoriginal and churn out a whole herd of unremarkable, capable but forgettable graduates who will never do more than grind away at jobs without making any kind of mark in the world.

You are different.

Don't use the yardstick of other applicants or students. Being different isn't a blot on your record, I promise. Don't use your idea of what the perfect student is. I think you'd be stunned if you ever ran into the perfect student. My roommate in college had the same top scholarship I had, National Merit Scholarship and a bunch of other ones. She tossed it all away, using me as an excuse for not working instead of realizing that you couldn't blow off your classes all semester drinking to all hours, show up and class and still ace it. I bet no one has to tell you that, do they, Aron?

In the end, you can't give anyone, not you, not the university, not the other students, not your favorite teacher, your best if you tell yourself you aren't good enough. Just a little dollop of self-confidence is likely all you need to excel. They know you can do it. You just have to, too.

I knew a long time ago that I would have certain opportunities easier because I was female. I didn't need that, didn't want it, but I couldn't keep it from happening. So, I just swore I'd do my best and make sure that anyone who hired me would get their money's worth if not more. You know what, it wasn't that hard because most people are satisfied making do. You're not.

You do your best and stop working so hard to convince yourself your best isn't good enough, and you'll likely be amazed at what you can accomplish. And likely find you ARE the best student you know.


  • flit

    I can definitely relate to your question ... although I waited until grad school to get totally neurotic and convinced I wasn't good enough .... was one thing to go to school when I was paying for it - but when they started paying ME I definitely thought they'd made a huge mistake.

  • Stephanie B

    i was thinking of you, flit, when I wrote this.

    And, Aron, I can vouch for the fact that flit is BRILLIANT.

  • The Mother

    Self confidence is key to the learning experience. It makes it easier to look at bad professors (and there are many) and realize that it is them, not you. It makes it easier to ask for help when you don't get the material (because if you don't, someone hasn't explained it correctly).

    Stick out your chest and remember that you are PAYING for an education. They need to feed it to YOU.

    A point that WAY too many undergraduates just don't quite get.

  • Stephanie B

    Mother, you're so succinct. That's what I meant to say, only I was way wordier.

  • Patricia Rockwell

    Aron, I too can vouch for what these folks are saying. In over 40 years of college teaching, I found that it was usually the students such as yourself--the ones who suffered from self doubt and who never thought they were good enough--who were typically the hardest working and the best students.

  • Stephanie B

    Wow, great point, Patricia. There isn't anything less conducive to learning than thinking you already know it all.

  • JD at I Do Things

    Aron! You got in for a reason. They obviously see something in you that you're not seeing for some reason. But it's there. So accept it, work hard, and believe in yourself. There's already too much pressure in the world to add more yourself.

  • Aron Sora

    Wow, thank you for the believing in me and the inspiring words. It's just so perfect... Columbia University once owned Biosphere Two, a key piece of research on space habitation and I have access to the data from those experiments. Dr. Dickson Despommier is there, he is working a vertical farming and the technology can be applied to space habitation. Heck, the Year of Astronomy has strong ties to Columbia University. And there is so much more research that is useful in space habitation...

    It's just, really perfect.

    I know I place too much pressure on myself, but I want to complete my goal by the next Maslow Window. Maybe I'll work on my self-confidence over the summer.

    Thank you all for the help.

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