>> 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.