Wait—Everyone Else in College is Smart Too?

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Since childhood, people have always discussed my intelligence. I earned good grades, stayed involved in extracurricular activities and always had a solid group of friends. When I got accepted into college, I assumed that college work would be just as simple as high school. Most people in my family graduated from college, so I truly believed that I would complete college with few complications. College quickly taught me most people in college embodied intelligence as well. Although that may seem obvious to some, I somehow believed I would be amongst students who came from the exact same educational background than me.

I found myself in the midst of the crème of the crop.

My freshman year of college did not go as well as I thought I would. I signed up for my general education classes and tried to find a routine for myself. However, I did not account for the fact that I had to learn how to manage every second of my time in college on my own. In high school I only worried about my GPA. In college I had to learn how to manage when to eat, when to sleep, when to go out, when to stay in and study and how to sustain a decent GPA.

Suffice to say, I had a learning curve my first semester. However, by second semester, I created a stronger routine. Eliminating naps helped me manage my time and improve my routine drastically. I would take anywhere from two to three naps a day during that first semester. Not only did taking multiple naps during the day waste time, but it trained me to stay up super late.

I eliminated my naps by going to bed earlier, only taking a maximum of one-hour long nap a day and using free to actually study. I eventually realized that breaks in between classes are given to college students to study, not sleep. That one change I made to my college routine helped me perform substantially better second semester. At the end of my first year of college I felt confident that I could finish college and be successful with little to no difficulty.

However, I did not know that sophomore year would bring an entirely different set of challenges for me. I started taking classes directly for my English major first semester of sophomore year, I signed up for five classes and a Sophomore Year Experience class and decided to join two new organizations. I expected sophomore year to go similar my freshman year. But sophomore year shook me to my core. The first couple of days of classes seemed okay, but eventually the workload from each class started getting larger and my professors expected a great deal from me. For the first time in my life, I realized that most people in college epitomize what it means to be smart too. In high school, I found fewer challenges in my classes.

I didn’t always know the answer to the questions my professors asked. I didn’t always understand the homework assigned and I felt defeated and did not know how I could possibly complete my semester. The intense workload led me to break down almost every night. From writing multiple papers at the same time to going to lab to completing projects and being active in organizations, I felt like I always had a task that needed to be accomplished and not enough time to accomplish them.

My anxiety also started getting much worse. But I had to keep pushing. I started going to office hours and talking to my professors about my challenges. Instead of focusing on everything, I started taking one thing at a time. And I started relying on my faith to get me through my weak moments. I prayed every time I felt anxious and recited affirmations to myself about God’s promises to remind myself that “I can do all things through Christ” (Phil 4:13).

Now I proudly say that I did in fact finish my semester. I made it to my second semester of my sophomore year. My first year and a half of college taught me countless lessons. I most importantly learned that college precisely serves as higher education for a reason. College functions uniquely as a breeding ground where students develop a higher level of intellect. I cannot implement the same level of effort into college that I did into high school. For me, college requires more exertion.

And I don’t know everything. I never will. Nobody does. I also continue to learn how to manage my time better, deal with stress and work like a scholar. I fall short sometimes, make mistakes, and breakdown when the pressures of college feel unbearable. Nevertheless, learning how to accept my lack of perfection humbles me. One quote I try to live by says, “Strive for Progress, not Perfection” because ultimately, perfection continually remains unattainable and the more I remind myself of that, the happier I live.

Melody is a Sophomore English major at Spelman College and an aspiring journalist.

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