So you’ve gotten into your choice college, you’ve gotten used to living in a dorm, you’ve joined some clubs, and you’ve made a few friends, now it’s time for some academics. Let me start by introducing you to Mr. Bell Curve. In case you don’t know to whom I am referring let me explain. I’m not talking about the, “hey everybody gets 5 extra points on the last chem test”. No a true bell curve is far more sinister, and has far wider implications.
In statistics the bell, or Gaussian curve relates to the standard distribution of elements. For example: if you were to take the IQ of everyone in the country you would find that the vast majority of people have an average IQ while fewer and fewer people have drastically higher or lower IQ’s. If you were to plot the data you would find that age old curve staring you in the face. In fact that’s pretty much all anyone talks about in reference to bell curves, in fact here’s some random person on the internet who talks about pretty much the exact thing I’m about to talk about (you’re welcome expressiveepicurean)!
Why am I telling you this? Just wait a moment will you, I’m getting there. You see back in High School you were probably like me and said, “hey I’m way smarter than all these tools.” Or maybe you didn’t, but you probably felt you were pretty smart. You know how I keep saying that everyone you’ll meet at college is just like you, well that goes doubly for academics. See if you take a bunch of people who are all just like you, and who are all just as smart as you, it turns out you’ll see Mr. Bell Curve coming back to haunt you.
So what does this all mean. A few weeks in, after you get your first big test back you will feel incredibly…average. In High School you probably got used to feeling really smart, I know I did, but when everyone else around you is just as smart as you are it doesn’t feel so great. That’s why everyone at all those big name schools like Harvard and Princeton are so competitive. When you’re so used to being told you’re the smartest guy/girl around you can’t handle an environment where you are totally and utterly mediocre. That’s why people cheat, use Adderall, and have breakdowns, they’ll do whatever they can do to get back on top. Trust me, I know everything.
It’s more than just emotional discomfort however, it’s grading. Now I’ll spare you the BS about how you’re grades will reflect how hard you’re willing to work. That’s true, but honestly no one cares. You see your grades will reflect where you land on that bell curve. In High School you may have been a straight A+ student, you may have stayed up all night doing homework for weeks on end (that’s really bad for you BTW, don’t do that), well guess what, so has everyone around you, and schools know this, so their courses become more difficult accordingly. Where you were previously getting A+, now you’re getting C’s (unless you’re going to Harvard #gradeinflation). What the hell happened? Did you get dumber? No. You went to a hard school that’s what happened. That’s how colleges manage to churn out smart people, you take smart kids, and you challenge them, and they get smarter: logic. They make their courses hard so that the average grade is a C, the idea being to challenge students who are used to scooting by without doing work so that they actually have to do work and get even smarter in the process.
So why am I telling you this? Am I just trying to make you scared of College? No, quite the opposite. While I’m mostly writing this because I was struggling to think of an idea all day today, until I thought of this one in the dining hall, I’m also telling you this so you don’t freak out when you get a 76 on your introduction to aerospace engineering midterm even though it was just a STUPID MISTAKE (seriously who makes a midterm out of 25 points?!)! That C you just got isn’t signifying that you’re a failure, it’s telling you to get off your high horse, you’re actually going to have to try now. So don’t freak out, don’t lose your crap, and most certainly don’t do all that bad stuff like use Adderall (that would be seriously stupid). Take a breath and relax, wear that C with pride, see it as a challenge, because that’s ultimately the best thing you can do.