Being smart only gets you so far: academic rigor challenges students

By MeganSchneider

School is hard. Juggling good grades, work and the semblance of a personal life is near impossible. Now add the crushing pressure of being in a school with Omaha’s best and brightest young minds.

That is not even an exaggeration the median GPA for the class of 2022 was a 3.8. Marian’s environment is heavily based on academics, which is not inherently bad. It is good to apply yourself to what you are learning and dig deep into your studies, but when it comes at the cost of poor mental health, it becomes unhealthy.

Honors Physics II Students, Chloe Parsons ’23, Kate Hoppe ’23 and Fannie Jiang ’23, spend class time studying. The students were working on a lens research project. Photo by ReaganRosenbaum.

Marian is a great school and I have no regrets in choosing to go here. I have always held a love of school and learning. When I am in a school environment where straight A’s alone is not an amazing feat, it is hard to feel confident in my intelligence. However, I have been lucky enough to be gifted with some sort of “natural intelligence.” I breezed through elementary and middle school with straight A’s. I do not say this to toot my own horn of course, just as context for the rude awakening I had when I chose not to study for my first few tests freshman year. I actually had to put a considerable amount of effort into my classes. This came as a shock suddenly I was no longer above-average. I was the epitome of a typical Marian academic student. I went through an identity crisis of sorts. If I was no longer the smartest, what made me good enough?

I mulled over this question time and time again throughout my freshman year. I was forced to find confidence in other aspects of myself. Instead of using smart to define my whole personality, I tried to expand. I worked on being a better person and trying out new hobbies.

The hardest part of trying something new was the fear I held about not being good at whatever activity it was. Since I had never had to put in continuous effort as a kid, if I was not immediately the best, I quit. This idea does not serve me well at all. Quitting out of fear of failure is one of the worst habits a person can get into.

Once I finally let go of the weird train of logic I got really into art like embroidery and fashion design. I had never allowed myself to explore these avenues before. I had always been too busy or too tired to try new things before, but now I love trying new things.

Instead of fretting over being good at something immediately, I just try. If I hate it, no big deal, at least I did something new. When I pigeonhole myself into one category, ‘‘smart,’’ I lose so many opportunities to grow.

I have picked up and dropped hobbies, but each one taught me something. A consistent theme is how much I have enjoyed using creativity to solve problems. This revelation contributed heavily to possible career choices. These little lessons have helped me more than the simple label of ‘‘smart.’’ I would have never learned so much about how I am and what I want if not for looking inwards. Destressing while drawing a little picture saved me from multiple almost-meltdowns over homework or ripping my hair out while studying for the ACT. So next time there is a test that doesn’t go as planned, try not to self-implode. A grade does not define a person or their ability. Try and put the excess stress on yourself to be the best into something that offers you more than an A can.

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