College is not about How Smart You Are!

I earned a Bachelors of Science from UC Berkeley in just two calendar years, and am now I’m a graduate student, and the simple answer to the question I receive everyday is, “No. I’m not a genius.” I think it would be best at this point to take a moment and step back a couple feet before I get into this piece. 

For the past two years, everyday I go out there is at least a single conversation that I have that has to do with my education, and how I’m finishing a Master’s program at 22 years old. It has never been more apparent to me than now that school is not about learning, and by understanding this simple concept I’ve been able to work the system and finish things quicker. 

I’m in no way saying school is easy or that this path to where I am now was simple, but what I am saying is that it was not about super human knowledge. 

On the contrary, I’m your average student that loves to read, write, learn, and get things done, but what I don’t love is busy work. Busy work is the idea that I’m going to go home with fifteen different things to do that in the end teach me very little, hone my skills very little, and are just there to say you have things to do. I learned a long time ago that busy work is not the path to success, but completing the busy work in a quick manner is. I took a two pronged approach to education the first was learn what I need to and master what is crucial for success. Instead of devoting thousands of hours studying things that I knew would get me no place, I decided that I would simply skim the information that I knew would be at the heart of the conversation. I did busy work with one draft, homework with only two drafts, and spent the majority of my time reading and reviewing the lecture material. I knew that this information was the information that mattered the most when it came time for the midterms, finals, and life beyond school. 

No matter how smart you are and no matter how prepared you are in life there is no student that can memorize 200 pages a week by four different classes. Yet this is what so many people try to do, and they never look at the game of school. So many people truly believe that school is about learning and I wish it was, but far to often has school instead become about busy work and conforming to the preferences of the teacher. 

Whether it’s elementary school, high school, college, or graduate school at the end of the day the information you learn is critical to success in life, but the only thing that matters in the classroom is the opinion of the teacher. 

This is the point I know someone will slam on the keyboard and say math and physics aren’t an opinion. Another will want to throw the computer across the room and say Nutrition, Economics, and Science are also not opinions. To that I remind people that sometimes the correct answer to a question can be dictated by a elementary school, high school, or college Professor. In this I mean, 2+2 = 4 no matter what, but the answer may require more than just four. Some teachers want you to draw two apples, a plus sign, another two apples, an equal sign, and another four apples. These can be subjective based on the work, background information, and formulas that you are expected to use, and even when you properly get the right answer you may lose marks because you didn’t do it there way. 

Now back to the your regularly scheduled Medium Article. It has become an issue in my opinion that school is a game. All you have to do is learn the rules, master the rules, find the loopholes, and suddenly you are the A student. For the smart student, that already knows he can make an A or B if they put effort, reading a teacher becomes simple. You can see where their passions lie, what they think the opinion should be, how they do things, and what makes they say, “Yes, interesting.” Understanding you teacher or professor will allow you to ensure that your work fits the criteria that they are looking for, and thus you can ace it without spending hours rewriting and redoing it. For everyone else, you know the “C” and “D” students that may think they are not as sharp as a tact, the Professor usually says in the Syllabus, “I expect this, and here is what this looks like. Here are some links to some examples, here’s what I’m passionate about and why, and this is what I currently think is an A.” 

Now for me to present my final argument that school is completely not about actually being smart and learning. If school was actually about learning, we would not fret about the schools that we attend. In my opinion, a qualified student should be able to attend the best universities that they can thrive in, and if they are smart and are able to succeed why stop them. Instead, we force students to participate in clubs they may hate, volunteer places that just look good, work on committees that mean little to them, and write stories that define them in less than 500 words. 

We allow not the student but the university to define who they are, what we think of them, and if we should ever hire them. In my opinion, the university you attend should not be the be-all-end-all, but for so many it becomes that. If you are good at the game of school you end up in the top universities, and then end up with the access and connections to the top people, jobs, and companies. 

Ok, I hope by know you’ve realized that I’m far from a genius, and I hope you’ve learned that school is a game. Anyone can do well, achieve, and succeed if they stop thinking it is actually about learning. Many of my friends continue to destroy themselves learning the information only to gain a subpar grade because they didn’t do things the way the teacher likes, wanted, or outlined. So stop worrying about learning every little thing and instead worry about mastering the game of School. 

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