My friends and I have talked about the exact moment when we found out we got into Hopkins. Everyone remembers their own story in almost perfect detail.
I was sitting in my German class on Dec. 14 watching Elf, more nervous than I had ever been, waiting until the clock hit 2:00 p.m. CST. When it hit, I waited three more minutes because I was too terrified to open the admissions website and find out. After the suspense became too much, I opened the early decision portal and logged in.
I saw the words “You’ve Been Admitted” and I started crying. My teacher let me go to the hallway and call my parents. The smile on my face didn’t leave for the rest of the day.
A lot of our stories went the same way, ending in the jubilation that only a college acceptance can provoke. One of my friends even crashed his family’s car on that same day, but it mattered a lot less in perspective with this news.
In a terrific moment like this, no one believes that their admission into a school was a colossal mistake made by the admissions board. Why, then, is it so easy in hindsight for people to convince themselves that they were accepted here because someone made an error?
When we arrived at this campus as freshmen, we met a host of people who care deeply about their academics, their extracurriculars and their futures. Somewhere along the line, that enthusiasm is suffocated.
We get in our own heads, and self-deprecation sets in. A feeling of imposter syndrome overtakes us. As defined by the Harvard Business Review, this is “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist, despite evident success.”
Unfortunately, this definition sums up my observations of many student experiences.
You get an A, but he got a higher A than you, so you feel like you didn’t try hard enough. You stayed at Brody until midnight, but she stayed until 2:00 a.m., so she cares more about her grades.
A toxic game of comparison and competition begins, and none of us will ever be the winner. It’s as if one is automatically behind or underachieving if they aren’t double-majoring, overloading, undersleeping or already finding a job for the summer, regardless of what they actually are pursuing at the time.
At a place like Hopkins, feeling inadequate is no struggle. The amount of people who don’t believe that they belong at this school is alarming and disappointing, and sometimes I worry about how normal that has become. The problem is not vicious academic competition; it’s the isolating debilitation of feeling like you’re not good enough.
When did self-deprecation and misery become something worth celebrating? We cope with it through humor, accepting this as the way things are around here.
From the bottom of my heart, I don’t understand why life at Hopkins must remain this way. You should be allowed to be happy. You are an incredible student and passionate individual if you ended up on this campus.
There is a difference between working hard and between causing undue physical or mental harm to ourselves, and it is a difference many of us struggle to identify.
You are enough. You are doing enough. You are intelligent, valid and you’re working extremely hard. Your accomplishments and efforts can be just that; you are allowed to be proud of what you do.
It’s okay to fail and to be upset when that happens, but persistently beating yourself up for what you have not done perpetuates a vicious cycle of dissatisfaction.
The things that happen at this school are absolutely incredible. I am baffled on a daily basis by the research, community initiatives and projects my peers are involved in.
This student body houses a multitude of incredible individuals who will impact our world in unthinkable ways. Each of us are a part of this bigger picture, and we have every right to believe in ourselves and have confidence in our work as it stands.
This sentiment is not a revolutionary one. I can only speak to my own friends, but I know that there are wonderful networks of support among people who really care about each other here. I am constantly telling my friends not to stress about their grades, graduate school or that they somehow got sent the words “You’ve Been Admitted” by mistake.
I also can’t help but wonder if I am writing this in vain. I fall victim to the struggle of measuring up in many senses. I also acknowledge that looking to others can be a great source of motivation in healthy doses.
I can only hope that this will serve as a reminder for you to take care of yourself, because that seems to be hard to do sometimes.
I will not pretend that this is a simple ask, but I encourage you to make a conscious effort to try. You’re an important person who is trying your best, and that is all that matters.
Greta Maras is a freshman from Naperville, Illinois. She is majoring in Political Science and International Studies.