Things all college students do

2 minute read

I’ve seen a lot of articles about “Things X Kind of People Do” or an iteration that defines people based on certain characteristics. Like this video that my friends shared on Facebook that shows the differences between successful and unsuccessful people. Or this article compartmentalizes intelligent people by 11 magical traits. To the people striving to be the best, some of the content immortalized in these articles can be uplifting, providing internal validation for pulling those all-nighters, missing out on those social events, and holding off updating mother and father on that very cool college thing you didn’t do in the name of delayed gratification.

But these articles are dangerous.

What these articles do is intentionally establish an unnecessary dichotomy between two groups of people—the successful and the unsuccessful, the smart and the not-smart, the sane and the insane, ad infinitum. Of course, it’s not unusual for us to see that in our everyday lives: competitive clubs have to make tough decisions between who best serves the mission of their organization; fraternities/sororities have prospective brothers/sisters rush in order to seek out the most compatible potential housemates; and future admissions officers or employers need to select the candidates who have distinguished themselves as the smartest and as the ones with the most promise for success. These articles give their readers that “Hey! I do X, Y, and Z and so that means I’m smart/successful/pretty/sane/[insert adjective here]!”

However, by doing so, they are also toxic to the individuals who are desperately trying to navigate their discipline the way they want to, versus how they are expected to. A pre-medical student trying to demonstrate their academic prowess may read the Business Insider article on what intelligent people do and will find that they encompass none of those traits, so they interpret the article as a staunch message that they are not smart. So then they start emulating those traits to prove to BI/everyone else that they are smart; “Hey I do these things so now I’m smart, right?”

I have never been a fan of these articles. They are detrimental to people trying to embrace their individuality and uncover how they fit in the world. It is an assault on imagination and innovation, as it forces people to morph in favor of these articles. Or it exacerbates anxiety and depression because it is a message that to those that are not represented in these articles that they are not smart/successful/whatever.

Brown has empowered me to become an architect of discovery—especially about myself. I do not pursue anything to appease the outside world; I will not become the people in these articles so that the perception of the world is in my favor (according to these articles). So if you read these articles, and it deteriorates the confidence you worked so hard to restore or maintain, I encourage you to resist them. Don’t let them question the path you’ve built for yourself. Don’t let them deter you from how you want to be successful or smart or pretty or whatever. Don’t let these articles influence the kind of college student you hoped to become.

And if they do, feel free to reach me and I can tell you all the things I see in you that make you great because positivity rules the world. Not these false posts.

This blog was previously posted on the I’m First! Scholarship Blog Series and recently migrated here to my personal site.


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