I’ve been catching up on some back reading over vacation, so I just now got to my copy of the January issue of Harvard Magazine. After reading “Applying Yourself,” by college senior Liz Godwin, I am convinced that this essay should be read by all college-bound high-school juniors and seniors, whether they’re from Weston or Dorchester or anywhere else. So many of these students have so much fear of rejection that they mistakenly consider themselves failures; they might benefit from reading the thoughts of a generally successful college senior who has had the same worries throughout her four years at Harvard. It’s helpful to know that you’re not alone. Here are a couple of excerpts from Godwin’s essay:
I instantly understood that to adapt successfully meant to excel at classes, social life, and preprofessional development, all with minimal discernible effort. I thought I saw this being accomplished everywhere — by roommates, by friends on the Crimson, by classmates — and I could not understand why I was having so much trouble emulating their easy perfection. In my frustration I left unexamined the question of what I actually wanted, too concerned with my fears about keeping up with everyone else to care about understanding my own desires.
What surprises me now about how disconnected and inept I felt then was my absolute assumption that I was alone in my fears of inadequacy. Alone, I berated myself for getting caught up in destructive comparisons of myself to my peers, or for not knowing what I wanted to do after college, or for not getting a stellar grade. I worried occasionally that I was the only person I knew without a summer job lined up by November. I clammed up in sections, sure that my comments would be the least valuable of the discussion. Every small rejection or failure felt immeasurably personal, and it would have shocked me if someone had told me that other people had similar thoughts. Hiding my insecurities became almost another extracurricular activity, but one that nobody would put on a résumé.