It all happened so fast. Since April 1, 2021, when I finally got involved in the university of my choice, every time I was asked about my plans after high school, I proudly followed: “I’m going to the University of Michigan. . Even though I had to repeat this answer a million times, it doesn’t feel real to me to be here in Ann Arbor. It was more of an automatic response, but now I walk the Law Quad, the Diag, and Main Street and feel like I’ve been transported to a new life. A common phrase that is currently circulating on the Internet (and on campus) among freshmen describes the astonishing achievement “when you go to a top college and it’s actually difficult.” It’s not just a response or something to put in your Instagram bio anymore. I never felt the moment was coming. Time has felt stretched 100 times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We sat anxiously and waited for over a year for the change and excitement that comes with being on campus. Thinking about college life was a form of dealing with social isolation and depression.
The Wall Street Journal recently ranked the University of Michigan as the first public university in the United States and 24th for both public and private universities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, their most recent data from 2018-2019 indicates that there are 2,828 four-year colleges in the United States. 24 out of 2,828 is a mind-boggling statistic to think about. This data shows that you are the cream of the crop as a graduate student at UM.
The Wall Street Journal analyzes and creates these rankings based on several factors. While rankings from different sources vary due to the use of different resources and criteria, the Wall Street Journal adequately analyzed and included all of the characteristics that I looked at when researching universities for my applications to. university.
According to the Journal, “The WSJ / THE rankings are based on 15 factors divided into four main categories: Forty percent of each school’s overall grade comes from student performance, including graduate salaries and debt; 30% come from academic resources, including college expenses for teaching; 20% of student engagement, including whether students feel ready to use their education in the real world, and 10% of the learning environment, including diversity of student body and academic staff. While the standards set by the University as the best public school in the country are impressive, they can also create an intimidating environment for students.
As we go through the midseason and the calendars start to fill up with club meetings, deadlines, office hours and appointments, it’s really easy to feel overwhelmed as a student in a university with such a rigorous curriculum. One after another, new tasks appear in the task list; it’s like running on a hamster wheel. Even if you feel like you are outdoing yourself, so are everyone. Every day, I leave my residence at 9 a.m. and come back at 5 p.m., to leave and finish my day after midnight. Yet that still doesn’t seem to be enough. Everyone around you seems to be doing twice as much and having twice as much fun in their free time. Maybe before college you might have been the one who took the toughest classes, actively participated in every club, and held a leadership position in every organization. It never seemed like an option to be an average member. But now you are constantly surrounded by students who are exactly the same. It’s easy to feel the pressure to perform 100% all the time and live up to that standard. Now who goes to the top?
The Harvard Business Review defines impostor syndrome as “a set of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite obvious success.” The concept of impostor syndrome is ingrained in our brains at this university. There are modules on Canvas before arriving on campus, as well as countless resources for support. The University recognizes how mentally exhausting the environment can become if you lack confidence in your knowledge and abilities. But are they doing enough? Despite their best efforts, this feeling still prevents students from performing at their best. 70% of people suffer from impostor syndrome at some point in their career. There is a constant fear of failure as a Michigan student. According to an article from our School of Public Health, the annual Michigan Healthy Minds Study reports that “among respondents, 47% tested positive for clinically significant symptoms of depression and / or anxiety.” In addition, many studies have found that anxiety is a comorbidity with impostor syndrome and that high school students who experience feelings of impostor syndrome “were significantly correlated with a history of ideas and suicide attempts and depression ”.
The University needs to break the silence and let its students know that there is nothing wrong with feeling inadequate. Feeling uncomfortable in an unfamiliar situation is ultimately a positive experience. It shows that you are stepping out of your comfort zone. Teachers should strive to promote a comfortable classroom environment that facilitates discussion and encourages wrong answers in order to develop a better understanding of the material. By bringing in successful alumni to talk about their own struggles with the fear of failure, it could help prove that even those who look like they have it all together feel the same way. As a community, we need to become more transparent about our way of doing things. There is no need to hide behind the perfect personality of the perfect student. Based on the data, we are probably all facing similar issues, so we need to support each other so that we don’t feel alone.
While being at this type of university can be overwhelming and intimidating now, earning a degree from the # 1 public university will set you apart from other applicants in the professional world. The vast alumni network connects you across the world. While the plethora of courses and organizations may seem daunting now, these opportunities are precisely what allows you to thrive after graduation due to the abundance of experience and knowledge gained. No other university can replace the spirit that reigns in the Grande Maison on a fall Saturday or the motivation that reigns in every student here. Rather than doubting yourself and letting the pressure set in, take full advantage of every opportunity and every second at this amazing university. Thanks to the staff and the vibe of this place, we have the tools to thrive and become the best version of ourselves. This is why the Wall Street Journal ranked us as the # 1 public university.
Gabby Rivas is an opinion columnist and can be contacted at [email protected]