I wanted to write this because I have recently noticed that the feelings I am about to describe are ones others are also experiencing.
From what I see, the biggest problem Emory faces is that many students here are just going through the motions. I don’t get the sense that the people who surround me have passion, or that they want to be here.
One of the first things I learned about my floormate, Shureed, is that he wants to cure cancer with retroviruses. His response was an anomaly, as many others when asked what they want to do just vaguely say, “Pre-med.” They would be happy studying it at any top 20 college.
Unfortunately, Emory happens to be one of these miscellaneous top 20 colleges. What I mean by this is that Emory has high enough of a ranking to be considered great, but not a high enough one to be considered the best. Because of this situation, I see two surprisingly large groups of people here. The first group is made up of the kids who treat this school as a second choice.
From what I have seen, they are disappointed about not getting into the Ivy League schools when their friends and family have done so. Emory is their fall-back option; they came here out of having nowhere else to go, which is not the ideal attitude that motivates one to excel.
The second group is composed of kids who are not sure of what they want to do. Oftentimes when I talk to them I find out that they were the top of their class back in high school. Then as the semester rolls on, I see some things that alarm me just a little bit.
Like, I accidentally see that they got less than 50 percent on a midterm. Or I talk to them some more and find out they took the same number of AP tests I did, but didn’t pass a single one. This doesn’t make me doubt their intelligence, but it does make me question their capacity for hard work and ability to sit down and focus. And I don’t think my worries are completely unfounded. I see them complain about tests being unfair, but they always sit around in the lounge watching YouTube on their laptops.
I had serious reservations about going to college. But it wasn’t that I felt I wasn’t smart enough. It was that I worried about what would come afterward. So many people have told me that college was the best time of their lives, but this implies that life only gets worse from here on out. I see people rolling over drunk every weekend. I see a lot of pointless drama. And I see, above all else, the dangerous sense of complacency.
What makes a college a college is not having a faculty of top-notch professors or a beautiful campus, but students who all believe they can reach the top in their respective fields of interest.
Perhaps part of growing up is realizing you can’t achieve all of your dreams, but if you never had any to begin with, think about how low of a place you will end up at. If you don’t have anything lofty to aspire to, nothing will motivate you to do even mediocre things. College is not just job training; it is also the best chance we get to open up and fill our expansive world without worrying about the 9-to-5 grind that is the rest of our lives.
While we are here, we should be working toward something to be proud of. Getting in is just the first step, and getting a degree really should just be the bare minimum. We all have to strive for something more before we can be proud of being Emory students. After all, it is the same anywhere: the student makes the college just as much as the college makes the student.
Brian Zhao is a College freshman from Bryan, Texas.