Feeling dumb in a school of pre-meds

Megan PeoplesGoing to a school full of smart kids has created ample opportunity for me to feel stupid.

It’s not as though I’d never embarrassed myself before coming here — I run into glass doors like a blind bird on a sunny day — but never before have I been surrounded by so many people who are so much smarter than I am. I spend most of my time with future doctors and engineers, turning those “so what’s your major” conversations into a list of career paths my parents would’ve been proud of.

It hadn’t really hit me that this is what it would be like going to a top school until I was sitting in the math help room, Calc III students on all sides, wondering how dumb I would look if I asked for help with one of my measly Calc I problems.

School had only been in session for a week and already I felt inferior (or how I imagine everyone else feels when they see me on the dance floor).

Of my friends, I am the only one taking all intro-level classes. Sure, it means I have more free time to hone those aforementioned dance skills, but it also quantifies the distance between me and everyone else, making it easier to see just how far behind I am.

The stereotypical Hopkins student is intellectual, good at stuff like math and science, and able to do things like dismantle a computer blindfolded. So despite all those talks they gave us in high school about how it’s “on fleek to be unique,” it really sucks when you don’t hold up to all those standards you’ve set for yourself in your head and, more importantly, the ones you see everyone around you setting.

Can I really call myself a Hopkins student if I’m bad at math? A lot of times it feels like the answer is no. Like when I ask a dumb question and get that look, the one that says, “You really need help with that? I’ve been doing harder questions since

I was but a babe” (well maybe not that exactly but you get the gist).

Sometimes I worry that the ghost of Johns Hopkins is going to start haunting me, though that might be because I misspelled his name so many times (ssssssssssorrry). Even if there aren’t any supernatural consequences, it still sucks to suck (at math).

Johns Hopkins is “that famous research university,” “the school with all the smart premature doctors” and “the one with the weird name.” Sometimes it’s hard to live up to those expectations. Just recently we ranked 10th in the nation, yet Intro Calc is still a daily struggle. How could I belong here?

I don’t like being the only person in a room who’s bad at math, nor do I like feeling as though I constantly need to justify to myself that I am good enough to be here. Yes, everyone at Hopkins may be smart and maybe everyone at Hopkins is even smarter than me (hey, it’s got to be somebody) but not everyone here is smart like me.

I’m not intelligent in the conventional sense; I’m not a biomedical, neuroscience mathematician (who’s also pre-med of course) but I’m good at writing (I mean look at all these words and here are some more, woo! I write so good). And though I am still sure I would not be able to have Calc I on my transcript without covered grades, my parents have already paid for this semester so I’m just going to have to live with that being enough.

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