Cheers to the underachievers

by Kristin McKee / Roosevelt Editor

Cap and gown photo from Roosevelt’s 2021 Grad
Walk. Photo courtesy of GradImages.

The final stretch of the school year is an exciting time for graduates, especially with award ceremonies, honors celebrations and the prospect of new careers underway. Students are finally recognized for the sensational efforts they put forth throughout the past four years. For some though, it can be an unpleasant reminder of their subpar performance.

It’s been hard to miss my current and former peers’ social media posts about their accomplishments. They flourish their colorful cords in their graduation photos. Most have announced that they have been accepted into graduate programs, others have already been hired for full-time jobs. They’re on the classic, picture-perfect path into adulthood.

My only major achievement? I’m graduating.

When I first walked through the doors of Roosevelt University as a freshman, one of my top goals was to achieve outstanding grades and to be a star student. I attended all my classes, reserved significant time to study and kept a color-coded planner. I even took the maximum 18 credit hours most semesters to ensure I’d graduate on time. However, the weight of the coursework, along with unfavorable personal events, became heavier and heavier. I started missing classes to catch up on work for other classes, burying my face in my notes 10 minutes before every exam and leaving my planner to collect dust. 

Many of my assignments could have been better. There were times when I had high hopes for topics I had pitched for these assignments, but I had to put my energy towards other classes, and just could not make the final product into what I wanted it to be. I’m downright embarrassed by some of the things I’ve turned in.

I didn’t do terribly in college, but I definitely didn’t go above and beyond. I wasn’t an honors student, I didn’t obtain a 4.0 GPA, I didn’t get involved in any extracurriculars beyond The Torch, but I did do enough to finish my undergrad years in one piece. 

As for my post-grad plans, they’re nonexistent. I’m still unsure of what kind of career I’d like to pursue. I also have no desire to throw thousands of dollars into graduate school when I already have to worry about the thousands of dollars that have to be paid back from undergrad loans.

It does bother me that I will be exiting Roosevelt’s doors without leaving some sort of legacy. It bothers me even more that I probably didn’t make many of my professors proud with what I had to offer. I look at my peers’ achievements and their plans for the next chapter in their lives and get a very distressed feeling. Maybe I should’ve done more. Maybe I should’ve told myself to “suck it up” and put in more effort. Maybe I should’ve focused more on creating impactful, groundbreaking work and being more involved in the Roosevelt community rather than simply passing my classes and making it to graduation.

This feeling will be temporary, though.

Prioritizing myself and not taking on more than I could chew is what brought me here today. I had to realize that pushing myself to be among the best wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I would’ve had to pay up more of my mental wellbeing than I was already spending doing the bare minimum. I knew my limits when it came to what I could handle in my academics, and I had to be very careful not to push them too far.

I also had to think about what would make me happy in the long run. Academic achievements are always great, but the momentary recognition would not make up for what I would have suffered if I didn’t honor my limits. I wouldn’t be looking back fondly on my college years if they were consumed by endless mental breakdowns and a lack of free time. 

Not having a plan for the next chapter of my life is a bit unsettling (I’m already being bombarded with the infamous “what are your plans after college?” questions from my family), but it’s also exciting. I want to put in more time to not only figure out what kind of career I’d like to pursue, but also experience life without being in school. It’ll probably feel weird having so much free time for the first time in my life, but that freedom sounds exhilarating.

I’m not here to list my neverending excuses as to why I didn’t excel in college or throw a pity party about it. I’m definitely not trying to bash those who have obtained great achievements in their college years. I want to celebrate the underachievers, those who did the bare minimum to get through the uphill battle of college and succeeded. 

Many people put blood, sweat and tears into college, and I applaud those who went beyond expectations. However, their strengths and my strengths are two different stories. It all comes down to where our personal strengths lie and how much we’re able to tolerate individually, and at the end of the day, being an underachiever was what worked best for me.

With the year we’ve had due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to celebrate the smaller victories. Doing the bare minimum to graduate is a huge accomplishment, and I am cheering anyone on who has done the same. These past four years have been so beneficial for my personal growth, and I couldn’t be happier that I finally made it, even without the pretty graduation cords.

I may not have thrived, but I survived. Hopefully that will be enough.



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