Failure and Inspiration
I recently read an interesting article called “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education” by former Yale University Professor William Deresiewicz. It’s quite long, but his insider take on elite education is worth the time.
To those of you who currently attend or previously attended an Ivy League or other elite private school university: Is this true? Do you feel that your college focuses on cultivating careers, rather than minds?
Looking back, I think I’m glad that I wasn’t accepted to an Ivy League or Stanford, my dream university ever since middle school. Seeing those rejection letters was failure in my high school senior eyes. I had worked tirelessly to get those almost perfect grades, take all those AP classes, and participate in all those extracurricular activities. “With this application, how could I get rejected?” was the thought that crossed my mind so many times in the days following the rejections. I had failed. At the time, U.C. Berkeley felt like the consolation prize to me.
But through my experiences here at Cal, I’ve come to realize that my failure two and a half years ago was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I may have initially took on my high school extracurriculars of cross country, track, violin, viola, journalism, and youth leadership council to pad my resume, but in the end, I stuck with them because I loved them. I got the chance to run miles and miles with an amazing team of friends, express my feelings through music, voice my opinion on the school’s public forum, and organize a holiday toy drive in which I got to pass out gifts dressed as Santa. These became some of the most memorable experiences in my life. Now, two and a half years removed, I still run. I still enjoy playing music. I still enjoy writing. And most of all, I still enjoy helping others. All along, it had nothing to do with my college application, and everything to do with my heart.
I used to have a huge fear of failure. A fear that, if I failed a test, I would be wasting the opportunity that my parents gave me. But while in college here at Berkeley, I’ve gradually learned that if I’m afraid to fail, I’ll be afraid to take risks.
The reason I have grown to love Cal so much is that everywhere I look, I see students who are passionate about ideas, students who see a problem and believe that they can create a solution. They believe that they can transform society. Individually, each student has the powerful mind and daring spirit to believe. But as a collective whole, they form an environment of social transformation. That inspires me.
In the past, I’ve thanked and admired my parents for working so hard to provide me a better life and the chance to gain an education that would allow me to make more money than they ever could. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that my parents actually gave me something that I truly treasure: the opportunity to learn and pursue all the things I believe in. I get to do work that I love.