The Admissions’ Mistake

The first class I had freshman year at NYU was 8 AM on the 4th floor of Bobst Library, right on the south side of Washington Square Park.  I remember it was a strangely cold, overcast September day.

I was incredibly nervous, and really unsure what to expect.  This was especially true considering the class was called “Writing the essay” and I wasn’t a very strong english student in high school.  As it turns out, I did ok in the class.  But, what really stood out to me was the advice my professor gave on that first morning.

She was 4-5 years out of Harvard.  And, she said that on her first day of college, the Dean had said “there will be a point during your first year here that you feel like you’re an idiot, everyone around you is so much smarter, and that YOU WERE THE ADMISSIONS’ MISTAKE!  Fear not, as this is definitely not the case.  Everyone feels like this at some point, and you’re going to be just fine.”  By the way, I am totally paraphrasing what I think was said, as I was hearing this second hand.

It’s going to happen to you.  When you’re a freshman, or start grad school, or are at your first job, or start a company, or (presumably) start a family…you’ll always have a point where you think you’re in over your head – you’re the admissions’ mistake!  But, you’re not.  You’re just having a bad afternoon, or week, or month.  And you’ll recover, look back, and say “wow, I was actually not half bad.”

I’m posting this because it’s been a pretty powerful lesson for me to keep in mind, especially when the going gets tough.  What made it powerful for me was that this was said to kids at HARVARD!  Everyone at the #1 school in the world was feeling insecure and stupid.  Imagine that??  If it was happening to them, then this is clearly an illogical feeling and I don’t have to pay it much mind :).  I hope you’ll interpret this with the same lesson.