Every university has them. The exceptional students who seem to be involved in everything, or who seem to be making a huge difference in one area of campus life. Those students whose names seem to always be popping up, or who always seem to be winning awards.
I’m here to tell you something, to share a secret. Those students really aren’t that extraordinary at all.
A few weeks ago, I attended the 2nd annual Dalhousie Impact Awards Ceremony. At this event, Dalhousie students were recognized for their contributions to student life and to the university. Over 70 awards were given to students involved in residence life, the student union, the community, and/or their faculty. Stellar student societies also received recognition. With every award given out, a biography of the student receiving the award was read to the crowd. Let me share a few.
One award recipient has been a member of Varsity Council for three years, serving as co-president for two of those years. She’s been captain of the women’s track and field team, has twice been named as a CIS Academic All-Canadian, and has placed 4th in high jump at the national level. She has been a member of the Risley residence council, a peer mentor in the Department of Psychology, and a volunteer research assistant at the IWK. She has also worked to implement the “Special Tigers Sports Program” at Dalhousie. And her resume doesn’t end there.
Another award recipient has worked as a residence assistant and as the Dalhousie ombudsman. He’s been president of the Muslim Students’ Association, treasurer of both INDISA and the Dalhousie Science Society, and a board member for the DSU’s Board of Operations and for NSPIRG. He has assisted the Dalhousie Multifaith Centre with outreach and programming, and volunteers off campus, working with Feed Nova Scotia and Canadian Blood Services. Once again, that’s likely not everything.
Those bios are all pretty impressive, aren’t they? A little intimidating, maybe. There’s no way you could ever be them, is there? You’re always going to be relegated to second class when there’s these types of people in the world, aren’t you?
Reality check time.
Those people aren’t any different then you and me. The people whose bios you see when they’re receiving awards or winning scholarships, they’re truly not that extraordinary. They’re simply people who found a passion, and went with it. They’re people who had an idea, or several ideas, and followed it through. They’re people who saw something they wanted to change, and went about changing it. There’s nothing innately special about these people. There’s nothing that they are doing that you, boring old normal you, can’t also be doing. Some of the things they are doing may seem extraordinary, but they are truly just ordinary people.
Before one of the people whose biography I’ve quoted above finds me and tries to attack me, I’d like to clarify. All of these award-winning people are amazing people, who have done some incredible, amazing, extraordinary things. I’m not trying to take that away from them. However, I do fear sometimes that we are putting these people up on a pedestal, and demoralizing everyone else in the process.
I can remember back in high school, reading bios of scholarship winners. I remember many people saying, “I’ll never get that scholarship, because I haven’t saved Africa or found a cure for cancer.” I can remember my first few years of university, reading the bios of the students who would win the Board of Governor’s Awards at Dalhousie (basically, the highest award you can get). Those bios made those awards seem completely unattainable.
Now, after 5 years of university, many of the people I’ve met in the past 5 years are the same people who won those high school scholarships. I’ve gotten to know, worked with, and even become friends with many of the people who have won or will win Board of Governor’s Awards. Once again, they’re amazing, incredible people. But they’re also ordinary. There’s nothing inherently special about them. They aren’t something that you can’t be too.
So don’t feel bad that you’re not them. Keep on being yourself. Keep on doing the things that you’re passionate about. Keep on fighting for the change that you think is necessary. Keep being creative and innovative and forward thinking. Someday, if you stay in pursuit of passion, ideas, and change, you too may wake up to find you have a resume deserving of an award.