Abalu: Competition to achieve academic success is lacking at Iowa State

Omo Abalu

As a university student, what is the meaning of academic success? Is it important or not? Does it mean getting As, mostly Bs or just passing the class?

At Iowa State, I hear a lot of students in most of my classes say they just need to pass the class. This basically means they do not necessarily care if they get a D as long as they complete the class.

I believe this is a very wrong mentality to adhere to.

I went to a very competitive boarding school in Nigeria called Loyola Jesuit College. My graduating class had 145 students.

Our final grades were determined by averaging our overall scores in each class we took and we used a ranking system to determine our positions in our entire class. Those who ranked first to 10th based on their class average were in the honor roll and those who finished 11th to 20th were in the merit roll.

Someone with an 89.25 average could finish 20th and someone else with an 89.26 average finish 21st.

It was really a big deal and you can imagine how people struggled to be on the honor or the merit rolls.

I feel I learned how to fear failure in my boarding school. Even when I did not do as well as I wanted at times, I would set a goal and push myself to do better so I can have a taste of what it feels like to be on top.

I carried this competitive spirit with me to Iowa State.

I remember in my freshman year, I always wanted to know how other people were doing in the classes I took and who had the highest score so I could match up to them.

However, I noticed that not many people cared about being competitive or even doing so well.

At my boarding school, it was hard for people to share their ideas or help people out with assignments because everyone wanted to outdo the other. But at Iowa State, I realized that there is no ranking system and not many people are really competing to be better than others in their various classes.

But I also feel that many students do not push themselves hard enough to do well in their classes. When you have the mindset that you just need to pass a class with any grade better than an F, you will never know how much more you can accomplish if you set your goals higher. If you open your mind to learn things, whether they apply to you or not, it may be very beneficial in the long run.

Jean-Pierre Taoutel is a French professor at Iowa State who says students who aim only to pass have a poor outlook on education.

“I am always surprised when some students tell me that they are not interested in learning French, and they only want a D-minus to pass this required course,” Taoutel said. “Unfortunately, these students are missing the whole purpose of learning a foreign language and understanding a different culture in today’s global world.”

I agree with Taoutel and this can apply to any other class offered by the university.

I understand sometimes you set high goals for yourself and it does not always work out the way you imagined, but this should not be a stumbling block for you.

Even if the class will never apply to your field or is just a requirement, I still believe you should try to the best of your ability to get a good grade in it. You will gain knowledge you might use later on or even help someone who might take the course after you.

I strongly believe I am not math or science inclined but I have had to take some of those courses that I feel are totally unrelated to my journalism major.

I am taking statistics 101 this semester because it is a required course for me. At the beginning, I thought I was doomed for failure. I never really understood math and I did not care to. However, I decided to change my mentality about the class and I assured myself that if I put in enough work and effort, I could do much better than I expected. So far, I am doing really well in the class and I am glad I pushed myself to stop thinking so negatively about it.

I will probably never like statistics or care about it but I’ve learned different topics I may need to apply in future situations or I can help others with the knowledge material that I gained from the class.

I believe the lower you set your goals, the more you set yourself up for failure. I am not saying you will always succeed if you have the mindset of a high achiever; I’m simply saying it is better to set high goals for yourself and fail from there, so you know you did your best and you can learn from your failure and find better ways to succeed by pushing yourself harder.

In this way, you will also learn what you are truly capable of despite some uncertainties you may have.

Timi Koya, sophomore in biological systems engineering, shared her motivations for working as hard as possible in school.

“I’m here for a reason, and that reason is to get the best out of my degree,” Koya said. “I don’t know what my future is going to be like, but right now, I know I have to do as well as I can in school and I’m not going to settle for less since I know I can always do better.”

Becoming too accustomed to the idea of being an average student and not caring about how well you do in your classes as long as you do not get an F may affect you later in life because you will not be able to discover your full potential and your greatest strengths.

The definition of success varies among us but having a positive mindset and thinking you can always do better without necessarily competing with others will help you attain your success. Leave the comfort zone of being an average student and strive to see all the great things you can accomplish in the classroom, or even at work, by aiming to achieve more.