smart is a social construct

Welcome to Vassar! This is just like the scene at the beginning of Center Stage when Sandy Cohen tells the new ballerinas and Sergei that though they may have been the best dancers in Podunk, Nofreakingwhere, they aren’t fit to bring Cooper Nielsen cookies for next time here in New York. It’s like this: I know. You were one of the smart kids at your high school. People bowed down to your grammar, your sass, your calculus skills; you might have known more about the U.S. Constitution than your high school dean.

Alas, your superiority complex is about to be sledgehammered. You are one of 2500 here in Vassar’s hallowed halls. The guy down the hall who plays acoustic guitar in his single and stares at his abs in the mirror? The girl who wandered down the hall naked last Friday and then spent an hour puking near (not in) the toilet? That entire table of lax bros who feel the need to bring their sticks to the DC (aside: why can’t they leave them at the gym? Don’t they have lockers? MUST YOU ALWAYS BE ACCOMPANIED BY A PHALLIC SYMBOL)? Every last one of them got into the same school as you. Except for a couple questionable legacies, every damn person at Vassar is as smart as you are.

You, like I, probably kept yourself sane in high school by reminding yourself that everyone around you was kind of an idiot. (Unless you went to fancypants boarding school, in which case, go put on a cable-knit sweater and comfort yourself with the knowledge that Dan Brown was a “fac brat.” Michaela, that was for you, even though I’m pretty sure you don’t read this.) That douchey guy who dated the girl with cankles instead of you? NOT AS SMART AS YOU. The dingbats from your dance class who always got the solos? NOT AS SMART AS YOU.

My first few months at Vassar destroyed my superiority complex. Not only was I painfully single and NOT a member of VRDT, but I WASN’T EVEN SMARTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. Naturally, that was probably a good thing for me to realize, since I was kind of an asshole during high school because I thought I was the queen of everything, and it meant that I had goals to work toward for the rest of college. I graduated secure, once again, in the knowledge that I was the queen of everything (please note that I held a prize ceremony for my friends and me because I was sad that I didn’t get any school-sponsored awards. Guys, I solve my own confidence problems).

What helped me on that path? Well, for one, working hard so that I stopped sucking at all the things I enjoyed doing. But for another… realizing that among the painfully smart student body of Vassar College, there is still a hierarchy.

This is how it goes.

1. Top of the food chain: the academics. They might have a useful major. They might be paying $200,000 for a degree in Medieval and Renaissance studies. But they will be listed ALL OVER your graduation program, causing you to stalk them on Facebook because you’re sure that they never hooked up with anyone you know within the past four years and that’s simply unthinkable to a social butterfly like you. Though it’s not universally true that the smartest of the smartest spend their weekend nights reading Butler and doing their prelabs (which is a bitch, because it sucks when that skanky girl from D Block got Phi Beta Kappa and you didn’t and HOW IS SHE SMARTER THAN YOU SHE WEARS CORSETS IN PUBLIC), there were a LOT of people in my graduating class who were winning prizes who I SWEAR didn’t actually exist.

2. The science kids. I’m going to confess here that I am completely inept when it comes to the sciences. The only reason I got A’s in my high school science classes is because I don’t think my teachers knew how to give other grades. Among the science majors at Vassar, the premeds and the research-bound, there are a number of articulate, well-rounded people who are apparently just good at every facet of academia (bitches). There are also a whole passel of bimbos and bros. I don’t really mean bimbos — I just liked the alliteration — but I swear that of all the girls who looked like they belonged in a sorority at ASU, the vast majority of them were science majors. It blew my mind that the girls who, judging by their Facebooks, spend their weekends taking pictures of themselves making sexy faces at each other in Forever 21 tops (I clearly don’t belong to this category because I am incapable of making sexy faces), were capable of achieving honors in science majors and being accepted to prestigious research programs. Same for the dude bros who play Frisbee yet are apparently chemistry whiz kids: it’s like, wait. You thought it was a good idea to throw a party in an academic building… but you’re going to MED SCHOOL? You’re going to be my DOCTOR someday? (Sorry to use an example from real life, but it’s just too good to pass up.)

3. The verbose humanities majors. A lot of the philosophy kids fall under this umbrella. They are the proverbial acoustic guitar-playing, long-haired, sleepy-eyed potheads who, when asked to extrapolate on the meaning of life, will go off for the next twenty minutes using words with a lot of prefixes and suffixes that aren’t anywhere in your mental dictionary. They’re the kids who decorate their rooms with On the Road or Fear and Loathing posters, but can whip out a 10-page paper on the existential crises of Kerouac and Thompson in relation to intersubjectivity and the apathy of the 20th century. Like… they know big words and they might actually use them correctly on occasion, although usually, they’re just vomiting shit up on a paper and that’s why they aren’t up there with the academic rock stars, because they haven’t actually bothered to learn what intersubjectivity means.

4. The music majors and the drama majors. Aww… your senior project was really good!

Just kidding, guys. You know I love you.

Also, I feel like this is probably kind of offensive, but it’s not like I’m going to see any of you again anytime soon, so whatever.


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