Written by Piotr Le
For some this maybe old news, for others this maybe common sense, and for others this may help. I hope this will benefit all of you as much as it would’ve benefitted me.
First and foremost: Congratulations, you have been admitted into one of the most prestigious centers of higher education in the known world. You are considered the top 0.01% in terms of intellectual prowess, hard work, and dedication to your beliefs and goals.
However, let me tell you something people will not tell you at CalSO etc.
Here you’re dime a dozen. You may have been the smartest kid in class, the most dedicated student leader and the hardest worker. But let me tell you this, here, in the boundaries of the college, amongst the people around you, you’re mediocre. This is by no means an insult against you or your achievements, but the truth is you will be surrounded by people with similar, if not higher, levels of intellect, passion, ambition and hard work.
Therefore, do not expect to excel at Berkeley as easily as you have in high school. I’ve seen too many people crushed over their first B or C or even F in a class, too many tears shed over failed midterms. Here, you will find people who can effortlessly sail through a subject you may have trouble surmounting with Herculean effort. But do not be discouraged, because they may be the future Nobel Laureate, and there is no shame in losing to people of such caliber.
There is no shame in doing badly on a midterm, or fumbling on an assignment. There is no shame in it if you put your best effort in it. Gen. Patton once said “If a man does his best, what else is there?” Do not feel discouraged by failure in a subject, use it as a way to learn, to push yourself further, harder, and to seek what really drives you and brings out the best in you.
Why am I writing this? Because I don’t want either of you to go through what I have gone through: at the end of my freshman year I was bummed and depressed. Extremely discouraged by my grades, I got a C- in Math 1B Spring, my GPA was nearly over a 3.0, and I have not gotten a single, real, A in any of my classes. I don’t want any of you to feel inadequate and discouraged like I felt after getting consecutive 70’s (C+/B-) on midterms like I did for Econ 1. I don’t want any of you to spend all summer mulling over whether you’re good enough. Because, if you weren’t you wouldn’t have been admitted here in the first place!
But after that horrid summer, I decided to fight back, stand up and not let any of those setbacks keep me down. And as corny as it sounds, it worked out fine. One year later, I achieved a “perfect” season. I have a great GPA, and I got admitted into both of my majors.
Therefore, what I want you all to take away from this overly long letter is this: you will find it hard to succeed at Berkeley; it will take more effort, more time, more guts, more blood, more tears and sweat than it did in high school. And if you fail, if you feel like you’re face down in the mud, then get up and move forward. A failure is only such if you don’t stand up and keep moving forwards. As Rocky Balboa said “THAT’S HOW WINNING IS DONE!”
This is it, I hope this long winded letter will help you like I would’ve helped me my freshman year.
Enjoy and have a great 4 years, because those 4 years will be the best years of your life.
Nghia-Piotr T Le
Class of 2014