Sunday, May 27, 2007
The below average student and Prof. Dweck
There is a professor at Stanford, a psych professor - Carol Dweck. I think she is smart, not because I attend her classes but because the Stanford Daily (the campus newspaper) says so. And her opinions based on her research surely are enlightening. So here I want to share with you some of what she said in an interview to the Stanford Daily - "Everyone was at the top of their high school, probably feeling smart. Many Stanford students dont feel smart anymore. I want them to know that this experience is widely shared. Almost nobody coasts by and does well...Everyone puts in a lot more effort than you think or than they show...The important thing in your time here is to find something you love and work at it as hard as you can." I think this is possibly the best advice one could get while at Stanford. This place has so much to offer, so many smart people that if you started to fathom it all - you would dig a very deep abyss for yourself and later find it very difficult to crawl out.
I mean I was not necessarily smart - I mean I didnt think of myself as smart when I came to Stanford. Probably the only time I considered myself smart was in middle school. That myth began to sway during early years of high school, and this sway turned into frantic oscillations as I was graduating high school and finally shattered in me any thought of being a smart guy after I left for Allahabad. So I approached college on a fresh slate, and tried to build the smarts in me. But alas, same results as in high school. I mean one would think I would be near top of the class for having made it to Stanford - but I was just barely in the top 10 - in fact there were 9 people in a class of 66 who were head and shoulders ahead of me - but some how I made it to Stanford ( I know - weird huh!). In fact let me digress here and share with you a joke my friends make about me. My friends from my alma mater who are now making big bucks at Microsoft and other big companies happened to see my resume on my Stanford CS Dept website and saw an unusually high GPA listed there (this was only after first quarter - i took only 2 courses). So one guy says to the other -"Thank God we didnt end up going to this university - it seems their bar is very low!" - HAHAHA :)) But running after grades in college really left me with no time to atleast try to find what i really want to do or would love to do. So now while at Stanford I am trying hard to see what I would love to do with my life. But this comes with a cost - grades!
I guess that is my approach to education here - I am trying hard to understand what they teach in class, try to experiment with stuff outside of course-curriculum. But sometimes it doesnt pay off and you find yourself staring down that grade which is also how you would call a flying insect which makes honey! Anyways, I am trying to follow the advice of Prof. Dweck - find that one thing I really love and go after that with all my might. Sometimes its discouraging to see a dismal standing in class, but at the end of the day - I try to keep my conscience clear and be true to the task - and if it does yield returns - well too bad, tomorrow is a brand new day! And at the very least, a below average student is better than a below average human being!
Being an Indian grad student on campus, one of the things which is oft discussed in boring conversations is - "So dood what is ur GPI?" or "Where are you interning?" or "How much are they paying you?". I mean not that often, but desis cant help but bother about such things. I bet if you ask people "Are you doing what you love?" - the answer would be difficult to produce (not in all cases though). Viewing graduate education only from the angle of GPA is being myopic. Well at least this is what I feel anyway. What do you feel? Have you already found what you love?