I've just returned to college as a mature student and I'm doing really, really well (marks in the low to high 90s, for the most part). I'm proud of myself but I have no idea how to interact with my classmates who aren't doing as well without sounding like a complete jerk. I don't have experience with this! I could use some advice or etiquette. There have been some... incidents.
posted by VioletU to Education (55 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Some details that might help:
This is the first time I've ever done really well in school, despite being a so-called "gifted" child - I've always been the sort who either had to do well naturally or I just didn't bother to try. I was kicked out of university when I was in my early 20s and I later dropped out of other college courses. My good marks this time around aren't due to some form of magic; it's a combination of hard work, effort, obsessive attention to detail and a sheer determination to do my best in a program that's really meaningful to me.
The college program I'm in is highly competitive (they accepted 40-ish students out of more than 700 applicants in our small city). The students are an even mix of adults (our oldest student is in her late 50s, I believe) and recent high-school graduates, and all have a combination of intelligence, experience, and did well on the interviews, references and essays required for admission. I get along well with most of my classmates and would consider a few of them to be actual friends.
The problem is that I keep having awkward conversations that, thanks to my previous academic slacking, I have no idea how to handle.
Her: I heard you got 98% on the exam.
Her: I failed. I mean, really, WHO would know the answer to X and Y?!
I have no idea what to say. Every possible response seems either condescending ("Maybe you should study harder/differently next time?") or like I'm gloating ("REALLY?! You didn't know?!") or just plain awkward ("Oh, well, um.. hey, I like your shoes!"). So I basically stand there silently and inwardly freak out about that silence.
It gets worse.
If I try to give a response along the lines of, "Oh, that sucks. I'm sorry." there are a few people who will say, "YOU don't have to worry about it! YOU are doing really well!" .. which is true, but.. again, I'm working my ass off. SAYING that, however, makes me sound like a jerk because they're probably working their asses off too. My response, then, is to basically stammer something and try to escape.
Wait, there's more!
I have a good relationship, I feel, with the core professors in my program. They seem to recognize that I'm working hard and that I try to contribute meaningfully in class (we're partially graded on classroom participation). It's not uncommon for a prof to say something like, "Good answer, VioletU!" or "The rest of you should consider what she's saying, too.." which makes my little heart glow, of course, but I can see why my classmates might not always be thrilled.
Me: Wow, that class was pretty rough today, huh?
Him: Yeah, well, Prof X thinks you're just plain amazing so you don't have to worry about THAT.
I need the profs to like me as much as possible - they're responsible for my grades, for pete's sake, not to mention my field placements, references, etc. But I'm not sucking up; I legitimately find the classes interesting and want to participate.
I don't want to spend the next 1.5 years being the student everyone hates, however.
I can't hide my achievements, as marks are fairly open to everyone and it's a small class. As the term goes on, I'm hearing more "Smartypants!" and "Brain!" comments and I'm worried it'll become more negative. Any thoughts as to how I can keep achieving without making my classmates hate me? How to respond to the sorts of comments above?