Students in classroom

Penn Admissions Blog

“It’s Never Felt so Good to be Average” and Other Freshmen Thoughts
Olivia | September 7, 2017

After my very first college midterm, in the first class after we’d received our scores, I heard a boy in the row in front of me say, “it’s never felt so good to be so average.”

He was referring to the curve of the class and his exam score; in this particular math class, the middle 40% of students were expected to receive a B. His sentiment struck me as funny at first, but then very relatable. I’d gotten just a few points above average on this exam, which was a score I rarely would have been happy with in high school, but this class was one of my hardest, one I’d been struggling with for weeks, and I’d been considering dropping it before I got my midterm results back. When I told my RA my results, telling him I’d gotten around average on the exam, he laughed and put it in perspective for me. “Yeah, average in multivariable calculus with some of the smartest kids in the country!” It was true, I realized. Though it isn’t always easy or fun to struggle and work hard and receive an “average” grade on a college midterm, it’s good to be surrounded by students who work hard, ask good questions, and are always around to help me understand the material. I’ve often heard my friends here say some variation of the phrase, “math (or physics, computer science, economics, [insert subject here]) used to be my best subject in high school.” But just because we might not be getting the grades we’re used to doesn’t mean we’re no longer good at a subject; it means that we’re in a group of high achieving, thoughtful, highly intelligent, interesting students who are all learning some pretty tough material together.

We come here with high standards, expecting a lot from ourselves; that’s part of the reason why we are all here. But it can be startling and unsettling when in a class that used to be one of your strongest, you feel as if you’re struggling or falling behind others. Putting it into perspective helps. Getting an average grade here means that I’m pushing myself, signing up for classes that I know will be difficult and time-consuming, and doing it anyway, because I’m here to learn. The work is going to be difficult, sometimes harder than I think I can handle; what makes it worth it is the interest, passion, and effort I put into the class and the skills, insight, and questions that I get out of it. Looking around my math class, it’s pretty incredible to think of all the potential directions the people around me will be going into and the amazing things they will accomplish one day. Both inside and outside the classroom, my peers constantly inspire me, and I learn something from someone new every day.

Looking beyond grades, I’m realizing I have so much to be proud of. In just a few short months, my Chinese has improved by leaps and bounds, the coding homework I’m working on this week has me doing a task I wouldn’t have known where to start with a month ago, and today in my MEAM 101 class I took apart a toy and started to model a gearbox. Taking a step back, I can see how much I’ve accomplished, and it makes the late nights and frustration and hard work worth it; not only am I moving forward, but I’m making some pretty notable progress.


About the author

I am from Wilmington, Delaware, studying Computer Science with interests in creative writing, art, entrepreneurship, and data science. On-campus, I'm involved in a publication, a volunteer organization, religious life, and Greek life. I've loved learning more about Penn and the students here and taking advantage of all the great opportunities Penn and Philly have to offer. In my free time, I love running, cooking, exploring the city, and spending time with friends and family. As a sophomore, I'm looking forward to continuing to pursue my Penn experience to the fullest! 

View all posts by Olivia
Meet The Penn Admissions Bloggers