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[Dear Madison] Am I Getting Dumber?

Dear Madison,

Getting into SMU as an international student is hard.

I used to be self assured about my ability to score and my grades were not topper level, but they were pretty good. A year has passed and every semester I see my GPA dropping. Not by a lot, but by a hundredth of a decimal point.

Am I getting dumber? I don't understand what's happening. Everything is so hard suddenly! I'm starting to question if this is a mistake. Is this normal? I see students from other disciplines breezing through life and doing it all, and I feel like I'm failing at everything.

What's happening? Is this normal? Help me!





Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for being so open with me about your struggles! You’re such a warrior for pushing through the school term thus far despite all that has been going on, especially as an international student. Being away from home is tough and at times, loneliness tends to add on to the overwhelming nature of our workload. I cannot imagine the stress you must be feeling now and I just want you to know that you will always have my support and companionship along the way.

I realise your conflicted feelings are associated with the academic transition, from being self-assured to self-conscious about your ability to score. Having been at the brunt of the stress associated with academic pressure, I definitely resonate with you. Please do not lose confidence in your academic abilities because the fact that you made it this far is a testament to your academic prowess and intelligence!

Upon entering university, a slump in grades is normal in this phase of transition - not just in terms of intelligence but also self-development. We overload ourselves with internship applications or career planning to establish some form of job security in the future. We worry about our interpersonal relationships with peers, friends and family. We see a demanding and horrendously long task list every day. Amongst all these, we have to manage our academics because it becomes an expectation to end up on the dean’s list.

As students, we have so much to juggle. Remember that you are human and you cannot be everywhere all at once. So, when you see a drop in your GPA, don’t feel terrible about your academic performance. It shows you are trying and this marginal drop in grades is due to being overworked. So, never think destructive thoughts and continue slaying the semesters ahead.

And so we come to your question of whether you are getting dumber, to this I say absolutely NOT! I think one thing you can do is to recite self-motivating mantras every day because you deserve all the compliments. Tell yourself - “I am good enough, I am strong, I will conquer anything in my way.” It’s tempting to fall into darkness and the self-deprecating remarks but I hope you don’t end up in that scenario. A drop in GPA should not beg the question of your intelligence but rather, it should be a hint for you to rest well, eat well and allocate your time well. In fact, if you do stress about it, it’ll hinder your academic performance, your ability to think clearly and critically during tests.

Since stress is counterproductive in your case, please start resting and taking care of yourself first before you proceed ahead with your tasks! The feeling of anxiety and worry probably also results in you feeling that lesson content is progressively getting tougher. One thing you can try would be to have one rest day per week just to consolidate your thoughts and emotions before burying yourself in a mountain of workload. Enjoy your favourite sitcoms, comfort food, have a good night's rest, and you will realise that studies no longer seem as demanding or challenging. Please don’t feel guilty to rest as well! We are human and we need our sleep or our brain struggles to function effectively.

I also noticed that you’re comparing your progress to other students from other disciplines. I think we tend to compare ourselves based on the wrong criteria - everyone has their own workload and different disciplines have different curriculums so don’t feel as if you are losing out! In fact, I believe it’s extremely normal amongst all students to find their GPA slipping as the semesters progress. On that note, comparing evolves into self-destructive thoughts, making us second-guess our abilities and be overly critical of ourselves. Take things one step at a time, take a breather and focus on yourself - not the lives of people around you.

It’s definitely a struggle and a treacherous journey in University, but grades do not define who you are. What’s important is that you enjoy your experience, to redefine and rechart your personal goals and objectives to achieve a good balance between academics and self-development. Ultimately, your well-being is of the utmost importance. So, surround yourself with people you love, do the things you like and always be happy.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me and I hope I’ve helped you navigate your challenges. Remember, you are not alone. I’m always here for you.





Dear Madison is for general informational and entertainment purposes only, and does not constitute or substitute medical, legal or professional advice. Always seek the advice of a professional with regards to any situation or medical condition that would require such advice.

The Blue and Gold, SMUSA will not be liable for the consequences of any action taken by you based on the content of Dear Madison.

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