Choosing Present Over Perfect

Photo of Courtney Camden

A blog post from SOLES MA in Leadership Studies Ambassador Courtney Camden

You’re a graduate student. To put simply, 22 years of school wasn’t enough, so you’re back for more. This typically means one of two things: you’re a glutton for punishment or you’re a perfectionist. My money is on the latter. Don’t worry, you’re in good company.

This time last year, I was just starting my MA in Leadership Studies and the standards I held myself to were astronomical- sound familiar? I was balancing a full-time school schedule, division I athletics, a job, an internship, a GA position, and a social life (barely). If I wasn’t acing every assignment in every class, I wasn’t satisfied- regardless of the hindrance my chronic perfectionism had become on my ability to fully engage and thrive within the SOLES community.

Flash forward 365 days, here I am, entering my final year of the program, with a redefined understanding and approach to academic success. I learned a lot in my first year of grad school. I was challenged and stretched in all the right ways. My participation in the SOLES community refined my self-awareness, unearthed a passion for social justice, and encouraged me to exist outside the confines of my comfort zone. One of the most pertinent lessons I learned this year is that perfectionism does not always produce academic success. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I found out the hard way that it can actually take away from your overall graduate experience. A semester (and then some) passed before I began to recognize that at the graduate level, progress isn’t measured by your ability to regurgitate information from lectures. Rather, breakthroughs are visible when class content resonates with you in a way that transforms your perspective, aspirations and relationships. The most meaningful knowledge isn’t be obtained from textbooks or Copley databases. The magic happens in the relationships formed, the conversations had, the events attended, and the application of your learning in diverse aspects of your life. While the innate desire to pursue excellence is highly valuable, there is certainly something to be said about the experiential component that we’re fortunate to have access to as members of the SOLES community. As my mom continues to remind me, “In 25 years, you’re not going to look back on your time in grad school and remember getting the “A” on the paper. You’re going to remember the people you met & the laughs you shared”. So don’t allow yourself to be so fixated on achieving perfection on paper, that you miss out on the irreplaceable experiences that your program has to offer.

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