Imposter syndrome in the College of General Studies

I opened Instagram about a month ago and saw a post announcing the construction of a playground for Boston University College of General Studies’ students. Obviously, it was satire, and I laughed in order to prove it to myself — but I still couldn’t deny that my massive ego was bruised by the Bunion’s impeccable humor. Pathetic.

As a CGS sophomore, I’m not blind to the fact that we’re stereotyped worse than the Questrom School of Business kids. I mean, our school was literally called “Junior College” — like, a college that’s not actually a college — until some idiot thought the “College of Basic Studies” sounded more prestigious.

Sophia Flissler / DFP Staff

Swapping the problematic term to “General Studies” in 1992 made an arguable improvement, I’ll admit, but it’s not like I’m eager to tell people that that’s who I am — a student of the basics, or of the general.

“Who, me? Oh, I decided to study the mere whisper of a thought!”

I feel like a lot of CGS stereotypes are justified, though. I’ve aced classes I’ve never shown up to, for instance, and mostly study for electives in the ones that I do. Group projects are pulled together over text message and exams require an almost nonsensical kind of review. It’s easy to fall behind if you don’t stay on top of the work, but it’s more tedious than challenging once you’re organized. Though a last-minute scramble to finish an assignment is not a unique experience to CGS students, the college feels like a place where you can get away with it more than most.

But the reality is that it isn’t. CGS isn’t a place where you can just skate by, and it’s far from being the resident dummy school. After all, BU is ranked as one of the top universities in the country. But even after considering all the privilege and relativity of the situation, I still find my peers resigning to self-deprecating humor. When that happens, there often comes a desperate search for whatever else one can do to validate their ambitions.

Could never be me, though. How embarrassing.

I usually see this play out in one of two ways — overcommitting to a plethora of clubs and organizations to negate the CGS status or completely accepting the arbitrariness of it all. Last year, my instinct was to lean into the former, to find solace in agendas and a packed resume. COVID restrictions, however, made me dodge that bullet.

In complete honesty, I’m thankful because I could’ve never managed more than maybe one extracurricular at the time. Even now, I’m so overwhelmed by the state of the world that I can’t imagine doing more than just keeping myself alive and completing these silly little school assignments. As you can imagine, I’ve settled into the latter philosophy — accepting the arbitrary placement of my privileged position at this University and just … doing things at my own pace. Some may call it laziness — I call it energy conservation. And maybe a bit of depression.

At the end of the day, I couldn’t care less about whether or not CGS appeals to you. Most days it doesn’t appeal to me, either. As long as we’re all walking away from the same institution with the same degrees we’ve all set out to earn, why get held up by a few satirical quips? Why limit yourself to the perceptions of others? Why did I write this whole article as if it wasn’t just a pep talk to my cripplingly low self-esteem?

Though we may never find all the answers we seek, I hope you know that college is just a (very expensive) means to a (very questionable) end. No matter how you accomplish your goals, the journey will quite literally be what you make of it.

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