THE BLOG

Two Words We Need to Hear More in Higher Education

03/04/2015 04:46 pm ET | Updated May 04, 2015

Just the other day, as I was walking into organic chemistry lab, a classmate noticed my Green Bay Packers sweatshirt. She stopped me and asked if I was from Wisconsin. I answered yes and she eagerly responded, "Me too!" For a few minutes, we bonded over the disappointing end to the Packers' season, the utter lack of cheese curds in Indiana and how you do not drink out of "water fountains," you drink out of "bubblers."

I walked into my three-hour lab smiling. This two minute interaction made me realize how little I hear the words "me too" on campus. I don't mean the little me toos -- "I'm in that class!" or "I went to that party!" I mean the bigger, more reassuring me toos. When I walk out of a calculus exam that I thought was much harder than expected, I wish I could turn to the person next to me and say "Did you feel like just giving up and making your integral symbols into little ski jumps for small stick figure men? Me too!" When I'm sitting in chemistry lecture, completely befuddled, I'd love to be able to turn to another classmate and ask, "Does it sound like he's started speaking Arabic to you? Me too!"

Yet, those are just the small situations. There are so many other me toos that we -- the students of challenging, top tier universities -- don't talk about, me toos that we shove down and brush away and keep inside.

I feel like I'm not smart enough for this school.

At age nineteen, I pretend I have my life together, my future figured out, but some days, I have no idea if I even declared the right major.

I wonder how I'm supposed to get a 4.0, volunteer with underprivileged children, be on student government, join perfect, job-marketable clubs, meet my future spouse AND have the quintessential "college social life."

Sometimes, I feel like I can't handle my stress and I just want to cry. But I'm a student at one of the best colleges in the country. I'm not supposed to feel unsure, scared, or not good enough.

It's difficult to admit that we don't always understand organic chemistry, that we don't have our lives figured out and that, no, we can't have it all, as hard as we try. But, in the words of the modern Disney classic High School Musical, we are "all in this together." Our egos like to tell us that we don't have to admit our weaknesses. They like to convince us that if we put words to those fears and uncertainties, and admit them out loud, they become real and have power over us.

But I'd argue the opposite. Relationships are a big part of the reason young adults choose to attend schools like Notre Dame every year: being an alumni of a "big name school" gives you a network of irreplaceable connections and relationships. When we decide to put our egos aside, and choose to foster those relationships and admit that yes, we're nervous or confused or unconfident, the fear that we thought plagued only us becomes something that we all struggle with. We're no longer alone. Talking about the uncertainties and fears we all have does not give them power -- it gives us power. Our insecurity is a shared problem, one that we can admit, discuss and embrace.

So, let's open up about these me toos. Let's admit to one another that we don't have it all figured out, that we question ourselves, that we're nervous and unsure sometimes.

Because I sure don't want to go through this alone for the next four years. And no one else should have to either.