03/01/2012 05:53 pm ET Updated May 01, 2012

You Don't Know Everything When You're 16

It's a weird feeling for a 19-year-old realizing what you thought was right when you were 16, is not actually correct at all. I found this out the hard way this past week studying for my history midterm. Back when I was 16 I took my very first intensive history class in the International Baccalaureate program. My high school was the only IB school in the district and, because this, was unsurprisingly great at explaining how great the IB program was compared to the AP program offered in the other high schools. Naturally, I was unimpressed with the whole thing but because I wanted to get into a good college and liked to challenge myself, I took the classes anyway.

In my very first day in IB European History, the teacher read a letter from a former student who -- like the school -- sung the praises of the IB program, saying that it was extremely helpful in their college level courses. I remember rolling my eyes and yawning because, at this point in my life, I knew everything there was to know about the skills I needed for college. This letter was just another piece of IB propaganda that the school was pushing on us to, yet again, show us how grateful we should all be that we were blessed with the IB program's presence in our school.

For the next two years, good and quick writing was pounded into us. I learned how to properly identify terms (write two sentences explaining what the term is and two sentences about its significance) and write a good essay in a limited amount of time (write a good outline and write like a bat out of Hell). By the end of the program I was able to write four essays in two hours and analyze five historical terms in 20 minutes. But still, I was convinced that while my education had been instructive (I'd conceded to that), I would never need to write an essay or analyze terms in a time constraint.

This semester I'm taking a Medieval Europe course at a college that prides itself on producing good writers. We just recently took a midterm for the class and -- wouldn't you know it! -- the topic of the midterm was identifying terms and writing a short essay in 50 minutes. While my classmates spent the entire week stressing about the time constraint, I was completely relaxed. After all, I'd been doing that for two years already. When it came time for the midterm, I busted out those terms and my essay (all thanks to a good outline) in 45 minutes. I guess, as it turns out, my IB education was pretty helpful after all.

I wrote an email to my IB teachers apologizing for not believing them, and I laughed at the irony of the entire situation. Overall, I learned that you don't know everything when you're 16, and maybe, just maybe, your teachers did know what they were talking about. Now about my parents...