03/16/2012 12:59 pm ET Updated May 16, 2012

You're Better Than That

By Devleena Kole

How often do we hold the door for the person behind us? Perhaps five out of 10 times? Not so bad. Now, how often do we hold the door on a bad day? For the average person, the number drops. Let's admit it -- we are as generous as the day. In a lot of ways, it is not our fault. We are taught to be selfish. It is ingrained in our minds at quite an early age that we must be the best, and more importantly, that we must be better than everyone else.

Recently, Duke University's Honor Council launched a campaign titled "YBTT." The purpose of the campaign is to remind students that college (and any aspect of life) is more than the competition. We get so caught up with our own lives -- the grades and the personal battles -- that an incoming text becomes more important than holding the door open for a stranger, and a professor becomes nothing more than the means to getting an "A." Is this the culture we represent? To borrow a phrase from Duke's Honor Council: You're Better Than That.

We are certainly better than that. It is true that college is about self-improvement. It is the fleeting time when being independent is actually enjoyable rather than burdensome. It is perfectly acceptable and even expected to have experiences that cater to our own personal interests. There are aspects of college, however, that are inevitably part of the culture. We are expected to follow a set curriculum and we all know that our grades are more than just letters on a transcript. We know that college is about finding who we are, but it is also about being better -- maintaining scholarships, getting interviews and internships, getting published and studying abroad. We are wired to identify ourselves by our personal achievements.

None of this is an issue until it interferes with our lives outside of the curricula. Of course it is imperative that each and every one of us has long-term goals and a general idea of how to achieve these goals. I may not know what I want for dinner tomorrow, but I sure know that I want to be a tissue engineer. College has so wired us to set these priorities for ourselves that we oftentimes neglect our day-to-day gestures. Days turn into weeks and lunch dates turn into disregarded promises. We mark time by the passing of exams rather than the growth of our relationships. We remember the last time we stayed up too late cramming for a test, but we don't remember the last time we asked a professor about his or her day.

You and I both are better than that. We are not inherently selfish. In fact, we are quite the opposite. I frequently hear of students returning a peer's lost wallet or ID. I see students pick up someone else's candy wrapper in a classroom and throw it in the trash bin. I see students at Bi-Lo who take the time to have a genuine conversation with the person at the register. Being selfish is not how we get to be the second happiest campus in the country.

We just become a little tied up in strings that we cannot seem to cut. With time, these strings get tighter, which is why it is important now to take note of the little things. Once in a while, we must stop making to-do lists and breathe. Take a friend to your favorite getaway spot and watch the sunset. Call that friend you keep bumping into on the library bridge and plan a lunch date. Surprise your roommate with a free dinner. Take the time to talk to your professors outside of class. Most importantly, ignore the voice in your head that cares far too much about the wrong things. There's no doubt that you're better than that.