Overcommitting: learning from past mistakes

As a Junior in college, there are some things I have to think about. First, what am I going to do with my life once I graduate? The most realistic options I have are:

    1. Go to graduate school.
    2. Get a job.

No matter how things turn out, it is to my advantage to have a good GPA. A bad GPA has never been quoted as the reason someone had a great opportunity.

Some people drop out of college altogether and have success stories (Bill Gates and Steve Jobs), but everyone talks about them because there are not many cases like those.

My GPA is in bad shape at this point. At a B average, I would be screened out of many opportunities based on it. I have tried to improve my GPA in the past, but have been repeating mistakes that I must reflect on and change.

My first term in college, my course load was manageable. I did very well, which gave me confidence. Maybe too much confidence as I signed up for much more difficult classes. My GPA dropped significantly. The next Fall, I adjusted back and improved my performance, but then I really went for it the next term and ended up killing my GPA in the process.

A recurring theme has been how I wrap up each semester. I always look back and wished I had taken action to make my life more manageable.

Some people just suggest that I drop taekwondo practice from my commitments. However, taekwondo not only helps me feel better because I’m physically active, but also challenges me to improve in unique ways.

Reflecting on all of this, I finally decided to register for 4 classes instead of 5 this term. But then I added a research project (UROP). Again, I started feeling the effects of all my commitments. Got on average 3 hours of sleep last week and did badly on my first exam.

Now I have a chance to rectify this before it’s too late. I’m dropping a class.

For some of you this might seem like something trivial. However, deep down, ingrained somewhere within me, I have a need to prove to myself that I can handle more. I have a need to prove that I deserve my spot at MIT. If others around me can handle it this, I should be able to handle that and more.

The reality is, no one else cares. It is self-inflicted pain and expectations. Beyond that, if I’m asked to get involved in something, I feel guilty saying no. So, I also overcommit beyond school work.

I need to stop this bad habit of taking on too much. I cannot handle as much as other people around me, and that it is just fine. I have to craft my own path. I can graduate by taking just 4 classes each of the next 4 terms. In fact, I could do less than that. And that’s what matters.

I need to also recognize that I come from a different background and preparation from peers who seem to easily handle twice the load I can. In  high school I didn’t have to work hard to do well. Some of my peers now had much better, and difficult, preparation before coming to MIT and their hard work before college is paying off. They have the right skills, discipline and background knowledge to take on more and do well. The good news is that, if I put in the time now I’ll be in a better position in the future. And that’s the race that matters, the one where I challenge myself to grow.

This blog post is something I had to write. If anything, just for myself. I hope this helps me establish healthier approaches by focusing on what I need to do to improve myself, rather than comparing to others. We each have a unique path and I need to start from where I am today, not from where I wish I could be had I led a different life in the past.

Published by Omar Eduardo

Passionate about building great products; Product Manager @ Google; ex-consultant @ Accenture; MIT chemical engineering graduate

9 thoughts on “Overcommitting: learning from past mistakes

  1. I hear you Omar. Its hard to come to terms with your own limits but when you do and you respect them, you're so much happier. We are crazy over achievers and its never enough just to be here, we have to be here and doing more and better than our classmates, just like in high school, but its an unrealistic goal. Way to recognize all of this before finals time!! lol HAVE FUN WITH YOUR FAMILY!!!! (but study .302 a bit. too 😉


  2. wow, you could have described my life at MIT. at least you're more self-aware than me and realized this while you can do something about it.


  3. aww, you still got a year though! and i don't know about the whole 'being more self-aware'. i really had to talk about this before really making a decision… friends really made a difference =)-omar


  4. i know that the uprm is not the best when it comes to undergraduate institutions, but i found that i share a lot of your concerns and must do something about it, is good to know that i am not the only one with this kind of situations… and i am 100% with you that croem was not the most challenging, hard working school


  5. The GPA is just an indicator of responsibility, commitment, intelligence at some point, attitude … but at the end is the rest that matter, your interview, your extracurricular activities, your hobbies, your daily routine and personality, your vision of your future and your actions toward it. All of you are really winners because all of you have a goal and are working to achieved them. My respect to all of you; you all were born to change our world and you all will!


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