I have an ongoing argument with a colleague of mine. I will tell him of something I’d like to do for students, and he’ll say that I’m babying them: “I didn’t have any of that stuff when I was in college, and I did just fine.”
There is a problem, however, with my colleague’s reasoning: Those of us who have made education a career forget that our college careers were probably different from those of our students. We probably enjoyed studying; we were probably good at it–at least enough to make it our lives’ work. And we also tend to forget that our skills were honed by graduate school as well.
While we have many things to offer students, one is not the message that they should all be walking the same path that we did. We all should we wary of holding our experience up as the best way to success, whether professional or personal.
Now research does show that sharing struggles with students can be beneficial. (In fact, one study showed that simply putting up posters of various successful scientists’ struggles helped success rates.) But often that is not the way that such stories are presented. Too often, it’s more like, “You don’t know troubles. You want to hear about troubles? Here’s what I had to go through to get through college. And now I’m a success. So you have no excuse for not making it.”
This is not to say that we shouldn’t help people or give advice. But we should always keep in mind that, for better or worse, our experience is not universal.