Photo by Jonathon Garza

It was during my senior year of high school when I first realized that I had to work in order to pass classes. It was a traumatic realization, one that forced me to open books, use pencil and paper for the first time, and, well, start trying. I began to form a conception of what, in my mind, was hard work. The essays became longer, the chemistry became more complex and college applications had no end in sight. This, I decided, was the worst I had ever felt.

I had no idea what I was talking about. And I’m almost positive I still don’t.

“All of those insane homework problems and mind-numbing exams, as strange as it sounds, become a part of who we are.”

I’m six months into my life at Tech, and the pressure I see on students is incredible. Obviously, my first work-caused all-nighter is long past me. I no longer call my sleep habits “habits.” My eyes have been replaced with caves holding a distant, yellowish glow. And here’s the best part: I have better luck than most students.

Tech has a notorious reputation for being a difficult school. Classes like CS 1371 and Calc III have terrified students for years. I remember speaking to a recruiter at the Career Fair who was a Tech grad. We got to talking about some infamously hard classes currently at Tech. “Oh,” he said with a laugh. “They still have that?”

Clearly, concerns about the difficulty of Tech academics aren’t new. It is essential to realize, however, that these complaints shouldn’t be chalked up to laziness or cynicism. We’re a smart school because we have smart students. Our ideas have never been, nor should they ever be, marginalized.

It’s true, dealing with academic rigor runs with the gold and white in our veins; incoming, existing and past Tech students are well aware of the school’s high expectations. And in a way, it’s part of the pride that we feel for being Yellow Jackets. All of those insane homework problems and mind-numbing exams, as strange as it sounds, become a part of who we are.

I know we’ve all heard the common advice. “It’s part of the experience. It’ll prepare you for the real world.” Sure, Tech alumni have become some of the most successful people in their fields, but at what cost to an everyday student?

I, Arvind Narayan, am planning on spending my Yellow Jacket career from 2012 – 2016. In the eyes of any sensible employer, those two numbers define a vital part of my life, a part that either has qualified me for excellence or has condemned me to failure. But what Jane Street Capital will never care for, what Bain will never even think of, what Google doesn’t even know about, is the dash between those two numbers.

We all share the dash. The dash represents every sentence of every textbook we will ever read for our classes. It represents the countless hours we spend staring at a computer screen, hoping for the words “compiler error” to magically disappear. It represents every football game we skipped, every birthday we missed and every number we wrote. But in the end, we are the only ones that remember the dash, because we are the ones that created it. We sign our names to the dash, hoping it would connect the two numbers. And at the end of this brutal experiment, all we can do is pray that it stays whole.

Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong, and my Tech experience won’t be as grueling as I fear it will be. At least I can honestly say that I tried my best and threw all the punches I could, even if I am eventually left a Ramblin’ Wreck.