Am I Smart Enough to Get a Degree?

Many who are considering going to college may naturally wonder: “Am I smart enough to get a degree?” It is quite normal to ask this question. In fact, there is probably not a single college student who did not have this question cross his or her mind at some point. The answer is sometimes complicated, because much of a person’s success in college often has more to do with internal drive to succeed than it does with “book smarts.”

Whether a particular individual has what it takes to graduate from college is something that can never be known. Even the administrators of colleges and universities themselves do not have clear-cut answers to this important question. It is because of this that the entrance requirements for many colleges can change. These changes in requirements are often a result of analyzing the qualities of students who go on to graduate, and then tweaking requirements so that admitted students best meet this “profile of success.”

There are so many factors that may come into play when trying to decide if a person has what it takes. The following are a few things potential students may want to consider:

The Admissions Process: A Good Indicator of “Ability to Succeed”

The main standardized tests used by most colleges and universities, the ACT and the SAT, are there for a reason—they serve as general indicators of a student’s skill level. Your scores on these tests may give you an advance heads-up on how you might do once enrolled in a college program.

The Princeton Review is the number one standardized test preparation service in America and is a main collector of information on the admissions scores required at many colleges. According to the Princeton Review, “The national average for the new SAT is 1500. For the ACT, it’s between 20 and 21.” This does not mean, however, that a student that scores below the national average will not be accepted to a college, nor does it necessarily mean that they will be unable to succeed. Thankfully, the Princeton Review also says: “Scores below an 1100 on the SAT or a 15 on ACT are considered low at just about any four-year college. You can overcome low scores with good grades or an outstanding application.” As with most things in life, even college admissions have gray areas; admissions personnel will take a look at the whole background that an applicant brings to the table.

According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, there is a large list of schools that do not require SAT or ACT testing, or who use these scores as a smaller part of the admissions procedure: “Some schools exempt students who meet grade point average or class rank criteria while others require SAT or ACT scores but use them only for placement purposes or to conduct research studies.” But even among these schools, the admissions regulations do have minimum requirements.

To be honest, entrance requirements are often all that is needed to decide whether or not a student has the potential to succeed. Schools admit students because they believe the applicant can graduate. In this way, your ability to be accepted at a school is the first test in determining whether you are “smart enough” to succeed there. With a lot of hard work and dedication, there is no reason to think that any student is not “good enough” to earn a degree at a college that has accepted them.

Passion and Drive: Things That Can’t Be Measured

Everybody knows of someone who was an average, or even poor, student who went on to earn a college degree. Often, children will not take their studies seriously, instead enjoying the socializing and extra-curricular activities of high school instead of focusing on studying. Then, something amazing happens: adulthood. Time and again, people who were poor students in high school will wake up to the importance of education. They will bring this new maturity into play and may perform unexpectedly well in a college setting. Because of this, some of the “smartest” people in the world are not necessarily those with book knowledge or high test scores—they are people who are most driven to improve their own lives.

Many of us operate with internal ‘engines’ that drive us on to work hard and achieve. Sometimes, the engine is running on fumes, or on the wrong kind of fuel, or—even worse—it has no place to go. At other times, the engine is fully stoked, and the pedal is to the metal. This drive and passion to succeed is something that is internal. It is not something that can be measured, but it is definitely something that aspiring college students can sense within themselves. If you have the passion to succeed and the commitment to “do what it takes” no matter how difficult the task, then you do not need anyone to answer the question, “Am I smart enough to get a degree?” … You will already know the answer.