Together but Separate

This is a commentary on the PsyPost article  “Study Links Higher Intelligence To Lower Psychological Well-Being In Freshmen College Students”. You can read the full article at:

Together but Separate
by Thomas Auflick

Our society divides students based upon test scores related to intelligence. In order to gain access to competitive career lanes and socioeconomic class, we pressure our youth to obtain high SAT scores to relegate pole positions in the race to the top. All of this starts in the secondary realms of education where our teachers prepare students to excel on standardized tests and parents encourage their children toward academic excellence with idealistic hopes of winning an award letter to Harvard or the next best school.

No wonder these first-year college students’ psychological well-being is a little worn. The journey of gaining access to privileged places in higher education can involve an emotional tax just to find a seat in the class.

To surpass mediocrity parents and teachers pressure students to perform. The research of Dr. Clifton J. Wigtil and his colleague Dr. Gregg R. Henriques cited in this article did not target the highest scoring individuals on the SAT. Their definition of high intelligence is relative to the standards of acceptance for the schools of which these students were allowed entrance.

I believe these are average students conditioned to perform over a lifetime and recognized as exceptional in the schools where they are accepted. In an environment where demanding families require high academic performance standards and schools base success on test measurements, we are creating isolated individuals that suffer from “lower psychological well-being.” 

The tools of tests and measurements often create division and exclusion. Ironically, the cure for one’s well-being is the treatment of greater socialization. As a therapist, my job is founded upon a social process to help people find a greater connection within the self, in the world and with those they love. What begins at an early age and predominates in our competitive system results in people that I work with who are emotionally disenfranchised through the struggle of navigating the ultra competitive aspects of their career.

College demands greater independent academic responsibilities on its students. First-year college students frequently find themselves alone, missing that direct support and encouragement of family.

For new students, previous labels of success need to be redefined. Creating success in relation to high intelligence may have fostered isolating factors for their achievement of finding access.So when one has worked their whole life to separate from the rest of the pack through marks of distinction, how do they learn to find connection? You can be sure that some individuals may need therapeutic attention, and if not now, probably later. 

To those new students who will not seek immediate therapeutic care for their well-being, I say, take a risk—dare to break the ice with someone in your new environment, smile, be vulnerable and show your acceptance.

Don’t be afraid to look at someone with the kind acknowledgment, “I see you.” In this regard, your intelligence will demonstrate through your well-being and you can begin a process of healing through greater connection and socialization. You may discover that you are not alone in your suffering, and perhaps, find some comfort from a new friend.