Why students without 4.0s make the best researchers

I’m a strong proponent of research because it applies what we know to what we don’t.  I think it drives scientific advancement, and if we’re to compete with the rest of the world, pouring funds into research–medicine, technology, space–is the way to go.

I think research sometimes gets this intimating connotation, because it’s discovering something no one else has before… there has to be a certain intellectual capacity that goes along with that, right?

Of course.

But, I think a student’s capabilities for contribution often relies solely on grades and test scores, and I think this is the wrong approach.  Students who can academically succeed with minimal effort show impressive mental capacities.  However, I think that the student who must work harder to understand develops skills that the effortless straight A student might never exercise.

At some point, we’ll all come across a concept that doesn’t immediately click.  This is the moment where pure intelligence and perseverance diverge.  A student who must turn to his/her resources, like textbooks, notes or office hours might know how to solve the predicament more effectively than one whose never had to use them before.

Additionally , if a student spent all 4 years at the library reading textbooks and in office hours going over missed exam problems, you know they’re disciplined, determined, and hard working.  I won’t pretend I’m an expert at research, but from what I’ve observed, the ability to use your resources and seek out experts who can answer your questions is almost more valuable than natural intellect.

But, most importantly, I think that students who must work harder make the best researchers because they’re familiar with failure.  They aren’t afraid to fail, because they’ve learned to persist through the confusion, less than par grades, and opinions of others.  And you’re going to fail during research projects–experiments won’t go as planned, data might seem like pure anomalies, and it’ll seem tumultuous.  However, it’s the tenacity of the ones who’ve strove and struggled with success who won’t be stared off by a couple misunderstandings.  If research is trial and error–adjusting until you find the right solution, wouldn’t you want a student whose done the same?



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