Solomon Osadolo: The limit of intelligence (Y! Superblogger)

The rules are different in college. Your intelligence doesn’t count for much and won’t get you a free pass. You can be as intelligent, creative and curious as you want to be, but most of the professor couldn’t care less.

One of my favourite moments in the Spiderman trilogy is that scene in the second installment where Peter Parker meets with Dr. Octavia and they both engage in a little banter on nanotechnology. Mr. Parker, brimming with obvious wit and precociousness far beyond his league, quickly garnered the admiration of Dr. Octavia. At the end of their talk, the doc left him with a piece of advice that went along these lines: “Intel­ligence is a gift; to be used for the good of humanity. But intelligence isn’t enough. Hard work is essential.”

Intelligence… hard work… it all kind of seems like a no brainer piece of advice, don’t you think? I mean working hard only buttresses the point that one is clever enough to know not to rest on one’s oars if one’s intent on advancing intellectually. But as simple as the concept is, it is one that is easily and often lost on some of the brightest minds. How else do we explain the phenomenon where a pupil who clung to the top of his class in High School then goes on to college or university and performs just under par and never lives up to expectation? I know it’s unforgivably simplistic to attempt to answer that question without factoring in other variables that could most certainly be possibly responsible and just draw an inference from a premise based on a dip in said pupil’s work rate. But whatever the other possible variables might be (health issues, lack of motivation, loss of focus, etc), let’s assume those are negligible for the purpose of this essay.


ntelligence is quite a big deal during primary and secondary school years because of the marked difference in the rate of assimilation in a given sample of school children within the same age bracket. That explains why we have a handful of kids who always seem to be able to stay ahead of the learning curve for their class without as much as breaking a sweat. These are the poster kids, whose claim to the gold star is virtually unchallenged. I bet you recall some names right now (if you weren’t among, that is) from your class in high school or before, who were renowned for being cleverer than their mates. Of course, we know that the factor of parental influence (among other more subtle factors) in terms of creating an environment that fosters the legacy which places a premium on learning is largely responsible for producing these early outliers. These kids learn quicker because they are more exposed to knowledge sources beyond the classroom than many of their peers are at those early years. And regarding how our brains work, the type, quality and quantity of information one gets exposed to during the formative years are critical. It can make all the difference between whether a child stands out among his/her peers or not. But the advantage wanes just around the end of high school.


hen you poll a class of undergrads you’d find that the discrepancy in I.Q. (I use the term loosely) isn’t very marked. Of course there’s almost always at least one outlier, but his/her hold on the gold star isn’t unchallenged as is likely the case in high schools. The reason is obvious: Hypothetically, smarts is a base line requirement for getting into a university. The average undergraduate is smart. So in a class filled with a lot of intelligent folks drawn from all over the country-folks who were very likely at the top of their high school classes or close, intelligence starts to fall short as a standard for distinguishing one pupil from another. Being intelligent is no longer enough. And since the way our university systems work don’t necessarily require you to be a genius to get ahead, but that you do the work required, cover the texts, show up for the labs and jump all the other hoops while managing yourself, other factors besides intelligence (which is basically a given at this level) start to hold more value. Most vital of them is work rate (A.K.A.: hard work).

Many obviously bright students under-perform or flunk out in university. Other possible factors aside, it’s usually because they assume that their work rate which made them ace through high school would be enough to keep them in the game at college too. Maybe we need more guidance counselors to save our pupils and tell them the obvious truth: The rules are different in college. Your intelligence doesn’t count for much and won’t get you a free pass. You can be as intelligent, creative and curious as you want to be, but most of the professor couldn’t care less. As far as they are concerned, you’re required to up your work rate, turn in the scripts and meet the other arbitrary requirements if you want to get graded. And the rules aren’t much different outside/after college: Up your work rate because your smarts don’t matter as much to anybody as what it ultimately yields. Ergo: what you can do.


Solomon Osadolo is a curious young man who has a knack for finding stuff out. He likes to read and he takes particular interest in technology, music, psychology, writing. He also likes to think he’s smart and can articulate thoughts in a way that improves discourse. He blogs at and tweets from @soloxpress.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (0)

  1. Thanks for reading, guys.

    Thank you, Deb.

    Efe, my bad on the mix up. Dr. Octopus, it is, right? No?

  2. I noticed some typos with the name Octavia but overall I think it was a good piece.
    I think true intelligence will show itself in the individual in one form or the other in due time. I think true intelligence is hard to keep hidden for too long. The university system doesn’t need so it shouldn’t get it.

  3. I totally agree with Osadolo uyi Solomon’s article. It is quite disheartening to know that a lot of us (university students) get into the university or college without having the necessary advice. Like he said we should have more people that can tell these young secondary school folks the truth about the pattern of life style they are to face within the four walls of the university.

    Uyi boy! I salute your effort. Well done my friend.

  4. Very educative, well written. Thanks for this piece.

  5. Great piece, keep it up

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