An Open Letter to the Advisor Who Told Me I Wasn’t Smart Enough

By ERICK LEHMAN, Managing Editor

Last semester I wrote about my crazy ride into journalism, and how it sort of began from being told by an academic advisor I should change majors because I simply was not smart enough to continue studying to become a physical therapist.

He was quite blunt, and I was quite devastated.

But now, two years later, I want to write an open letter to that man. I don’t remember his name, and if I did I would find his email and I would thank him personally, but instead I have what he led me into: I have journalism, and I have the ability of print.

So here it goes.

To the advisor who told me I wasn’t smart enough,

Thank you. First and foremost, I want to thank you for being honest. However, you’re wrong. I was smart enough. Maybe not by your academic standards, but with heart, integrity, common sense and how I know myself, I was. See, I was never a school guy. I hate grades, and I hate tests because I don’t believe they tell the true story of how smart someone really is. I don’t have the mental capacity to stare into a book for six hours to study for a test, or even for two hours a night for a few days straight. When taking tests? Well, I refer to my test-taking abilities as a dumpster fire. Plain and simple.

I wanted to be a physical therapist for a very long time. I was in and out of physical therapy from the time I was seven years old all the way until I was a freshman in high school. I’ve spent so much time in my life in physical therapy that I probably could have done the job when I was in high school. I even job-shadowed a physical therapist in high school, and thought for sure that I was going to be a physical therapist for the rest of my life and be happy. But no, according to you, I wasn’t smart enough.

But what I am smart in — sports — is what I love.

You may have thought I wasn’t smart enough, but I have the hardest working mentality of almost everybody I know. It may not show in the classroom, and my grades may not shine, but that doesn’t mean I was not smart enough.

So again, I have to say you were completely wrong.

But when you told me I needed to look into other majors, it opened doors for me, and changed who I am today.

I discovered a secret ability of mine — writing. I was never a writer. Not in high school, and a few times in college I managed to do well on papers, because I was whole heartedly interested in what I was writing about.

When I stumbled across journalism, I wasn’t sure what to think. I wasn’t sure I was smart enough for anything, and I truly thought that just leaving college and working my way up through the construction field was the best thing for me to do.

Yes, because of what you told me, I contemplated saying goodbye to college, and settling. But I couldn’t, I wouldn’t let someone else’s OPINION stop me.

So I found journalism, and some six months later I found myself at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where I was accepted, and where I would excel. A few months after that I found myself at Michigan Stadium in the press box, then at the Jim Harbaugh press conference, receiving my season press pass in the mail, being hired as managing editor and applying for journalism scholarships.

I boast a 3.9 GPA in journalism classes now. Am I still not smart? I wasn’t interested in the boring classes that your university forced me to take that had nothing to do with physical therapy, so my overall GPA was lower than what you wanted for a physical therapy major. But that never meant I was not smart.

I let the fact that you told me I wasn’t smart enough bother me for a long time, and I would be lying if I told you I didn’t feel any resentment toward you to this day. But I have begun to come to peace with it because I am in a better place, and a better situation now. I am doing what I love, and I continue to work as hard as I can to further myself. I am surrounded by others aspiring for the same thing who support me just as I support them. I am surrounded by professors who help me rather than break me down, and I have advisors here, especially for our newspaper, who will help me with any journalism situation I have, and will never tell me I am not smart enough, good enough or experienced enough to do a story.

It hit me while I was in Chicago covering the UM-Dearborn hockey team play in the national tournament. I was smart enough, I had worked hard enough and that I would not be here if it weren’t for you.

I can, at this time, thank you. The odds of this ever getting around Wayne State University, and eventually finding your desk or your computer screen are low, and the chances of you remembering me are even lower, but thank you.

Thank you for your sincere honesty, even if it still has not settled well with me. I would not be where I am today without you. You’ve truly done more for me than you could even imagine. I carry that moment with me, those words “you’re not smart enough,” and “you need to start looking into other majors,” around with me every day as a motivator. I am out to prove that I was smart enough, and I am smart enough to do whatever I want to do.

So again, thank you for everything you’ve done to get me where I am today.


Erick Lehman

Managing Editor of The Michigan Journal