Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ivy League ≠ Success

He was a Brooklyn yeshiva boy, brighter than most. Following his marriage, he attended college at night. He eventually made it to Columbia Law. 

"You know," he said in surprise, "there are a lot of smart goyim out there." Feeling a little humble?
Malcolm Gladwell, for all his success, did not attend an ivy league school. A child of a professor and therapist, he went to the University of Toronto. Not having been raised in the U.S., he finds the American fascination with higher echelon colleges to be perplexing—a needless expense and potentially damaging. Frank Bruni echoes the same sentiments in "How to Survive the College Admissions Madness." 

Consider the Law & Order episode, "Haven." The body of a well-known black community leader is discovered; he was bludgeoned to death. The trail eventually leads to his protégé, a black boy in a high-level college. 

This young man had graduated from his high school with high accolades. However, the standard of education in that institution was so low that he was completely unprepared for the ivy league, no matter how hard he tried to catch up. His self-esteem suffered tremendously, and he wanted to drop out. 

But his mentor refused to let him, insisting that he had become a role model, that the community had raised the funds for his textbooks; if he left school, he would be letting "everybody" down. 

While under cross in court, McCoy pushes him to snap: "I just wanted them off my back!" The pressure was too much; he had grabbed a baseball bat. 

That example goes a wee bit too far, but the point is this: Higher-tier colleges don't guarantee success. Peter Hart, cited in Bruni's article, had a glorious experience in the University of Arizona after being rejected by more prestigious colleges, and ended up in the same business position as his classmate who went to Yale. 

My Bais Yaakov had pretty much taught me what I needed to know to do well in college. I even knew more than many of my classmates, which was gratifying. I was where I felt academically comfortable.

My policy, when it came to education, was not to freak in elementary and high school. I had a classmate who was valedictorian, but after spending so many years cherishing her GPA she allowed it to choke in her meh college. Her self-made business never required a stellar college education. 

Rejection sucks, in all its forms. It's when we dust ourselves off and plod on that we find our self-worth, and where our own "success" thrives.  


Daniel Saunders said...

Don't I know it. My depression is currently really bad. That would be the depression that started at school, but reached critical point at Oxford. Oxford is a real pressure cooker. It's a shock for a lot of people to go from being top of the class at school (which I very rarely was, btw), to suddenly being a very average person in a town full of geniuses. Some people don't worry too hard, do the minimum of work and enjoy the rich student/social/cultural life. Some are just geniuses and thrive. I crashed and burnt badly.

I don't really regret going, though. I think the intense work schedule (writing 2000+ word essays for one or two tutorials a week) taught me how to think critically and analytically, to structure my thoughts and to write under pressure in a way that I probably wouldn't have learnt, to the same extent, in another university, particularly learning from the leading experts in the field and being with other clever students. But there are a lot of sad memories too. I was lonely all the time, too shy, socially awkward and lacking in self-esteem to make friends or take advantage of a lot of the social opportunities. Even to give myself a break from work sometimes. I went back to see a friend a couple of years ago and just got overwhelmed by how miserable my thoughts were and quickly went back to London.

Though I should say a number of my peers are very successful (admittedly for differing values of 'success'). And Oxford has historically produced more Prime Ministers than any other British university, I think more than all the others put together.

Princess Lea said...

The English model, forsooth. And us Americans think we are so special.

Stay in London! That's what I've learned; stay away from places and people that make you feel bad.