Thought Catalog
May 20, 2011

How To Be An Ivy League Student

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Flickr / David Ohmer
Flickr / David Ohmer

Scream and hyperventilate when you rip open the suspiciously small yet life changing envelope from [insert dream Ivy League school]. You fucking made it, the sweetest revenge of nerds – all those volunteer hours, independent research projects, school government elections, concert recitals, team practices and late SAT studying sessions finally paid off. Say HASTA LA VISTA BABY to homogeneous white suburban Nowheresville and run towards the pearly white Ivy gates. Never look back.

Lug in misshapen shapes of cardboard from your overflowing minivan and move in. Look around campus and realize the breadth of notable alumnus: a slew of former U.S. Presidents, ambassadors, authors, artists, and CEOs. Jump at the thought that some of said luminaries may have lived in your room, down the hall, or sat in your chair in your classroom. Realize you’re dorming with princes, published authors, national chess champions, political dynastic darlings, computer whizzes, and Julliard violin virtuosos. Mentally backtrack to your curriculum vitae and cringe at the thought of their resumes eating your Salutatorian/captain of the tennis team/volunteer work-resume for breakfast.

Realize a month in that you’re also surrounded by a smorgasbord of coke heads, slutty sorority girls with daddy issues, brawny bros and the general stereotypical douchebaggery that exists at any college. Wonder why these bros can never win in any real sports except for country club recreational activities such as fencing, archery, or tennis. Don’t believe your roommate when she mentions that the Ivy League was originally formed for athletics. Never understand why this one elitist brotherhood bond is the one area all Ivy Leagues communally suck at.

Look forward to your classes, which range from “Nazism in Performance,” “Algebraic Topology,” to “Cultural History of Japanese Monsters.” Try to take them all not only because you wrote in your college application that you’re so “well rounded” but because you want to fuck with your future job employer who will scan your transcript, see said classes, and have multiple WTF moments. Realize your Nobel prize winning professor can’t actually teach (since when is mumbling to the chalkboard an effective method?). Be exasperated by how many professors can’t actually speak English and blend their words into indistinguishable slurs. Wonder how you’re going to pass any of your classes. Be surprised that the TA leading class discussion on Friday mornings is surprisingly more competent.

Write a paper in class that you actually care about. Stare at the unmistakably legible B- in red ink on your paper three weeks later. That’s right, that B- just bitchslapped your two all-nighters and the borderline toxic amount of pills of Adderall. Be unable to comprehend because you’ve never maintained lower than a 4.03 in high school. Stress out. Wonder if you have what it takes to even pass this intro course. Stress out. Proceed to the dining hall to unlimited self-serve ice cream line to add on multiple pounds that you pray will disappear after going to the gym. Go online and sign up for a guaranteed-A class (i.e. Physics for Poets, Intro to Spanish). Realize you’re going to need to fill up half your schedule with these. End up never going to the gym because the Ivy League life is soo demanding. Wait, have you always been this stressed? Realize next semester that these classes aren’t actually easy. Realize in the future that it doesn’t matter because your Ivy League college inflates grades more than the annual hot air balloon fiesta in Albuquerque.

Revolve your schedule around a parade of student activities meetings, events with free food (thank God for cultural clubs), and study dates with that cute babe from your “really hard” class (it doesn’t matter if he understands the concepts either). Organize a fashion show for a cultural club, start and complete your 50 page thesis on the influence of Internet censorship and social networking in post-modern China, give a 30-minute class presentation on the the tyranny of the majority in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, get wasted on cheap beer and expensive wine at a JPMorgan info session all in one week – and somehow do this all with elite-ordained aplomb. If the Ivy League taught you one thing, it’s that you can have it all and then some, RIGHT? Right.

Go apeshit before every spring break, not because of midterms, but because all your fellow classmates received summer offers to either intern at the White House alongside Kal Penn, research in Eritrea for their thesis called something along the lines of “The Role of Sustainable Development in the Aggregate Spatial Strategies of Confluence,” crunch numbers at Goldman Sachs (Bateman-esque i-bankers or traders need only apply), or intern at W Magazine as an editorial slave to Stefano Tonchi. If you’re not curing AIDS or climbing Mount Everest (or both), you’re obviously not fully utilizing your Ivy pedigree. Furiously scroll through your college’s career site desperately applying for admin/assistant/ANY position to obscure “startup” companies. Smile and shrug nonchalantly when asked about said internship. Curse and watch your self-worth plummet to a similar level when you did the walk of shame in 4 inch heels across campus and saw your really hot urban & politics professor. Mentally note to never sit in front of that class again.

Remember the days you smoked hookah (amongst other substances) with your friends during that sunny afternoon on the quad despite having two looming papers due the next day. Remember listening to famous activists/musicians/political heavyweights at the staggering amount of alumnus speaker series (OMG wasn’t Jeffrey Sachs amazing? Bill Clinton was only just okay. Al Gore was better last year). Remember your dexterous ability to debate the epistemological underpinnings of Kant and Nietzsche in class in the morning and at a drunken yoga party later at night. Remember packing your pillow, chugging your Starbucks venti coffee double shot of espresso, carrying three cans of Redbull (you don’t enter the library without backup, duh) and dragging what’s left of your soul to the library for a 72-hour finals marathon of word vomiting and anxiety attacks. Remember looking around and seeing everyone doing the same.

Remember the way your parents cheered you on when they saw you walking down with cap and gown. Remember that they couldn’t go to college and came to a strange new country so YOU could achieve the American dream. You did this for them, remember? Turn around, catch a glimpse, give an insanely big grin shedding some tears. Look around at all of the relieved and shining faces at Class Day and scream inside, I went to an Ivy League, bitch! TC mark