Ivy Leaguers must be brilliant!

September 10, 2012 — Leave a comment

When I heard he had an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), I knew he was going to be brilliant. His consulting must be like no other, with the ability to create business cases from thin air and pull PowerPoint presentations from places the rest of us didn’t even know existed.

I had my first exposure to Ivy League graduates while I still worked at the large consulting firm, Accenture. We worked with many smart people from state schools, private schools, and of course Ivy League schools. Since I graduated from a lowly state school (Oklahoma State), there must’ve been no way I could keep up with these people.

As we started the new project, I was nervous working around him because I didn’t want to seem dumb. However, it didn’t take long to realize he wasn’t born with super powers. He put his pants on one leg at a time, but he had a much bigger college loan to prove he went to an Ivy League school… and now we were doing the same job! This is what initially made me question how much we should really spend on a college degree.

One advantage/disadvantage of growing up in a smaller town with a blue-collar family is you aren’t exposed to many Ivy Leaguers except for what you see on TV. They’re always the high-flyers making earth-shattering decisions and printing money like they’re the fed. The only way they got there is because their parents were a part of the elite societies and wore the skull and crossbones.

Luckily for me, I was able to gain exposure after college and realized that neither of these assumptions are necessarily true. Sure, some of them only got there because of their pedigrees, but many others got there through hard work. They didn’t have connections or the “inside”, but they set a goal and worked incredibly hard to get there.

I also learned they’re not much different than the rest of us. Some Ivy Leaguers like to think they are, but in reality they don’t have special powers. The majority are great people who don’t hold their attitudes to the high esteem bestowed upon them by their degree.

So what made them Ivy Leaguers? One of my friends/mentors grew up in Boston and had many friends who went to the Ivy League schools. We were discussing this very point, and he asked me what percentage of my high school class went to college. I wasn’t exactly sure but assumed around 50%. He was amazed because his school was more like 95%-97% college bound.

These kids were raised in a different culture. If your friends and parents are all likely to have been to or are going to an Ivy League school, your chances of attending one increase dramatically. They’re raised with the idea that not only is not going to college not an option, but not going to an Ivy League school isn’t an option either! This is why I make the point that sometimes hanging out with rich people will make you rich.

According to The Chronicle, there is a noticeable advantage for legacies – students whose parents or family members attended the elite school. They wrote:

“A researcher at Harvard University recently examined the impact of legacy status at 30 highly selective colleges and concluded that, all other things being equal, legacy applicants got a 23.3-percentage-point increase in their probability of admission. If the applicants’ connection was a parent who attended the college as an undergraduate, a “primary legacy,” the increase was 45.1-percentage points. ”

That’s a pretty big advantage! However, some people say it’s a disadvantage. When I was still at OSU, the business school sponsored CEO Day where they brought in OSU Alumni who were CEOs at various companies. I was lucky enough to host the CEO of Praxair. He told me he’d rather hire graduates from state universities because they’re much more well-rounded and don’t have the Ivy League sense of entitlement.

Next time you feel intimidated by someone because they have a degree and you don’t, or because they have a list of degrees from prestigious universities, don’t give them the green light to walk over you. They don’t have special powers… in fact, the only power they have over you is what you give them.

The debate of whether it’s an advantage to grow up rich or poor lives on! Have you ever been through an experience such as this?


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