A couple of weeks ago I met a girl who is studying at Oxford University. She also happens to be the same age as I am. What really struck me about her right away was her ability to get along so well with everyone in the room. Being a rather quiet person myself, I admire this trait in people; to be able to adapt so well to any situation. I appreciated her confidence, and friendliness. However that friendly manner didn’t last for long, especially when I became the microbe under her set of lens.
Right from the onset of our conversation I could see her evaluating me, carefully watching my every move. Since girls tend to do this when they first meet one another, I didn’t take much notice of it and carried on talking, trying to keep up the flow of conversation.
All was good until the subject drifted to that of our respective universities. I knew she was studying at Oxford and for lack of anything else to talk about, asked how she got in. It was a simple question, put out of curiosity and admiration of her achievements. The last thing I wanted was to make her feel confronted. However, that’s exactly how she took it. Her entire behaviour towards me suddenly changed, as though she were challenging me to somehow prove otherwise- I decided to overlook it-not long after though, realising I wasn’t studying in Harvard, Cambridge or even Oxford for that matter, she seemed to undermine me. Her way of conversing with me changed as though she thought I was incapable of following her through. Or that my intellectual capabilities didn’t quite match up to hers. Throughout the evening I could feel her eyes on me every time I said something or added anything to the group conversation we were having. Calculating every response I gave, judging me, slowly matching me up against a list she had laid out in her head.
Though very pleasant and formal on the exterior, I could tell her behaviour towards me had changed and that she no longer liked me. I began to analyse myself, wondering whether I had said something to upset her. But after backtracking through the entire evenings events, it finally hit me. Somewhere along the line of our conversation she had decided that I fell way beyond her standards, and my ability to portray myself didn’t add up to hers. This was solely because I happen to be studying at a good university, instead of studying at the very best one with the crème de la crème; way up top where she is.
Realising this disappointed and annoyed me. These day’s people seem to judge your intellectual abilities and mind-set based on the organisation you studied at, be it at college or university level. We also seem to mentally rate a person based on the job they have or the particular company they work for and the level of their responsibilities within that company. People seem to favour you based on this very fact. The ‘name’ matters, whether you match up to the set standards of the place or not. For example a person studying at Cambridge may be a rubbish speaker and completely inept at dealing with people where as a person studying at Imperial may be extremely eloquent and able to portray themselves with excellence when put in any situation. However many people seem to overlook this and will favour the Cambridge student, assuming them better and smarter than the student from Imperial.
When I first started college, I went through many such incidents where I was undermined and thought less of, simply because I went to a less popular college. The person in question would come up and ask me where I had gotten admission. After hearing my answering, I would be looked upon with a mixture of disdain and pity, followed by the question, “Didn’t you study hard enough in school?” This troubled me immensely. I always felt the need to justify myself; explaining why I wasn’t going to the best college in town, since it was over an hour away from my house and extremely inconvenient and I had a just as good college down the road. But no, the aunties didn’t get this. They always loved hammering home the fact that their daughter got into that “best college”, trying to imply the fact that I wasn’t good enough for it despite my having better grades than their daughters.
However, the irony of the situation three years later is this; all my friends and class mates who ended up at the said “best college” in town, once there, no longer felt the need to study any more since they were already as high up as they could be. This ultimately led them to early engagements and now most of them are: a) already married, straight out of college without a university degree or b) engaged, no longer interested in studying but sucking it up at the same college trying to get through some useless degree just to please their parents.
I on the other hand, despite being at an average college for two years had to work hard which has ultimately benefited me in the long run.
I’m sure many of you can relate to this situation, if not something similar. The institution you study at should not define who you are. This is not a big enough or valid enough reason to demean someone or make them feel somehow inferior. Stereotypes such as these will only cause a person to develop an unnecessary complex which cannot be justified.
In the long run employers may not even ask for the name of your university. What matters to them foremost is the way in which you come across to them as a person, your ability to converse well and handle a situation as well as the level of your degree. A person having a first class honours from Brunel University may be preferred over a third class degree holder from Oxford.
Another important point people fail to consider, is the rank of the department or school within the university. For example the math department at Imperial is just as good, if not better, than the math department at Oxford and is often preferred by students as it saves travel time, hence proving to be an advantage in the long run.
What matters most is studying something which you have a knack for, and are happy at doing. These three or four years will pass by in a whiz and years later down the line, all we will have left is memories.