Saturday, July 27, 2013
The "Uncle Rico"s of Graduate School: I Don't Care Where You Went to College
In the movie "Napoleon Dynamite" there is a particularly pathetic character: Napoleon's uncle, Rico. He's kind of a sad dude for a variety of reasons, but what really sticks out in my mind is that he is a full grown adult that bases his entire self worth on the accomplishments and dreams he had decades earlier, in high school. He's sad because on the exterior he seems very confident, but you know that deep down he is barely hanging onto his sanity and security of self.
After having been in graduate school for a number of years I find it very surprising when I run into an "Uncle Rico". The people who act like anyone gives a damn where they managed to get into college when they were in high school. The kind of people who at the drop of a hat will brag about where they went, how prestigious, exclusive, etc. etc. barf barf etc. it was. Maybe that was impressive then, but it isn't now.
Don't get me wrong. I went to a decent college, and I'm proud of what I feel culminated in an excellent education. My education was a means to an end. I consider my undergrad a piece of trivia of my life, and it only comes up if it is relevant to conversation or if someone explicitly asks, for the following reasons...
Where you went to school has little to no bearing on your quality as a graduate student/researcher/whatever
Where I went for undergrad was a reflection of where I was as a person at age 17. I don't know about anyone else, but I wasn't a fully developed human being when I was 17, when I barely squeaked my way into a university. I was NOT a good student in high school, not good enough to go to the schools I wanted to. I wasn't even a fully developed human being when I LEFT college.
If you've found yourself in graduate school and are still bragging about something you did a decade ago, open your myopic little eyes and take a look at the people around you. Chances are they come from all different walks of life and found their way to the present on their own unique path. You probably have people around you that went to an ivy league, or a small private college, or a public university. You might even find someone who got a later start, worked, and maybe even went to community college for a while. My point, and the good news, is that these are all equally valid ways of navigating academic life. If graduate school has taught me anything it's that there is no "right" way.
Very Few People Care
By the time you're in graduate school, your undergrad is almost nearly irrelevant. The only people that care are as follows:
Your parents or immediate family
-- Its ok if other people brag about your past accomplishments, but doing it yourself is sad (see Uncle Rico).
Other alumni if you bump into them
-- Bro-like hand slapping and "We Are!"s when I bump into a former school mate are guilty pleasures. Then I calm myself and return to reality.
Those annoying bastards that call looking for money from your alma mater
-- Please. Stop. Calling. Me. When I finally manage to make piles of cash to donate, I'll call you.
-- Not really a person, but you get the idea. Older and lesser accomplishments are inappropriate on this document, anyway, even if your basic education information stays on it. That's not my rule, that's common knowledge.
If someone asks where you went to school, it's just polite small talk. And unless you're talking to an old friend that you haven't seen in YEARS, you would be better served to talk about more recent things.
No one likes a bragger
Nuff said, and it's a transparent facade.