Xavier Flory | Channeling our insecurities
The Gadfly | How our place in the Ivy League motivates us
September 15, 2013, 3:31 pm · Updated September 15, 2013, 10:13 pm·
You may have heard the term “HYP Ivies,” and here at Penn, we’re a little insecure that the “P” stands for Princeton.
Penn might have ranked in the top 10 universities for the past several years, but rarely in the top five. Some even say we wouldn’t make the top 10 if it weren’t for Wharton — we’re insecure about that, too.
Insecurity is productive if it is channeled in the right way, and at Penn I think it often is. We work even harder than we would otherwise.
As a member of the Ivy League, we are constantly competing with and comparing ourselves to our more prestigious brethren — it’s easy to think we need an even higher GPA and more impressive extracurriculars if we are to compete with students from HYP.
James, a College freshman, says, “I was waitlisted at Yale, but I’m sure if I pull a 4.0, I’ll still be competitive.” Who knows, James may even get a job with a 3.9, but there’s no denying that “University of Pennsylvania” doesn’t have the same ring as “Yale” does (some might even say it sounds like a state school).
Freshmen aren’t the only ones worried about prestige, and within the University, Wharton is another source of anxiety. Penn students outside Wharton might attend the forgotten Ivy, but some of their peers are attending the preeminent undergraduate business school.
Many criticize Wharton for turning us all into greedy pre-professionals, but of course, students at most top colleges follow the money trail — Princeton, for example, sent 35.9 percent of its graduating class into financial services in 2010.
Furthermore, we can learn as much or interact as little as we want with the other schools at Penn. Most of the time, I feel totally removed from the professional world as I walk from my seminar on the French Enlightenment to my rehearsal of Ravel Trio and then back to my room lined with Boccaccio.
But as I enter my senior year, Huntsman Hall is a much-needed reminder that the professional world awaits. Resume workshops for OCR and people already interviewing for jobs in September make me realize that I need to get my act together as well.
And that is the great strength of Penn. We can live in academic isolation, with nary a thought to our futures or anything beyond Rousseau, but we are also surrounded by three of the best pre-professional programs in the country.
This semester I’m taking a class on health care in the nursing school and get to listen to the perspectives of people who are actually training to enter the field and have a large amount of practical knowledge on the subject.
However, Penn is only great if we have the confidence, maturity and independence to approach it in the right way.
We need enough confidence not to let our insecurities rule our decisions. While they can motivate us to work even harder at our current endeavors, we shouldn’t let them force us down paths we otherwise wouldn’t take. When we choose anything for the way it sounds or the reaction it will elicit, then we are probably making a bad decision.
We need maturity to push ourselves, not merely for the sake of exertion, but towards a goal. I have deep admiration for my friend who arrives at Huntsman Hall at 5 a.m. to work on math and does not stop until 6 p.m. when he gets his one meal of the day. I have less regard for those that can’t even explain why they are pursuing a dual degree.
Lastly, we need independence not to get sucked into what we perceive to be the dominating ethos of the University. If you think Penn is too pre-professional, then take other classes, meet new friends and join new organizations. Institutions like Penn are nothing more than what we, the people, make them. They only define our experience if we allow them to.
In reality we are the ones who shape Penn, and we have the academic diversity, financial resources and that hint of insecurity to push us towards greatness.
Xavier Flory is a College senior from Nokesville, Va. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @FloryXavier. “The Gadfly” appears every other Monday.