Isabella T-shirt
Credit: Sanjana Rao

Penn students never fail to boast about our reputation as the “social Ivy.” What we’re less willing to admit is that we’re also a “safety Ivy,” stuck in the “middle tier” of rankings, somewhere in between Columbia and Cornell. But beyond our U.S. News & World Report ranking, at our core, we’re insecure. 

A team of Penn psychologists conducted a study where they asked Penn and Harvard students to write down seven terms to describe their school. While only 7 percent of Harvard students wrote “Ivy League,” nearly a third of Penn students did.

Credit: Camille Rapay

So what are we compensating for? And why do we feel so compelled to do so?

I’ve had lots of conversations with Penn students about college admissions. A good chunk of them won’t let you forget that they were waitlisted at Harvard or Yale. What’s more, Wharton students have the incessant need to emphasize that they are in Wharton the No. 1 undergraduate business school.

By now, I’ve gotten used to the raised eyebrows and forced nods and smiles when I introduce myself as an English major in the “College of Arts and Crafts.” 

I applied early decision because Penn was my first choice. Not because I’m a legacy or I didn’t have the grades to apply somewhere else, but because I wanted to go here. And after I got in, I brushed off snide remarks from my peers about my choice not being good enough. And I still deal with it. People from my high school continuously make comments about our reputation as a “lower-tier” Ivy. But I thought that once I came to Penn, all of that would be trivial, because everyone would be happy to be a student here.  

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for poking fun at Penn, as well as the individual reputations of its different schools. But these jokes manifest themselves in the insecurity that permeates this campus, and that’s when we get ourselves in trouble.   

“Penn might not be “the best” school in the Ivy League, but let me pose an important question: why does it matter? And why does it hurt our egos so much? Four years go by too quickly to walk around with chips on our shoulders.”

A Penn education affords numerous privileges: networking opportunities, learning from renowned professors, incredible on-campus resources, and more. It’s our responsibility to take advantage of that. Penn might not be “the best” school in the Ivy League, but let me pose an important question: why does it matter? And why does it hurt our egos so much? Four years go by too quickly to walk around with chips on our shoulders. 

We have to take Penn for what it is, and accept the fact that we go to school here — not Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. And Penn is a damn good school. Dwelling on the fact that we don’t go somewhere else only makes the difficult experience that is attending college unbearable.    

I’ve met a lot of Penn students who want to transfer to other Ivies — the applications were due just a few weeks ago. But anyone who thinks there isn’t a pre-professional culture, toxic competition, and obnoxious wealthy students at every Ivy League school is kidding themselves. Because, let’s face it, Ivies are more similar than they are different. 

Being at a school surrounded by people who think that they’re better than its reputation is frustrating. It takes away from the experience of being a student here, and the ability to revel in the intelligent people surrounding us. 

I might not be able to change the minds of people who wear “not Penn State” memorabilia and brag about their SAT scores from 11th grade. Still, I can urge you not to do so. Let’s not become the insecure Ivy.

ISABELLA SIMONETTI is a College freshman from New York studying English. Her email address is simonetti@thedp.com.

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