Examining the Disadvantages of Attending Stanford

Posted by at 10:45PM

The American Scholar – The Disadvantages of an Elite Education – By William Deresiewicz
I just finished this great essay by a professor at Yale who realizes that he has nothing to say to his plumber; he has no way to make small talk with a lower-middle class guy. Deresiewicz goes on to discuss the three disadvantages of students who graduate from elite universities:
1) You don’t know how to talk to people who are not “smart” in the analytical sense (like you are)
2) You get a false sense of self-worth through the way the school bends over backwards for you
3) You lose the ability to accept less than prestigious lives – elite universities do not produce many elementary teachers, artists or poets
4) You don’t get a chance to truly explore the intellectual life because you are too busy trying to jump through hoops
It reminded me of Rick Perlstein’s essay “What’s the matter with College” which I responded to rather viciously. But this essay is either coming at the issue from a different angle (less aggressive, more humble and introspective) or I’ve just changed my mind over the past year. Maybe a little bit of both.
Even though I’ve changed career paths from medicine to business (Applied to the Harvard 2+2 program last week), I still agree with the essay’s ideas.
One of my friend might make a great teacher, but even his parents told him: “If you wanted to be a teacher, you could have gone to San Jose State. If you go to Stanford, you’ll have to do more”. So he’s applying to law school.
I’m lucky that I’ve learned a lot about failure through sports – specifically gymnastics. When only one person/team can win, you learn that often, you are not good enough. You learn how to fail and smile and keep trying. There is no equivalent in most other collegiate endeavors.
I daydream about traveling the world, but wonder what my parents and classmates would think. I’m eager to make an impact on the world, but also wish I could spend a whole summer just reading books and playing video games. But how stupid would that be?
Anyway check out the essay and tell me what YOU think. The Disadvantages of an Elite Education


5 Responses to “Examining the Disadvantages of Attending Stanford”

  1. Irina says:

    Well, when I tell people that I will be traveling Russia and Ukraine this summer, it sounds serious and worldly. But really it is just a succession of beer drinking and partying. But at Stanford I feel like I always need to glorify everything that I do. You cannot just do simple things anymore and enjoy life because of them. But here, life is so simple and people really know how to enjoy it. I can’t explain it.

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks for pointing this out. I am entering my senior year in High School, and I am anticipating rejection from Stanford (my #1 choice). This article made me feel much better :)

  3. Matty says:

    I’m a Stanford grad who’s been acting and writing sketch comedy in LA since I graduated last year, using very little practical/tangible application of my Stanford degree. I’m lovin’ what I do, and while I loved my Stanford experience and wouldn’t trade it for anything, I’m very happy with what I’m doing and could be happy if I never end up taking the “successful” career route.

  4. Josh Chan says:

    Thank you for posting this Jason. I thoroughly enjoyed the article and am already reading others by the same author.

  5. ilia says:

    this article pushed me one more time toward “elite” education. What’s wrong with being “elite”? Just don’t tell anybody you are from Stanford. Actually, the only place you don’t need to tell it’s your resume. I used to hide anything above my BS in computer science (MS in math, MS in mechanical engineering and some PhD), because I wanted to be hired as a programmer. And it’s a painfull experience, too.. Because it’s whom you will work with. That’s when I don’t agree that education created(taught) a career for me. It actually changed my mindset.


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