Catharsis Warning:

I made a similar trade-off, and was surprised by the social and academic downsides. I took a full-ride to a large party-school in a small town. I've tried really hard to fit in, but I've either failed to be socially accepted, or been socially accepted but failed to self-modify enough to enjoy it. It feels like crap to suck at making friends in an environment that's explicitly optimized for making friends.

I do great one-on-one over coffee, (which I think is why I've been fairly successful romantically), but there's little social oxygen left over for that, and it's been an uphill battle to make any friends at all. I hope this isn't arrogance or a refusal to affiliate. I've started going to religious groups to ward off loneliness, and I'm not even religious.

Academically, there are benefits to being one of the best students, but learning isn't one of them. Everything is slow. You can study independently to challenge yourself and minimize the inefficiency of sitting in class and starting at the ceiling, but there are still overhead costs to be paid if you actually want a degree: Showing up for quizzes, taking prerequisites that you don't need to take, completing assignments you didn't need, etc. If you want to push yourself, you have to implement your own carrot and stick, because the reinforcements provided by the normal structure are too easy to control.

And you can never talk about any of this, because it's arrogant and ungrateful, and because admitting that you think you're above-average sounds like saying you think you're above everyone, which you don't think at all because you're not stupid and because you go online and meet all the people at MIT who've been writing papers and doing research while you've been skipping as much class as possible because you can get away with it.

If you're so smart...

On a happy note, the upside is free time and money, which is totally worth it if you spend them wisely, (especially the free time). But I second that you should consider the downsides of choosing too small of a pond, at least in certain areas, and even if status-competition is something that turns you off.

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More "Stupid" Questions

by NancyLebovitz 1 min read31st Jul 2013498 comments


This is a thread where people can ask questions that they would ordinarily feel embarrassed for not knowing the answer to. The previous "stupid" questions thread went to over 800 comments in two and a half weeks, so I think it's time for a new one.