Is An Ivy League Education A Burden Or A Blessing?

That question looks and sounds absurd, does it not?

Why would I even ask if graduating from one of the most prestigious universities in the country could be anything but an honor?  Why raise the possibility that it could be as much albatross as advantage?

Only someone privileged enough to go there in the first place could be ungrateful enough to ask the question.

Stay with me here.

I just returned from a weekend in New Jersey where Julie celebrated her 35th reunion with the class of 1983 at Princeton University.   It was my 34th from the same school. Along the way, we reconnected with a number of old friends, including Kevin Dowdell who joined me on the Tiger tennis team back in the day. Here is Kevin and his young daughter London with me and Julie.

But enough of the levity.  And there was plenty of that this past weekend.

My sobering question — and I’d ask it whether the school was Harvard or Yale or Stanford or Duke or any other of the twenty or so schools people regard as “elite” — revolves around expectations.  Both the expectations others place upon you and those you place on yourself.

Expectations like …

“You mean you have an Ivy League education and you’re doing THAT for a living?”

“With that Princeton degree shouldn’t you be partner now?”

“You’re home raising your children? Then what’d you go to an Ivy League school for?”

“Your roommate is retired already and you’re still working? What’s the matter with you?”

“He went to [insert random school here] and his church is BIGGER than yours!  I guess you’re not that smart after all.”

“Of course you won on Jeopardy. You went to Princeton.”

It’s the pressure the comes with privilege.  Pressure to be the smartest, the richest, the biggest, the bestest, the mostest.

Some people navigate such pressure better than others.

And some don’t navigate it at all.

Tomorrow I will give a window into how I’ve come to peace with a question I’m fortunate to be able to ask.