How do I deal with regretting not getting elite academic credentials, when I could have?

Quick background:

  • I'm now in law at a very good firm.
  • Many years ago, I had an offer from School A which is one of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale.
  • For dumbass reasons I didn't go to School A (sabotaged my own grades so that I wouldn't be able to go) and went to an okay law school School B (think Manchester/Boston University or thereabouts).
  • It took me 3 additional years to get to my goal (a position at a very good law firm) coming out from School B rather than School A.

How do I deal with this regret mentally? I thought I'd get over it once I busted my ass off in School B and got to where I wanted (a position at a very good law firm), but it seems like I'd miss the elite academic credentialing of School A for the rest of my life - School A's alumni network is overwhelmingly in incredible positions, I've seen how people react to people from schools like School A (much better for building network), elite academic credentials will protect me better when the market gets bad and law firms lay people off, it'll be easier to lateral to another firm with elite academic credentials, it'd be easier to lateral to other fields with elite academic credentials...

I also regret the 3 additional years it took me to come from School B. 3 years of lost income and lost career advancement is a LOT, especially in your 20s.

Basically, because of a decision I made many years ago, my life is much harder than if compared to if I went to School A all those years ago.

This regret has kept me up at night for years and I can't seem to get over it. Has anyone experienced anything like this before, and if so, how did you deal with it? Thanks in advance.

Comments (11)

  • Analyst 1 in CorpDev
Nov 8, 2019

Get over it like an adult. You made the choice to go to B for a reason. If you did your best and got everything you could out of the school you chose then you should have no regrets. If you're just wishing you'd gone to school A because you slacked off and know you could've slacked off just as much but ended up in a better place from School A, you were never going to be good enough to be in those incredible positions you're so fond of so relax. The further you get in your career the less fucks people give about what school you went to and more about how you can add value. Focus on that and it shouldn't matter where you came from, money makers are making money no matter what their diploma says.

Nov 9, 2019

Because no one gives a shit.

When is the last time someone ever asked Warren Buffett about going to University of Nebraska? If you succeeded and did not go to an elite school, more credit and more respect to you.

Keep in mind that competition for elite schools are so high, that you would have been going there and taking away someone else's chances at it for no reason anyway.

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Nov 9, 2019

My two cents is that what's done is done. Who knows where you'd be right now had you gone to school A. Going to school B helped you in other ways, like having to bust your ass to get to where you are now. No doubt it has helped you become a better lawyer.

Nov 9, 2019

It's okay to have chip on your shoulder ... to a point. Think about successful professional athletes who weren't drafted very high - Tom Brady comes to mind. If you let it drive you in a positive way, this can be a healthy motivator. If it's keeping you up all night you have other issues to get over. Your resume will, always and forever, have School B on it, not School A. Bury that Education line with some awesome work.

Nov 9, 2019

Way I see it is you've gained a valuable skill by having to work your way up. You may have lost out in the short term with regards to prestige, but the skill you gained will continue to benefit you in the long term.
In my first interview I got to the superday at a large credit HF but didn't get the spot. Hurt like hell but I realized I was seriously lacking interviewing skills and it ended up helping me in the future. You worked your ass off and achieved your goal based on your own hard work. Would you have done the same coming from School A? Maybe so, maybe not. No point in worrying about hypotheticals because so many other factors could have impacted your path. Congrats on what you've accomplished so far.

Nov 9, 2019

If that's what keeps you up at night, you have lived a pretty damn good life.

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Nov 9, 2019

What do you mean?

Nov 9, 2019

...meaning that OP needs to get some perspective.

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  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Nov 9, 2019

OP - I'm in the same position as you. I went to a top 20 liberal arts college in the US on a hefty scholarship though I could have attended a uni like LSE / Oxford / Duke / Penn without any aid. I got in and had the grades but money was important as my family was going through a crisis. I ended up fine after school as I got a great job in banking and later earned my mba from a top school. I did regret my decision in the beginning but boy did I hustle to get my job, and that proactive and go-getter attitude is such a defining part of my personality now that I cannot think I would have developed it if I had gone to a top school where all companies came to Me. Creating my own recruiting path taught me to navigate uncertainty and develop leadership attributes....I really think that most ppl who end up at top tier firms after undergrad from non targets have a special hunger / an attacking mindset that a target kid can not replicate

Nov 9, 2019
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