The students at top schools aren't really that intellectually impressive.

So I go to a top school, so think Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. And coming in, I almost felt a sort of insecurity, because I thought that I would be up against the grinders whom I knew in high school, and against kids who went to the best boarding schools, which everyone knows prepare kids well. And growing up, I thought you had to be a near-genius to go to those types of schools. I went to an international high school, that had a program called the International Baccalaureate program. It was pretty difficult, for a high school curriculum, and it definitely prepared me pretty well, especially its Extended Essay, a 4,000 word essay with citations written our senior year.

But as a junior at a top school, I feel pretty dissatisfied with the quality of my peers. No one is really passionate about anything. Everyone is just a striver, someone who works hard and games the system, which is fine, but it goes against some kind of popular conception that kids at top schools are really intellectually gifted or possess some kind of natural, horsepower that students at other schools lack. This is my third year here, and I haven't had a single class where I don't feel pretty above average.

There are some really intelligent kids that study in their rooms constantly, day and night, and as you'd expect, lack social skills.. And these kids are vastly outnumbered by kids who come to class, don't do the readings, and put together some kind of half-assed comment just to get their participation points. I guess it's fine people are like this. It's just time management. And you can't judge someone based on one class that you've taken with them..

But I feel like it really goes against just the popular conception that people at top schools are brilliant. It's pretty much a lie, isn't it? Seems like, from the employer's perspective, it must be pretty hard to find someone that is smart, has a good work-ethic, and has good social skills..

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Comments (118)

Nov 17, 2018

Had the same feeling. I did the Bsc in a mid-tier uni, then went to a top UK uni for the Msc, the quality of the student body was underwhelming.

There's always that handful of incredibly bright students as you say, but you can find them elsewhere too. The vast majority are simply upper class kids with good parental networks and average or below intellect. I'm saying below because quite frankly if top education doesn't brighten you up, then there's nothing education can do for you. Business school students were by large margins the worst. Ultimately, there's a fundamental misunderstanding about university if you come from the lower classes. You'll be told to study hard to get a good job, while the upper class knows that you go to top universities not to study, but to network for job opportunities.

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Nov 17, 2018

The brilliant kids you seek are by and large studying math, physics, chemistry, engineering or computer science. Unless your major is one of those, you won't be in classes where there's kids with the real intellectual horsepower. Econ / finance is a joke. I studied one of the above at a top 4 school.

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Nov 17, 2018

My most intelligent friends have all studied Engineering/ Applied Mathematics. However, slightly digressing from the topic, business is also part social skills. The CEO/ President/ Partner doesn't get there by raw intellectual horsepower, but by relationships built.

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Nov 18, 2018

Chiming in from Harvard undergrad (current junior). Most respected majors are: Pure Math, Physics, Computer Science, Statistics/Applied Math, hard sciences (aka not premed track), in roughly that order - I'm obviously biased

I love economics and completed the most rigorous macro/micro available at the undergraduate level (i.e. 1011 series), but the undergraduate economics program at Harvard does not deserve the reputation it currently commands. 1011a (advanced micro) has a class enrollment <10% of the total econ department by relative size, and even then 90% of the students taking it are not economics concentrators.

I am almost positive OP studies economics - lol. In that case, I'd sooner hire a STEM graduate with 3.8+ from a top 25 than OP if I were in the position to do so.

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Nov 23, 2018

I went to a top 5 school and I had roommates who double majored in STEM (statistics, systems engineering) along with economics/finance major. I don't think they had or have high intellectual horsepower. It seems like they cheat or game the system in the classes they take. One of them is the type to look at someone with a STEM major and assume they are smarter, but if you take a STEM major then proceed to find the easiest way to finish that major by taking the highest GPA classes that count or getting old exams to study from, where is the horsepower. It seems like a lot of mental gymnastics to justify this false sense of intellectualism. On the other hand, I've definitely met kids doing these majors that I'm blown away by that I know i'll never be as intelligent as.

I generally agree that pure STEM majors tend to be where the truly smart students lay, however, I have to take issue with the idea that STEM major = higher intellectual horsepower. I've taken econ classes with this guy and he's not dumb, but he's not that smart. He just seems to be the type to force his major's topic into a conversation or class discussion. So idk, maybe my experience was a little different and the pure STEM people are not like that.

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Nov 19, 2018

And philosophy for the verbally inclined

Nov 26, 2018

You're forgetting Earth Sciences. Geology has a bunch of them

Nov 17, 2018

If you think about it, what you say makes sense. These top ivy league schools take in legacy admits, URMs, athletes and donors. On top of that what really separates the person with a 2300 on their SAT vs the person with the 2200? Not very much. You'll find that the top students at many of the top 50 schools are probably brighter and harder working than the bottom 50-75% at these top ivies.

I think what employers do is factor in the school you go to, but they look at more than just that. Ultimately though, being successful at a job isn't about intellect, it's about how "well rounded" you are. Social skills, networks, EQ, street smarts, whatever you want to call it, do matter at the end. Most high paying jobs aren't looking for Isaac Newton's, they are looking for fast learners who can do grunt work well.

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Nov 17, 2018

Found the same on the hiring end of things. They are generally brighter though. Just brought someone on doing his mba @ wharton and he's ridiculously competent.

Nov 17, 2018

It's a matter of competition. It's far easier to be excellent but appear below average in a distribution of excellence. That is not to say that all are excellent but if you plucked a random ivy student and put them in a tier 3 school they would immediately be excellent.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

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Nov 18, 2018

Big talk for a guy who wants to go into academia

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Nov 18, 2018

......?

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Nov 17, 2018

I've worked with kids from a wide spectrum of schools and have found that there's no correlation between school ranking and quality of work / intellectual horsepower. Some of my best coworkers have gone to garbage state schools, some of my worst coworkers were top-10 grads. So much of what school you end up at is a product of the environment you're born into, but your ability to succeed in a workplace is entirely on you.

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Nov 17, 2018

With affirmative action your post will only become more true

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Most Helpful
Nov 17, 2018
michigan10483:

With affirmative action your post will only become more true

You are by far the most annoying and worst user on this site. Why do you continue posting here?

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Nov 17, 2018

There's a recurring theme to just shun users notorious for meme-ing aside and completely disregard any insights they may have, even if they are contributing to debate. People like you who can't see past the fad culture so prevalent on this website are the actual "annoying" users.

I think my comment was very reasonable and applicable in context of today's political arena, but who knows, I may be wrong. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion (although some people's opinions are worth more than others, and I've learned the hard way not to trust any "Real Estate broker/analyst"). Seriously, have fun being poor and maintaining your shitty attitude

Regards

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Nov 20, 2018
michigan10483:

I've learned the hard way not to trust any "Real Estate broker/analyst"). Seriously, have fun being poor and maintaining your shitty attitude

Weird flex but ok....

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Nov 23, 2018

Ahem... the "second" most annoying and worst user.

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Nov 26, 2018

I remain in awe of your flawless execution.

Nov 26, 2018

All I can say: take notes.

Dec 2, 2018

How's life? Still seeing Cynthia?

Nov 17, 2018

Someone said it above, but to find the people with real intellectual horsepower you have to look at engineering (chemical, electrical, aerospace), pure math, chemistry, and physics majors. I was one of those at a top 10 undergrad, and compared to that the rest of the school is not very impressive overall (obv there are exceptions). For reference I took three upper level undergrad Econ classes and I finished near the top or at the top of each class with minimal effort while I was only above average, not at the top, of the kids in my major.

Now the issue comes with social skills, as the stereotypes are true. Anywhere from 40-60% of kids in those majors are complete and utter goons, and of the non-goons there still tends to be quirks. It really can be difficult to find someone with raw horsepower who is also socially adept. I'd like to think I'm there, but it certainly took some work on my end.

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Nov 19, 2018

The social aspect is really interesting. I was an athlete at a top ~30ish school. My family always emphasized athletics and social skills, so I never put much effort into my undergrad studies, but did well-enough.

Fast forward, I worked really hard on the GMAT and scored quite high. What I noticed is that if I spent 2-3 hours buried in quant, I'd have a refractory period during which I was a complete goon and couldn't speak to anyone for like an hour afterwards. I was so stuck in my head that I'd have to really force myself to hold a conversation. I've heard something similar described by Eric Weinstein (PhD in mathematics from Harvard, CEO of Thiel Capital). That experience gave me a different perspective. I can only imagine what I'd be like if I spent hours every day during high school focused on quantitative topics. Certainly, there's selection bias in those fields, but I bet it's compounded exponentially by the nature of the work itself.

To answer the OP: when I was in undergrad I was also surprised by the perceived lack of quality. However, when I entered the real world, I was SHOCKED at the lack of intellectual quality, which made me appreciate my undergrad experience more. At the end of the day, most successful people aren't THAT smart, they just have the right confluence of traits mixed with a little--or a lot of--luck. Keep in mind that most PhDs from top schools only move the needle slightly in their respective fields, and many of them self-report intelligence that they consider inferior to their immediate peers. Intelligence is such a weird topic. Despite best efforts, we don't understand it all that well, so it's best to forget about it, chip away, and get a little better every week. If you're doing well at one of those top schools then you have the intellectual horsepower to make as much money and have as much impact as you want.

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Nov 22, 2018

I felt the exact same way about the gmat. Very interesting to read this as I've never heard someone share the same sentiment. Do you know where Eric Weinstein made a similar statement?

Nov 26, 2018

Just want to confirm this - as a physics PhD (going to MBB next year) I found myself easily conversing with peers when I was taking history/bio classes one semester (undergrad) and the next semester when I took lots of physics classes I would completely forget how to hold a conversation. It would be really awkward and embarrassing. I really think your mind is in a different place when you're focusing on those subjects. I think you get more people who are OK being awkward who are interested in those subjects (versus business, etc), and then also people who are made awkward by studying those subjects :)

Array

Funniest
Nov 17, 2018
EarlFromUtah:

I went to an international high school, that had a program called the International Baccalaureate program. It was pretty difficult, for a high school curriculum, and it definitely prepared me pretty well, especially its Extended Essay, a 4,000 word essay with citations written our senior year.

What a fucking sentence man. It didn't prepare you well enough my friend.

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Nov 17, 2018

also developing situational awareness is important i.e. focusing on grammar on a fucking blog/forum post than an essay that determines the future of your education

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Nov 19, 2018

Haha! Was just about to type that

Nov 19, 2018

IB isn't worth the torture.

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Nov 19, 2018
mbahopeful88:
EarlFromUtah:

I went to an international high school, that had a program called the International Baccalaureate program. It was pretty difficult, for a high school curriculum, and it definitely prepared me pretty well, especially its Extended Essay, a 4,000 word essay with citations written our senior year.

What a fucking sentence man. It didn't prepare you well enough my friend.

I was thinking the same thing. You could've got this education for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.

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Nov 19, 2018

+1 For the GWH reference. Great movie.'

I gotta go see about a girl now.

Nov 21, 2018

Reply from Dickhead: "well....I will have a degree....and you'll be serving my kids fries on my way to a skiing trip..."

Nov 19, 2018

I bet this dude is a tool in real life.

@EarlFromUtah

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Nov 21, 2018

For sure.

Nov 21, 2018

To be fair, I was pretty high when I wrote this post, so I kind of just typed all my thoughts as they came to me..

Dec 2, 2018

Well Earl, that's a great excuse for everything. Aren't you a delight?

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Nov 17, 2018

Agreeing with OP. After you've been out in the real world a while most of the people I know doing the best career wise didn't even go to HYP.

Nov 18, 2018

Is that actually true or is that the result of risk and success bias coming into account. Going to HYPS in reality is a risk aversion play. People tend to generalize to the top the success of those of medium intelligence and tend to genearlize the to the bottom of success for those whom are intelligent. This is because people expect more of intelligent people and don't really expect much of people of medium and below intelligence.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

Nov 18, 2018

Agree that attending an ivy or equivalent gives very good returns for a seat at upper middle class life, but as you mentioned by its nature tends to reduce shots to the moon. Why risk it when you have something comfy or good enough for most etc.

My observation of the general success of peers/colleagues/friends that I have encountered is really just a mental data set. Not digging into the depth of expectations based on intelligence and/or their accomplishments based on educational attainment. I'm in my mid/late twenties for reference, but the outliers to date that have done exceptionally well bootstrapped something together or got into high finance/media/corp and really climbed. Prior to that, majority didn't really set it on fire in college to my knowledge.

Nov 17, 2018

the internet has made people dumber in general I reckon maybe the people at top schools are more likely to be multitasking skimmers who are skillful at a superficial level (speed instead of depth i.e. lacking deep/creative thinking capabilities)

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Nov 18, 2018

In what way has the internet made people dumber? The internet allows one to have access to so much more information, that it is only dependent on a person's drive to learn.

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Nov 18, 2018

"I don't read books," says Joe O'Shea, a former president of the student body at Florida State University and a 2008 recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship. "I go to Google, and I can absorb relevant information quickly." O'Shea, a philosophy major, doesn't see any reason to plow through chapters of text when it takes but a minute or two to cherry-pick the pertinent passages using Google Book Search. "Sitting down and going through a book from cover to cover doesn't make sense," he says. "It's not a good use of my time, as I can get all the information I need faster through the Web."

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Nov 19, 2018

This is a good approach until you do not understand the context of whatever passage it is that you're reading. The WSJ had an editorial about this about a month ago - maybe I can find it. Essentially, the writer of a long essay/research paper took a famous line from Nietzsche and flipped it out of context to mean almost the opposite of what Nietzsche was trying to get at.

Edit: This Article

Nov 17, 2018

largely agree with this ... facebook, snapchat, and instagram have seriously taken a toll on our current youth generation. Kids who would have been at least somewhat dedicated to their studies are now foolishly wasting their lives on the aforementioned platforms, influenced by the leftist media, Hollywood/pop stars, and other partisan trash.

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Nov 18, 2018

Anecdotally, I usually am more impressed by people from tier two schools, e.g. WUSTL than by Harvard Yale Princeton.

Nov 18, 2018

Why?

Nov 19, 2018

Do you not know what "anecdotally" means?

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Nov 22, 2018

In the same vein, one of my professors preferred hiring former students that he had rapport with and an intimate understanding of their personality and ability.

His partner in the firm decided to hire a Harvard grad.

During a live trade the Harvard grad added a 0 purchasing 50 million instead of 5 million. By the time they caught the mistake it was too late to do anything about it. IIRC they lost a good chunk of change. The guy had a history of carelessness and eventually got fired.

They ended hiring a local state school grad who has been killing it with the firm ever since.

Nov 18, 2018

I had the opposite experience at a top tier engineering "institute of technology." It seemed like everyone was wicked smart and had an incredible work ethic. Super daunting atmosphere but I look back on it fondly.

Nov 19, 2018

Georgia tech?

Nov 19, 2018

yep

stephen a smith

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Nov 19, 2018
Synergy_or_Syzygy:

yep

Do you still play Magic The Gathering or do you just cosplay as characters for DragonCon now?

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Nov 19, 2018

decision

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Nov 18, 2018
Nov 18, 2018

Im not sure if engineers are the smartest people in the world or not, but the ones I worked with in my past certainly thought they were :).

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Nov 19, 2018

I have to agree they really are.

However the real world business profit potential of string theory is very limited -- so they won't be the richest or most famous or powerful.

Most likely they'll be making 60k in a back lab somewhere

Nov 20, 2018

Agree with you--however there's a difference between engineering and theoretical physics.

Nov 19, 2018

I've attended community college classes during the summer, went to a UC for a year, and a target school for 3 years. Distribution-wise, you tend to have an equal proportion of idiots, geniuses, and average folks across the board. However, there most definitely are smarter people ON AVERAGE at the upper tier schools.

What most of you aren't accounting for is the removal of constant parental/boarding school supervision. College flips a lot of students on their head (especially those in elite strict college prep environments) because motivation switches from external to internal. You can have a kid go to an Ivy League as a genius and come out a dumbass because his/her old motivations and barriers (nagging parents, boarding schools forcing study time) are completely out the door.

The more you were handheld into college, the more likely you'll fall through the cracks.

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Nov 19, 2018

Totally agree with the motivation part. I thought it was hilarious how so many freshmen from prestigious private schools lost their shit after drinking their first beer or smoking their first joint. Their academic background certainly prepared them for the SATs but completely failed them at street smarts.

It's not enough to be smart, you have to be tough. It's hard to be tough when you've been handheld the whole time.

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Nov 26, 2018

I'm sorry but the term "street smarts" just makes you seem like a complete moron - it's the only thing that one football jock with a 2.9 GPA can say to the 4.0/1600/36 kid who's going to HYP. People who can't handle the academic environment fall back upon some pseudo-quality of "street smarts," but in reality, it's just an empty, overused term that describes nothing.

And judging from some videos of literal "street" life, I can empirically claim nobody who roams out there is remotely "smart."

I'll leave these videos out here for those inquisitive about what being "street smart" really entails, in the context of today's society.

Regards

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Dec 2, 2018

I think we all get what you were saying, but you showed examples of people without "street smarts" to represent what "street smarts" is. In no way is getting into a stupid fight what anyone but an idiot could possibly think street smarts could possibly mean.

Nov 21, 2018

Yeah this is really true. Like I didn't go to a boarding school, but it was pretty competitive, and even just being in a smaller atmosphere where everybody knows everybody, it's like everyone's trying to prove themselves. Once you get into a top school, it's like, "Okay, I don't have to prove myself quite as much as before."

Nov 19, 2018

For a lot of the HPY kids, just getting there is "making it." Now that they are there, they are happy to just coast.

To a finance guy, that means they moved on to greener field and are happy living on $150k/yr after banking a few MMs.

Nov 21, 2018

Yeah, have to admit, just making it there for me gave me a lot of relief at first, because I thought there's no way I won't get a decent job. Fast forward to junior year, and I realize that getting a job isn't a walk in the park even from top schools.

Nov 19, 2018

When you talk about your peers' passion, I thought you were talking about genuine passion, but as I read through the comments it's apparent you're talking about book smarts?

If that's the case then I think this is silly because I've met some people who were geniuses at university, but failed in the real world. Heck, I even hired an INSEAD MBA grad who was very smart, but he had no ability to problem solve.

Then on the flip side, I've met people who are above average intelligence, but they're grinders and they can execute. Most migrant first-borns in my country are like this - most of their families struggled growing up, disciplined their kids with wooden spoons and taught them the value of hard work.

Not sure if i've misinterpreted anything?

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Nov 19, 2018

You could simply be that intellectually impressive or just think you are and make humblebrag posts like this. Plenty of explanations.

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Nov 21, 2018

Yeah I probably just think I am. I have a pretty big ego.

Nov 19, 2018

Given the fact that roughly 1/3 of Harvard's freshman class every year consists of legacies/children of substantial donors, your observation isn't terribly surprising. And a kid making straight A's in engineering or physics at State U could probably run intellectual circles around a randomly chosen kid at Harvard.

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Nov 19, 2018

Isn't there a huge huge amount of self-selection in these schools? In other worlds, they hear they will be the cream of the crop if the school's name is on their resume so they cheat, scratch, and claw throughout high school, setting up their profile just to tell adcoms they are exactly what they're looking for. I wouldn't be surprised if every HYPS student is an idiot with a wicked poker face, especially outside of the math and science track, which I would imagine could be more merit base given that there are generally more objective ways to measure that (like projects completed, etc.).

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Nov 21, 2018

Wow, this sounds exactly like my high school. In my high school, everyone cheated, scratched, and clawed, studying for standardized tests beginning in their sophomore year and packaging even the most boring and routine extra-curricular activity into something that sounds good to admission officers. I know a girl who did after-school tutoring with her friends, and she wrote an essay about how she started some non-profit tutoring organization with X number of employees and X annual earnings.. The whole entire college admissions process became just a sort of game, where you know who your competition is, and when they make moves, and win awards, you think, "Okay, now it's my move."

Idea of students here having a wicked poker face is pretty true in my experience.. There's the feeling that the students will do whatever it takes to get ahead, while at the same time acting like they don't care, and they tend to have a certain quality that I don't even have words for..

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Nov 19, 2018

The average person (in life) is a moron. In fact, my friend and I call this theory #1 and we maintain that it easily explains at least 75% of what is wrong with the world. If you look at it in this lens, people at HYP not being able to wow you with raw intellectual brainpower (which isn't what an ivy league or any other school selects for in any case) is probably not much of a surprise.

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Nov 19, 2018

It's interesting how this whole conversation came up during what could be a critical court ruling for college admissions.

As some of you may have heard, a group of Asian students are suing Harvard for their admissions process for what they are claiming to be discriminatory.

The case points out that Asians, despite scoring the highest in academics out of any racial group, are often rejected for their low scores in personality, likability, and courage.

Maybe many students at these schools are not bright by design?

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/13/us/harvard-affi...

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Nov 19, 2018

Why's everyone making a disclaimer at the beginning of their sentences? "Student at [insert Ivy League school they probably don't attend] here interning at [elite bank probably not interning at either] here, ...." Seriously no one cares.

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Nov 20, 2018

Student at HYP, interning at an EB. I've noticed this too.

I'm clearly better than most kids at my school despite getting mediocre grades. The pack really separates in the professional world. Lots of kids in my class didn't get into EBs cause they just don't have the intellectual horsepower that I have. They're good at book learning but when it comes to makin the cut on Wall Street, we're just made from different cloth.

I feel like women at ivies have begun to notice this as well. They can tell which men have raw, intellectual horsepower and thus the highest earning potential (eg EB interns, big tech programmers), and they're just automatically drawn to those types of guys. It's truly primal - like something out of a tv show on National Geographic.

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Nov 20, 2018
EliteStudent11:

Student at HYP, interning at an EB. I've noticed this too.

I'm clearly better than most kids at my school despite getting mediocre grades. The pack really separates in the professional world. Lots of kids in my class didn't get into EBs cause they just don't have the intellectual horsepower that I have. They're good at book learning but when it comes to makin the cut on Wall Street, we're just made from different cloth.

I feel like women at ivies have begun to notice this as well. They can tell which men have raw, intellectual horsepower and thus the highest earning potential (eg EB interns, big tech programmers), and they're just automatically drawn to those types of guys. It's truly primal - like something out of a tv show on National Geographic.

LOL can't tell if this is Brady or a good Brady imitator.

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Nov 20, 2018

Not Brady, remember Brady was HBS. Not some plebian UG.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

Nov 20, 2018

damn it

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Nov 20, 2018

How else will people know that my opinion is more important than theirs

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Nov 21, 2018

Depends on your baseline for comparison. I went to a top ~30 ugrad and a large % of the class ended up going to PhD programs, med school, or law school. I thought people were generally intellectually curious and took their work seriously.

I went to a fairly typical public high school in the suburbs of a major east coast city, and I'd say that any random class I took in college was MUCH more ambitious, motivated, and intelligent than the typical honors/AP class I took in high school.

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Nov 21, 2018

I have to agree with you. I came from an LAC in the states and moved to London for my masters and then started working in the Big 4. I had some colleauges from Oxford and Cambridge who weren't the brightest bulbs. Honestly, they were sometimes just really disappointing to the point that calling them dumb fucks is being too kind.

But then again, it could be self selection, i don't know. Say a guy from an LAC going into the Big 4 is lucky because he needed to be sharp but a guy going into the Big 4 from Oxford got in by merit of his degree and couldnt get into anywhere better. Sometimes it's just branding really. There are so many other factors for someone landing into a brand name school.

Nov 21, 2018

redacted.

Nov 21, 2018

Privilege is very real. Getting into a top school doesn't require hard work or immense talent - it requires: a) money for test prep, school applications and so you don't have to hold a job while in high school, b) a stable household with no violence, divorce, illness or other hardship while you are in high school and c) some ambition or belief that you will be successful (which is influenced by your family, social and cultural group and economic status.

Talent and hard work helps for sure - it just is neither necessary nor sufficient.

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Nov 21, 2018
JudgeRudy:

Talent and hard work helps for sure -

Right.

JudgeRudy:

it just is neither necessary nor sufficient.

Says no one.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Dec 7, 2018

Untrue

Ability to do well on standardized tests has nothing to do with social status

There was this one place that everyone sent their kids to and payed 10k for a summer in my high school, but the kids who didn't care did poor anyway

You actually have to want to succeed to do good on the SAT or ACT and that means actually practing the hell out of it

I studied myself for it and got a better score than my peers who payed 10k to get test prep

But the other stuff you said is dead on

Dec 7, 2018

Well, if you come from a wealthier background, than you probably have a higher likelihood of knowing that doing well on standardized tests is important.

Nov 21, 2018

What exactly are you complaining about? Undergrad in the US is not particularly challenging if you come from more rigorous high schools outside the US (you killed me with your IB comment lol), but HYP is definitely a good bit more difficult than schools 10-20 places down the US News rankings and exponentially more difficult than schools outside of the Top 30-40 or so (on a major by major basis).

I went to grad school in Europe and seeing the way some people would grind crushing amounts of studying and work to get the best grades was pretty shocking coming from the US. But guess what? Those people are not necessarily any smarter than US students and ultimately, probably have less job opportunities. So who cares?

Not sure why the undergrad "intellectual ability" dick measuring contest is so important, do PJT RX -> KKR PreMBA -> HBS -> POTUS/Astronaut/VapeGod and then maybe we can talk.

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Nov 26, 2018
GoodBread:

VapeGod

Ahahah

Nov 21, 2018

More than half of the guys I work with have MBA's from M7 programs (upper end of that spectrum, too) and attended relatively prestigious undergraduate schools as well.

On the other hand, I was a high school troublemaker whose parents never went to college. I started at a junior college, transferred to Directional State U, hopped through three different firms working my way closer to a "pure finance" role, passed the CFA exams, and punched my ticket to a "high finance" role by working at it relentlessly and (fortunately) crossing paths with the right job opening at the right time that lined up with my prior experience and personality.

Nobody cares that I didn't go to an "elite" school. I had a different upbringing and background, but I'm reasonably bright and I'm really passionate about markets, and that's what matters.

I'm not saying intelligence doesn't matter, but there's a law of diminishing returns with everything. I don't think there are any appreciable differences in intelligence between the small handful of guys I work with daily. Everyone seems "bright enough" and I really don't know who on my team would score the highest on an intelligence test.

I think once a person is fairly bright (as most people in finance are) it comes down to finding a role you really enjoy doing on a team you enjoy working with. I think that people who combine a reasonable amount of intelligence with a role that's a great fit for them are the most likely to experience noteworthy achievement. So much comes down to enjoying what you do.

"Now you's can't leave." -Sonny LoSpecchio

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Nov 22, 2018

Very well said--the people at the top of any field aren't necessarily there because of the money, they're making good money because they like what they do and they're good at it.

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Nov 25, 2018

What is this???

Nov 21, 2018

I disagree with the general sentiment that the only place to find people with intellectual horsepower is in the STEM fields. I can certainly agree that there is a correlation between the two - but, as it has also been stated - business is far more about the soft/social skills that many of those smarter STEM students lack, especially when considering the ability to network your way into a competitive position.

When it comes down to it, those who receive offers aren't always the smartest, but they are generally the most socially apt and hard working of whatever school they're from (excluding walk-ons from M7 schools).

On another note, that sentiment isn't accurate because who is to say that a student who is smarter than the average bear has to be interested in pursuing a STEM major? It seems just as likely that they would take an interest in finance or economics. I think it's also important to note the shift in the last decade or two of investment bankers being ivy league jocks to more socially and intellectually talented (and more well-rounded) candidates. The system isn't perfect, but it's getting better. Smarter, harder working, and more social students are landing these jobs than ever before. My opinion.

Nov 21, 2018

By your standard, my classmates in university would be considered smart. We studied statistics/pure maths in university. We were the typical stereotype nerdy, non-party go-ers, relatively more introverted than most of our other peers in different streams particularly in business and finance. After graduating from school, I realised something: knowing how to speak well and having good social skills triumphs whatever 'intellect' we had. I'm now in banking. Not a single person have ever asked me to explain the Taylor series or the Markov chains, etc even if we crammed for it for hours in university. I have met some genuinely smart and sociable people, but I've met more people who I didn't think we particularly bright but could speak well and (who were more often than not) my superiors.

I actually wish I could speak better and appear more sociable than know all the maths I know.

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Nov 26, 2018

Working at a quant/trading desk would have suited your skillset better, imo

Nov 21, 2018
EarlFromUtah:

So I go to a top school, so think Harvard, Yale, or Princeton.

So basically Princeton.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Nov 21, 2018
EarlFromUtah:

So I go to a top school, so think Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. And coming in, I almost felt a sort of insecurity, because I thought that I would be up against the grinders whom I knew in high school, and against kids who went to the best boarding schools, which everyone knows prepare kids well. And growing up, I thought you had to be a near-genius to go to those types of schools. I went to an international high school, that had a program called the International Baccalaureate program. It was pretty difficult, for a high school curriculum, and it definitely prepared me pretty well, especially its Extended Essay, a 4,000 word essay with citations written our senior year.

But as a junior at a top school, I feel pretty dissatisfied with the quality of my peers. No one is really passionate about anything. Everyone is just a striver, someone who works hard and games the system, which is fine, but it goes against some kind of popular conception that kids at top schools are really intellectually gifted or possess some kind of natural, horsepower that students at other schools lack. This is my third year here, and I haven't had a single class where I don't feel pretty above average.

There are some really intelligent kids that study in their rooms constantly, day and night, and as you'd expect, lack social skills.. And these kids are vastly outnumbered by kids who come to class, don't do the readings, and put together some kind of half-assed comment just to get their participation points. I guess it's fine people are like this. It's just time management. And you can't judge someone based on one class that you've taken with them..

But I feel like it really goes against just the popular conception that people at top schools are brilliant. It's pretty much a lie, isn't it? Seems like, from the employer's perspective, it must be pretty hard to find someone that is smart, has a good work-ethic, and has good social skills..

I think corporate culture may shock you as well. People are ... people. You're going to run into some 'mediocre minds' put in the right place at the right time that just know management and clients and execs well who just keep getting promoted. They don't have an Ivy degree, they don't have even 120 IQs. But, they rock out the pitches, the clients love them and all your hard work on your financial models isn't getting much notice from your boss.

"But, I went to Princeton!" You say.

Your boss replies: "put out or get out, Princeton."

Get ready, my bro, this is next for you.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Nov 21, 2018

I wish I had known to game the system earlier. All people care about is gpa and not major. Smh

Nov 21, 2018

I know to sets of people that went to top schools.

A) Those that got accepted straight from HS

B) Those that went there through grad school

The people from A) have been a varied bunch. The common denominator has been above-average smarts, good work ethics, and DRIVE. The hard truth is that every single one of them did exceptionally well at school as teens, and were good at something else too, outside school. These days, you need to be that, if you want a chance at top programs at top schools.

The people from B), however, have come across as even sharper - but obviously at their respective fields.

A good childhood friend of mine belongs to this group. He was a typical ok "plus" HS student. Didn't have any extracurricular activities outside regular hobbies - didn't do anything competitive - wasn't a straight A student in all his classes. But he really excelled at math and physics.

So he got into a decent school with a decent physics program, and did exceptionally well there. Top grades, got to do research with a research group / professor, fantastic internships, etc.

Applies for graduate program at a top 5 school, gets accepted, and he continues to excel there.

He's not your typical overly-competitive, good-at-everything student that you imagine someone from HYPS / OxBridge to be - nor have most of the other from group B (that I've met) been. They're just really, really good and passionate at their respective fields. Same caliber as their peers at the top schools that went there through undergrad, then grad school.

Nov 22, 2018

Intelligence comes in many forms. People studying Econ and Government at Harvard are not all going to be hardcore academically-minded, but they sure know how to network and sell - hell, they had to do just that to get admitted.

These skills are worth a whole lot in the corporate world, and it takes social and emotional intelligence to master them. You hire these kids because they come out of HYPS with a built-in network that they know how to expand even further, not because they can build a spaceship.

I had the same thoughts as you in undergrad, and it wasn't until I started working that this started becoming clear to me.

Nov 22, 2018

You're not intellectually impressive, boom roasted

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Nov 22, 2018

Working hard, hustling and resilience is 90% of the game. And social skills.

Ever wonder why most companies these days don't hire bookworms. Working hours is almost half of your day. Nobody wants to spend it with a bum.

Nov 22, 2018

Can we maybe hear from some of the kids who go to HYP and are in the bottom 25% of their classmates or peers based on intellectual horesepower? Would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this...

How are OP and myself so much more intellectually impressive when we all go to world class schools? Is it possible that OP is just a total fuckin boss? That's the answer I'm rolling with for now

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Nov 27, 2018

Student at HYP, prob a bottom 25th percentile student in terms of raw intelligence, tbh I was definitely an AA beneficiary as well. In terms of raw test scores, I came into school just below the median 50th percentile. I find Ivy League education to be rather easy, considering that I intend to major in economics or government or something similar. It's just that I don't feel incentivized to push myself particularly hard. Getting As even in intro courses requires SIGNIFICANTLY more work than getting an A- or a B+ and pushing myself to that point requires me to compete with students that are naturally much more gifted than myself. I prefer to wallow in mediocrity and just chill tf out instead. My relationship with the institution I attend has basically become transactional. Grind a little bit for a 3.6-3.7 in a somewhat easy concentration -> SA at BB -> FT offer.

In your case, its prob just that with all the AA kids coming from shitty schools, plus athletes, plus legacies, plus most humanities majors being stupid, plus people who are burnt out from sweating their balls off in high school, the number of people in our classes with very high intelligence and intellectual drive is limited to a small percentage of the total class. Those people are the only real geniuses you'll see walking around campus.

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Nov 23, 2018

See everyone? I told you all younwere wasting your time reaching. Be a Phoenix! :)

Nov 26, 2018

You sound neither intellectual competent nor driven. Keep that poverty mentality off this forum please.

Nov 26, 2018

After 30+ yrs in business, I have found people generally rise to the level of their competence (myself included). Competence is not simply based on intelligence but includes acumen, social skills, drive, leadership capability, etc. The ones withe the whole package tend to go the furthest.

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Nov 26, 2018
rickle:

After 30+ yrs in business, I have found people generally rise to the level of their competence (myself included). Competence is not simply based on intelligence but includes acumen, social skills, drive, leadership capability, etc. The ones withe the whole package tend to go the furthest.

This. Nobody gives a fuck about raw intellectual horsepower in the real world. You need to have the whole package.

Nov 27, 2018

Yeah I definitely agree.. I know social skills are one of the most important factors in the real world.

But aside from worldly success, there's still value in being very intelligent just for its own sake. I feel like this probably becomes more important to people once they're older, have already achieved career success, and have the time to enjoy the finer things in life..

Nov 26, 2018

This is such a cuck thread. Lower your standards. Go to your local state school and those half ass comments turn into quarter ass comments. Seriously, just go to a liberal arts class at a state school and you will understand what intellectual average is and appreciate the people around you.

Nov 27, 2018

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Nov 27, 2018

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Nov 30, 2018

Interesting points, as mentioned above, I've also noticed that raw, measurable, brainpower tends to gravitate more towards STEM majors and STEM oriented colleges during undergrad years. Its as if a good bit of the candidates in undergraduate business majors justify their academic major choice as a direct way of economic empowerment. Simply speaking, many business majors I met in college were convinced they were on their way to make a lot of money doing who knows what, while as the STEM students I met, generally had more intellectual curiosity and seemed to be more interested in their degrees because it allowed themselves to validate their intelligence. In most cases, the money would flow to this latter group.

Just my observation. Hope that made sense.

Carl Van Loon
Van Loon & Associates

Nov 30, 2018

Very true. Doubt OP would say the same thing if they were at Caltech.

Dec 2, 2018
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