The Myth behind Ivy Leagues, and how you can be successful without them.

You won’t believe the number of times I’ve asked a person about his/her dream college or university, and the other person would say “Harvard” or “Yale”.

When asked why, they would simply shrug and say something like:

“Dude c’mon, it’s HARVARD” or “Yale is prestigious”.

After hearing these answers, I usually just smile back and nod, but deep inside I’m face-palming with both hands.

You see, our society has a big problem these days. No matter what aspect of our lives, everyone is obsessed with brands. From cars to the types of shoes you wear, people are becoming more and more influenced by brands, myself included.

Some people are taking simple $14 headphones, and selling ’em off for $700 just because of a freaking brand name!

And these people are making billions. Sometimes I wonder if this is why aliens won’t visit us…

Unfortunately, this fixation with brands migrated to the college scene, with more and more international students only aiming for the Ivies and how anything less than Harvard is completely unacceptable.

Students need to remember that society shouldn’t influence their decisions. You need to make their own decision, regardless of what other people think because it’s not their life, it’s yours. Period.

One popular misconception is that people think that an Ivy League school will magically give them a shortcut to success and open doors for them. The truth is, that success is not contingent on the college one goes to, but the type of person you are.

Then why do Ivy League Graduates earn more than the average graduate?

Great question. You see, it’s not these institutes that make students hard working. The kids who are accepted into these colleges and universities are already hardworking, passionate, and committed.

That is one of the main reasons they are admitted.

Admissions officers realize that no college or course can change the type of person a student is, until he/she wants to change for themselves.

So they make a safe bet and get students who have already shown strong personalities and hard work and commitment through their academics, ECs, sports, or even through their personal story.

Here’s a quick note/excerpt from my book that fits here perfectly:

Start of Excerpt

Quick Note

A lot of people have the misconception that you ABSOLUTELY HAVE to go to an Ivy League school if you want to be successful. This is simply not true.

Success is contingent on a number of factors, but the most important is hard work. It might sound really cliché, but there is no substitute for hard work.

The reason a lot of Ivy League graduates do well is that hard work and commitment is second nature to them before they even attend theirfirst class in their respective universities.

Once they start studying alongside equally hard working minds in these institutes, it only leads to a thicker shell and more hard work, resulting in inevitable success.

This is the reason that the Ivy League graduates do well. It’s not the institute, but the people and their focused minds that lead them to success.

Real-life example

Just look at Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. They both attended Harvard and they both dropped out.

Why?

Because they had constantly worked hard their whole lives, and once a revolutionary idea strikes someone who works unimaginably hard, success follows.

They both made a call that a university degree from an Ivy League University is less valuable than the ideas and projects they had in mind.

They had to choose, and they DIDN’T choose a Harvard degree.

Today one is worth US $76 billion and the other US $51.2 billion, so can anyone say they made the wrong call?

They had talent, backed it up with hard work, and success came like a moth to a flame.

End of Excerpt

The Prison debate team that beat Harvard’s debate team!

Yes, you read that right.

On the off chance you didn’t hear about this last year, this is a perfect example of what I’ve been talking about in the excerpt from my book.

A prison debate team had limited resources, took hours to research what we could easily find on google, and had limited access to typing and printing accessories.

Yet, against all odds, they beat the “best” debating team in the country.

The message echoed by these individuals is how one’s commitment to learning and exploration matters. Commitment is the key ingredientto success in life regardless where you are – Harvard or Prison.

Back to Ivies, the emotional and mental cost.

Another point I’d like to make is that sometimes it can get a little too competitive for the average Ivy League student and a person might burn out, or worse.

There’s a great article by The New York Times on suicide on Campus and the pressure of perfection, highlighting how much psychological pressure is put on students in these top universities.

I knew a girl from Iran who got into an Ivy League school as an international applicant, and she definitely corroborated these type of claims.

She talked about how the workload was overwhelming and how most kids were so relentless in their pursuit for perfection, that a simple B on a test could take them on a negative spiral towards depression. While some dealt with it correctly by seeking help and therapy, others lost their way completely…

In short, Ivy League universities are great but there are plenty of other GREAT universities and colleges out there.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s true that Ivy League universities have more recognized professors in different fields and that their networking hubs are much stronger than other universities, but that is just one end of the spectrum. There is a lot more to Ivy Leagues than meets the eye, and this piece just scratches the surface.

What I’m trying to say is that don’t be fixated on these colleges. They’re great if you get in, but you can be successful without them.

After all, even if you end up going to a college ranked #100 in the USA, you’re college is still better than 97.5% of the 4,100+ colleges in the country!

Check out my site for more related stuff!
And my book

Overlooked #5 The Arduous Test of Life

So a few weeks ago my sister told me about how she came across this piece about a family really struggling mentally and financially. I decided to investigate further and discovered the situation was a very grave one indeed and the family was in dire need of assistance.

We decided the best way to get a gauge of the seriousness was to go and meet the family first hand. Once we reached there, we started talking to their eldest daughter, trying get a feel of the household and it’s struggles. The family consisted of an elderly couple and their two daughters. The father, a 79-year-old man who used to drive taxis, had suffered from a paralytic stroke a few years back, and the family had struggled to make ends meet ever since. Even prior to the paralytic stroke, he had had a series of medical complications throughout his later years, including a heart attack, but they had been improved considerably when he was operated on by a local hospital (The operation paid for by the generosity of Sharjah TV).

Relief for the poor souls?

After the operation, the family experienced their first pleasant period in quite a while. However, this was not to be. The father was involved in a car accident which, unfortunately, undid a lot of the progress made through the operation. From that day to this day, the man has been in a brain-damaged state, barely talks, and is in a semi-paralytic state.

Eldest Daughter elaborates:

“Throughout the years after the accident, we really felt like all our work and headway had been for nothing and felt broken and shattered. To make matters worse, our father’s visa expired and every year we incur fines for living here illegally; The total penalty accumulated so far is AED 65 000 and we have no idea how we will even begin to pay back such a colossal amount. My sister and I work, but forget about paying the debt, we barely make enough to get by. I’ve only studied until the 8th grade and so I babysit the neighbor’s kids. After all, who would hire a girl with no educational background? My younger sister does a pick-and-drop of girl(s) from a college, and my mother sporadically sews clothes, but that is about it for the income our family generates.”

Options back home?

“We can’t leave this country and go back to Pakistan, as our house over there was destroyed in an earthquake. As of right now, the land and most of the nearby places are not inhabited by people due to the damage, leaving most of the land virtually worthless. I hate to to say it but we are indeed in dire need of assistance.”

Our proposal

As my brother understood the situation, he had a pretty clear idea of what needed to be done. He knew a few people who wanted to pay their Zakat (Charity) and would be able to get aid if we presented a suitable case to them. As we stood up to take our leave, My brother and I tried talking to the 79 year old man. He couldn’t say much, was sitting on a wheel chair, and could barely move, but when I suggested that he would get better once he took his medicine, he just calmly looked up towards the sky, pointing towards God. I know it might seem bizarre, but despite his situation, he seemed quite content and an aura of serenity seemed to surround him, as if to suggest he had made peace with God and this world.

PS. We are trying to ensure that the money is used for the appropriate purpose and so will try to make sure the money is given directly to the debtors of the family, so as to ensure the money is not used for any other purpose. If anybody is interested in knowing more about the family, my email is: walock1996@gmail.com

Overlooked #4 Orphanages and Destitute homes: Forever Unsung?

The picture above is from Kashana, A Welfare home in Islamabad. In the time I was in Pakistan, I made sure I to visit various points of interest. These points were not the type places you would find marked on guides or google maps, but sometimes you visit places just because you feel like it.

I’ve written about one of these places: The Dialysis Center, and I will write about another one today:

Kashana, A Welfare home for Destitute, Orphaned and Runaway girls.

I got into contact with the Director of the institute and told her that I was really interested in a visit, since such establishments intrigued me. She replied by saying she was pretty busy that week, but she could squeeze me in on the weekend.

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A look from the side entrance (Apologies for the blurry picture)

Immediately after I arrived, I wanted to get into the gist of things and went into the Director’s office. The Director, Mrs. Naz, started off by showing me a few of her financial books. She told me how she kept a register for all the incoming donations, and how she kept a separate book for the ongoing expenses the home faced. How government aid almost never reached them in time and how over the years she’d become a master at “Making do” with limited resources.

About the institution

As we started walking around the institution, I asked her about the girls and their nurturing. I discovered that the girls ate, learned (through classrooms built in the upper level), played, and slept all under the same roof. The home cared for about 200 girls of all ages, from orphans to runaways, and its micro management requirements were eye opening. While I was there, I saw the windows being cleaned of the house, and I was told the whole ordeal usually took round about 4 hours. This was most remarkably intriguing, and I immediately garnered more respect for the depth and skill that goes into the management of such facilities.

Challenges faced?

When asked about the hindrances faced, she told me there was no shortage of them.

“The other day,” she explained, “the cook wanted to play cricket with the girls. They let him play but did not let him bat. Not pleased, the cook threatened he would clean the wheat flour used to make bread with tap water from the washroom. The next day, I came to work and saw, to my shock, that none of the girls had touched their food and were starving. When asked why, they told me about the incident with the cook. I tried to tell the girls that tap water is still water, and I had to reprimand the cook as well for his childlike behavior. I could not dismiss him, as he was the only one willing to work here on our limited budget. I would increase the budget, but that is out of my hands. Nevertheless, In the bigger picture, Social work has always been my passion and I like to think we’re making a difference. A real difference.”

After concluding our talk, I thanked her for her time and told her about my admiration for her work. As I started walking towards the car, I thought about how hard these people strive for the betterment of others. These are the type of unsung heroes who help advance our society, but they are also easily overlooked by it. 

The “Oily” economic mess – What happened? (Broken down in 650 words)

“The price has gone down AGAIN?”
“What in the WORLD is happening to oil?”
“I’m really intrigued but can’t be bothered to sit down and watch an hour’s worth of current affairs”

Do any of the above sound like you?

If so, then fear not inquisitive warrior, for I shall explain this economic crisis in the most concise and simplest of terms. After the next 15 minutes (or less, depending on your reading speed), I hope you’ll have a better understanding of what on earth happened to the price of oil.

  • Iran Sanctions

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the better part of 2015, you’d know that Iran’s sanctions have been lifted.

“Okay, so what Sully?”

Well, Iran is home to the second largest oil reserve in the Middle East (Fourth largest in the world). This means that there are now 3 million extra barrels of oil per day in the market, forecasted to possibly grow to almost 4 million barrels per day by January 2017.

  • Shale Oil

It’s pretty well known by now that the US has a significant interest in the oil market, and it has maintained this interest for the last couple of decades or so, as shown by various shale oil companies emerging and starting to produce “Shale Oil”(A substitute for crude oil extracted from sedimentary rocks)

If you know a little bit of economics, you’ll know that if the price of a substitute good for a product goes down, the price of that particular product goes down as well.

For example, let’s say hypothetically, if you have Car A which is very unique, very important, and has little to no mainstream substitutes. It sells for a high price for a very long time.
Then, along comes Car B with the exact same features, but only cheaper. Logically, all the consumers flock to Car B as it does the exact same job for a lower price.

Car A is Crude oil in this scenario, while Car B is representative of Shale Oil. (Both are known as substitute goods)

Now, if you know even a bit of Econ 101, you’ll know that if the price of a good goes down, the price of its substitute also inevitably goes down, as the latter starts losing sales to its now lower priced substitute.

This is exactly what has happened with Crude Oil. As Shale came in with a cheaper substitute for Crude Oil, the world’s largest Oil consumer, the United States, recorded trends of people switching from traditional crude oil to home-grown shale oil. This inevitably led to a fall in the price of crude oil.

  • Little to no increase in demand

With Shale Oil and Iran’s Crude oil entering the market, the demand of the oil market is still, more or less, the same. People aren’t suddenly demanding millions and millions of extra oil barrels in their daily lives. That type of change would take years, perhaps even decades. So, once again, basic economics tells us that when supply increases in a market with stagnating demand, the price plummets. (Displayed below)

S-increase

Even China, the world’s second largest oil consumer, is curbing its demand of oil as it predicts it’s economic growth to start diminishing. Moreover, tighter restrictions by the Chinese government on oil consumption will further reduce oil demand, as the government looks to reducing the infamously bad air pollution of China.

My two cents

There are still a million barrels of oil being produced in excess per day, and the number is forecasted to further increase this year. It seems if the current trend continues, the oil market will drown in oversupply and we could see the price falling to $20 or less.

However, a lot of countries depend on oil for their economies, so I am certain that the governments economists will contrive a policy to alter this plummeting price.

And there you have it, you now know more than before about why the oil price acted like it did. And if you already knew all of this, pat yourself on the back for me!