Thursday, March 6, 2008


The thing that really bothers me about my school is its reputation. Not of high academic standards and expectations. Not of quality education.

It's the University of Spoiled Children.

MBAs don't exactly have a good reputation. They're money-grubbing, dishonest (surveys show that something like 70% of MBA students cheat on tests), and represent "evil corporate America." And I'd have to agree. There's a very small number of people in my program that I'd call friends. Which is surprising, because I always thought it was a stereotype.

But for some reason, MBA candidates feel like they're especially deserving. (And the faculty dedicates some time to facilitating this attitude.) Coming to campus is a nightmare, because apparently a USC license plate cover and a BMW/Audi/Mercedes (in that order) exempts one from traffic rules. Students are primed to expect an average $100,000 salary, but not have to look for a job. In fact, they say, the average would be higher, but it includes people who work overseas where the wage rates are typically lower, and those who work for non-profits. The people that I'm friendly with are the few who don't corner me in class or in the hallways to try to weasel a job opportunity or sleep with me (also surprising - sure, my program is only 27% female, but I'd say 90% of them are there for a degree and not a husband).

Normally I'm not the type to feel inferior because of social class or perceived wealth, but it's been really hard the past couple of years.

When I first moved out to California, and got my first job, it was sort of a disappointment. I mean, most schools prime their students with ideas that a college degree will almost automatically guarantee you a good, decent-paying job. Being out in the real world, and talking to a lot of people, I think we've all discovered that the real hard work starts after graduation.

But all of my job moves have been upward, and I'm able to live comfortably within my means. And yet when I'm at school I'm painfully aware that my clothes/shoes/purses are not designer labels (and are, in fact, from the Limited, Express, and Gap, but from TJ Maxx), I drive a terribly old car, rent an apartment in questionable neighborhood, and likely make the least in my class discounting those who aren't employed. I can't even begin to wonder how many dollars worth of automobiles park in the university lot, or the value of engagement rings of that third of my class.

I'm obviously attached to my car, and I always thought I dressed reasonably well. I'm not extravagant, and honestly, some of those designer purses? Do you really need to carry around a suitcase worth of stuff covered in an unattractive logo? I've gotten my own jobs, without referrals or family/friend help, and established myself pretty well. But now, it's time to buy a new car, and while I'd like something nicer than a Civic (Nissan Z350), it's far out of my league (Mitsubishi Eclispe). Buying a house in southern California is tough, but I'd never be able to if not for dual income. And most people know weddings are expensive, but few know just how much, even for a relatively small, simpler affair.

I've always lived by asking for little, but expecting even less. Lately that "less" feels way out of reach. Who would have ever thought that the basics (and the occasional luxury, like Starbucks or Disneyland) was too much to ask for?

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