Monday, March 14, 2011


A year ago I the initials GS and CC didn't mean a thing to me, but now my life revolves around them.  In addition to numerous graduate schools, Columbia University has three undergraduate colleges: Columbia College (CC), School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), and School of General Studies (GS).  While all three colleges share classes and professors for the curriculum, each college has its own admissions criteria, student advising, and financial aid departments.  One would think that attending the #4 ranked college in the US would be enough to satisfy anyone's ego, but it isn't.  There can be a sharp divide among students of GS and CC regarding a number of issues, especially when it comes to deciding what school is better.

As a GS student, I have made many friends from all of the different colleges of Columbia, and I rarely feel this tension among my classmates.  However, as the anonymity of the internet has increased the brazenness of the otherwise impotent souls, there are strings of conversations online and in comment sections of Bwog that show the depth of insecurity among my peers.  I have met a few CC students who seemed to possess the elitist attitudes despised by my fellow GS'ers, but mostly I have been disgusted by the words from other GS students about the CC scholars.

Before I air my grievances, I will say this: I have the highest respect for anyone who had the mental discipline at such a young age to get into this school.  CC students worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get here, and they deserve that recognition.  When I was in high school, I could have never qualified for this opportunity, so I am not going to ridicule those who make it because of my laziness as a teen.  I am a non-traditional student, and in that role I have made peace with what my college career will look like.  Too many GS'ers are looking to relive some past glory at the expense of hazing another group.  I don't like the assumption that all CC students are rich.  I am sure that a few have wealthy families, but that isn't their fault.  I certainly don't like people judging me for being white or tall, so I will not assume those fortunate to be born into well off families are all jerks.  After living in the Philippines for two years, I know what poverty is, and my fellow classmates ought to be grateful for what they have instead of dreaming/lusting about what others might have in the bank.

Now to defend my school from the claims of certain Columbia College people.  GS is not a "backdoor" into Columbia.  Since GS and CC have different admissions, many CC students feel cheated that they are sharing classes with people who just received their GED.  This is an understandable concern.  Why work so hard in high school to sit next to a guy in college who dropped out his junior year?  Well, this is what makes Columbia so awesome!  The school sees potential in a very large portion of the population to benefit from its liberal arts studies.  While we have all taken different roads to get here, we are now on the same path, and all of us are taking the same tests, reading the same books, and struggling through the same lectures.  Sure I was a slacker 15 years ago, but I will work my butt off now, so that every CC and GS student will have the best classmate possible from me.  I didn't chose Columbia because I wanted an easy path to a cool diploma.  I attend, so that I may learn from the best Academics in the world.  Columbia has offered me a second chance, and I am taking it.

There are advantages to both schools; CC has a great financial aid program, and GS is more flexible in working with student schedules and allows for part-time enrollment.  Ultimately, I love GS.  It works for me.  While I might envy the younger crowd for their remarkable achievements, I am glad that my education is enhanced by my life experience.  Also, we have the coolest dean ever.  It's true.  Peter Awn rocks!

I am just happy to be at Columbia.  I have the chance to learn from top scholars and collaborate with the brightest minds in the country.  If people here can't appreciate that, I feel bad for them.