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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

A new side of privilege

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Whether or not we admit it, rankings do matter. Before college, they provide key guidance to find the best colleges and universities in the nation. After college, a degree from a highly ranked school looks excellent at the top of any applicant’s resume. Then, there’s the four years you spend in the middle. Carleton prides itself on never bragging about our status on those coveted U.S. News & World Report list or Forbes’ Top 50 Schools list. In fact, talking about rankings between Burton and Goodhue has become taboo. Yet, why don’t we talk about it? Now, please do not misunderstand me. I am not advocating for constant debates at the LDC over who was admitted into the most highly ranked school or an unending dialogue on tours of our excellency in numbers.

But, let’s talk about these statistics and what they mean for our lives here and now. To spew some general numbers, 25.6% of the applicants were accepted to the Carleton class of 2019. For each of our spots, 3 other people applied and were denied. Looking beyond the admissions rate, Carleton is ranked on several hundred college lists online. I researched the most popular, searched the lists and, without scientific method or reasoning, placed Carleton at number 22 among private universities in the United States. Then, I did a bit of math. Assuming that we are approximately at this position, Carleton is in the top .01 percentile for all 4-year private colleges in America. When combined with public 4-year universities, that number gets even more dramatic: the .008 percentile.

Okay, you get it. We are pretty high up there. So what? Speaking about them makes us seem pompous. However, it’s how you frame these numbers that matter. Each day we are faced with enormous readings, an insane schedule of activities, and social obligations. When most of us are over-achievers, these mounting pressures are overwhelming. That “B” in Intro to Macroeconomics feels like a failure. That glaring error on your newspaper feels like a catastrophe. That unnecessarily mean, sarcastic comment to your friend feels like the end of the world. When you face these situations, take a step back and look at the numbers.

You have not failed. You are not stupid. Constantly surrounded by peers as motivated and intelligent as ourselves, we forget where we are. This place is meant to be hard. If it were not, its rank would be lower. Small failures at Carleton, a school at the .01 percentile, do not reflect on your own talent. It is easy to live in the Carleton bubble and ignore just how many advantages even a degree from Carleton will give us.

Therefore, we also need to acknowledge these statistics in order to recognize our privilege being at this institution. We talk so much about racial, gender, socioeconomic, and sexual privilege on campus, but we rarely acknowledge our own educational privilege. Each of the factors of privilege intersect in unique ways, so educational privilege should be included in these discussions, in order for a well-rounded image of privilege on our campus and society as a whole. After spending a summer working with extremely bright middle school students who come from low income backgrounds and homes where English is the second language, I was reminded of how difficult it is for the majority of the world to get a good education. Whatever the circumstances that got you to this place, we are privileged to have this opportunity to be educated at that .01 percentile school, an opportunity so many people would kill for.

So, enjoy Carleton while you are here. Appreciate Carleton while you are here. Take a deep breath while you here. Rankings matter. We can ignore them or we can acknowledge what they mean for our community. I choose the latter. In the wise words of my dear friend, “You are at the .01% of schools and you are here for reason. Take a deep breath, Lizzy, because you are just lucky to be here.”

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