The Michigan Difference

The University of Michigan was my dream school ever since I was a kid. As an 8-year-old kid from Maryland, walking into the Big House for the first time at a Michigan vs Ohio State football game was an experience like no other. There is no atmosphere in Maryland that comes close to game day in Ann Arbor, especially when that team from Ohio is in town. I didn’t know it at the time,MichiganStadium2010UConn but that place would eventually become my home for 4 years. Throughout all of high school, I worked diligently to get good grades, partake in leadership positions, and give back to my community because I knew that is what it took to get into Michigan. The competition nationwide was fierce, as only the cream of the crop got accepted to a prestigious university like Michigan. So when the acceptance letter came in the mail, I was relieved that all the hard work had paid off, and I would finally get to be a wolverine. Only I didn’t realize that the competition with other high schoolers to get into the university was nothing compared to the competition  I was going to face once I arrived on campus.

In my Political Theory class, we discussed how Louis Menand’s theory 1 in his essay “Live and Learn” explains how college is open to everyone and its main objective is to determine the good from the bad or strong from the weak. Menand states that the the caliber of college doesn’t matter “as long as they’re rigorous enough for the sorting mechanism to its work.” However, some colleges do not have rigorous enough coursework to separate the successes from the failures. In most college courses, grades are determined based on a bell curve, which means you must outperform your peers on exams, quizzes, and essays. I am confident in stating that it is easier to outperform your peers at a school like Central Michigan, where the academics are not strong, than the University of Michigan, where almost every student was at the top of their high school class. Thus, a very strong student can get “weeded” out by the college process at Michigan, but could excel and receive a 4.0 GPA at Central Michigan.

go blueI have found Michigan to be strong academically and socially. This makes it very difficult when trying to differentiate yourself from the people around you. I did not realize that only 1/4 of the students get an A in Econ 101, only 20-25 kids get into a fraternity out of over 250 that rush, and that almost every club requires an intense application process or interviews for admission. It’s not enough to just be at the University of Michigan. You are expected to constantly prove yourself and it’s harder to do so when you are surrounded by the best of the best from all over the world. I find it hard to believe that this type of cut throat competition can be found on every college campus around the country. This is what I believe to be the Michigan difference. 

With all of this said, I am still thrilled to be at the best university in the country and I am eager to take on the challenge to  become one of the leaders and best.

~Andrew Fink

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2 thoughts on “The Michigan Difference

  1. Andrew,
    I definitely agree that almost all of us could succeed with far less effort at a school like Central or Eastern, and understand where you’re coming from when you say that middle-of-the-pack students enrolled here might not be portrayed accurately.
    I think you’re missing a key part of Menand’s point, though. He stresses that the meritocratic college system exists to find the best of the best. This means that, ideally, the best students are those in the top tier of their graduating classes at top schools–not in the middle, and not at mediocre schools. To Menand, it would matter very little about the graduating class at Central because there are far better academic schools from which to select the “elites”.

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  2. I couldn’t agree more with your post. The University of Michigan truly does embody the motto of the “leaders and best” in all aspects of life. What makes getting a degree from Michigan so rewarding is the people you’re amongst when getting that degree. All the hard work that’s required to “make it” here is worth it just to say that you’re a Wolverine.

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