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Ivy Leaguers are bright – but nice?

These are the people who rise to the top, partly on the backs of nicer people.

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For my family, the college application process this year was a happy one – my younger sister was accepted at an Ivy League school. I was thrilled for her and excited to answer questions about my own university experience.

But when she asked me what students at the "top" colleges were like, I realized I was disturbed by my answer.

During four years at Princeton University and nearly a year at Yale Law School, I have been surrounded by students who dazzle. These are the students for whom application processes were made. They include published novelists, acclaimed musicians, and Olympic medalists. They include entrepreneurs, founders of human rights groups, and political activists. If they have hobbies such as stamp collecting and belly dancing, by golly, they are the best stamp collectors and belly dancers in America!

These youths live a life of superlatives, a life in which being No. 1 is not just an aspiration but the status quo. They can be inspirational, but they are not always nice people.

You know what I mean. I mean the kind of "nice" that involves showing compassion not merely because membership in community service groups demands it. The kind of "nice" that involves lending a textbook to a friend who doesn't have one. The kind of selfless, genuine "nice" that makes this world a better place – but won't get you accepted to college.


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