Leaving the Ivy
Photo Cred: http://blogdailyherald.com/tag/ivy-league/
So, you out here in the internet world don’t know this about me yet, but I recently transferred out of an Ivy university and into a State uni.
And yes, you read that right. Ivy, out. State, in.
Now, there are many reasons why I left an Ivy League school and I didn’t really think about every single one until I transferred out and people at my new uni where like ‘how the f*** did you end up here?!’ I didn’t think it was really that big of a deal until people kept asking me ‘But why? I mean…you were at the top! Why come here?’ My new university isn’t even in my old state, and it’s in the MidWest whereas I used to be right on the East Coast, in one of the most exciting cities of the world. And yet I left to come here, in the heartland of US, closer to where I grew up.
There were several reasons I left, and for all you hopeful high school graduates thinking that an Ivy school is ‘the maximum’ , I’m hoping this list of reasons might make you reflect a little more on your college decision. I’m not saying my reasons for leaving would be the same for everyone or that my experience will be a prospective’s experience, but this is what I learned from my first 2 college years.
And, just for your guys’ information, I did not transfer out because I was doing god awful at my old school. I was actually doing pretty well for doing a lot of pre-reqs. I’m not going to post all the reasons at once; I’m going to stagger the reasons over the week so I have more material to post. It’d also be just one gigantic post and no one really likes to read those without pictures and videos and the like. So, onwards to reason 1:
#1. I’m invincible
So, I don’t know if it’s the curse of the youth or if God’s hand just slipped when he was pouring ‘confidence’ into my personality, but I have this invincibility complex. When I was going off to college, I didn’t think of myself as a ‘Midwestern’ gal, but living in a big city definitely got that through my head. I thought ‘I’ve visited this city before, I love it, I’ll be fine. I have an aunt nearby. My sister’s just a couple subway rides away…’ And I was confident I’d love the city, it’d love me, and everything would be peachy.
And it was, for a while.
I went off to college thinking I knew what I wanted out of it. In a way, I had to know what I wanted (further explanation to come). I went with this almost stiff plan in my mind–double major in Economics and English or Creative Writing. Go work as an I-Banker or in the finance world, make money quickly once I graduate, and write on the side.
Then I took my first Economics class (Macro and micro economics) and thought ‘Oh hell no. Not what I want to do 9-5.’
At the time I was toying with the idea of later on starting my own online publishing company. First sell my novels under my name, build credibility, and then launch a publishing company (because they say publishing is where the money’s at).
So I did an internship, that Spring, at a literary agency. Now, for those of you who are not familiar with the traditional publishing world, here’s how it rolls: You, the fiction unknown author, write a full-blown novel. The whole kanoodle. And then, once that’s done you write this query letter, which is basically a 500 word synopsis of your amazing work of sweat, tears, and brain cell corpses. So, you research multiple publishing houses (a good place to start is to think about other authors who write novels like the one you just wrote and find out who’s their publisher) and figure out what their submission process is like. Now be careful, because not all publishing companies accept unsolicited material, so double-check their guidelines and policies. Some of them want you to include the first 5 pages of the manuscript along with the query letter, or the 1st chapter, 1st two chapters–you get the picture, no two publishing companies are created the exact same. So, you send in what they’re asking for and usually you don’t hear back for a few months. I think about 2 weeks after sending out your stuff you should call, just to ask if they’ve received everything, and then they have up to 3 months to get back to you. I know, the wait’s murder, but that’s what the business is like. And then if they like your query and sample, they’ll ask for the full manuscript and if they like that, you get published.
But usually, the unsolicited material gets stacked in this ‘slush’ pile and it’s oftentimes some intern at the company that has to shift through the papers to find anything that sounds remotely good. And if the intern thinks their higher-up should look at it, then that higher-up talks to another editor and on and on until someone says ‘ask for the full manuscript’. And even then, every publishing company (depending on their size) only really publish a very small percentage of those manuscripts they’ve read completely. They only accept the very best of the best that they got sent and you can be sure that the big name publishing companies, like Penguin or Random House, will have thousands of submissions monthly.
So, how does the literary agent have a part in this? Well, as an unknown, unpublished writer, you are at a great disadvantage. Basically because the business is all new to you and you’re new to it–no one knows your name so why should they waste their time on you when they could be sweet-talking Scott Westerfield or Stephen King or such? So, what a literary agent does it connect you with people in publishing. Think of it as having a backer too, because if your agent’s any good (and you should have done a lot of research on this too) then they might have some famous authors on their clientele list and so publishers trust them better to tell them ‘hey, you should really read this stuff this newbie produced–great stuff. Could be as big as Tolkien’. And then once they create a bidding war between different publishing companies, the writer gets to choose which one they want to go with (usually the one with the highest bid, but there are pros and cons to all publishing house sizes) and the agent generally gets 5% of that negotiated price. Or it may be 15%. It all varies on the agent, but I think 15 is standard.
So, I went and interned at a literary agency, and it was interesting. I mean I only did office errands and such, but it was cool to be in this room with all this books lining the walls and around all these people that liked books too. But it wasn’t what I wanted for my life.
So, I abandoned my idea of working in publishing, even though I hadn’t directly worked in publishing. I may go back to wanting to work in publishing, but after my internship I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in the business of books.
This story has a point. My point is that I can bounce back from lots of things because I had this unending flow of confidence in myself, and then my confidence faltered. I wasn’t sure about my writing, about my abilities (I mean you meet some amazing people who’ve done such amazing things!), or about anything really. I started to feel like a failure–like I’d done nothing with my life up until that point except school and school work and tried to write novels but never getting them published. I would do online competitions, send my stuff to school publications, apply to be on the literary magazine, and I’d get rejected from everything. The one thing I was accepted into was a special interest community where I could live with other aspiring writers (poets, composers, anyone really), and it was one of the main reasons I even went back for a second year (honestly the only reason)
But slowly, I lost my confidence. At about 1 1/2 years at my old school I felt more like this:
So, with my confidence almost completely extinguished, I left my Ivy. I went back home, to my parents (because my siblings are all scattered throughout the US and the rest of my family is in Central America (one branch in Canada)). And I began to rebuild myself. Rebuild my confidence, and strangely enough the biggest boost to my confidence was actually leaving my Ivy. It gave me confidence because I started to feel like I was in control of something again, and to be honest by that point I’d been feeling like I had control over nothing. And that small action, but giant step, of leaving my Ivy let me breathe a little easier.
It took me about two months to get back to my old confidence level, but now after seven months, my confidence is at an all-time high. Losing it and having to reconstruct it has made my foundations stronger and I’m a better person for the experience (or so I think) and I love the person I’ve become.
For instance, before college, I was nervous around guys. Particularly attractive ones. And I would sometimes talk to them, or talk to all their friends around them. At my old university there was this guy I was really into, but we were both terribly naive and shy in the field of romance and neither one of us really made a bold enough move (either for or against advancing to another type of relationship). And I would almost never talk to strangers, even the people checking me out at stores.
Now, at my new college, I say ‘caution to the wind’. I gave this guy I liked my number, I’ve begun chatting to people who’re just standing in line with me, I smile at nearly everyone, and it just feels like everything’s rosy again. I also check out guys more, and I’m not afraid to tell my friends when there’s a hottie around the corner. And I’m not submitting my writing to competitions, but now I’m planning on doing a web series and children books and short radio stories and plotting out my author website and everything. It’s great.
Photo cred: http://www.questprblog.com/2166/scoop-that-business-award-to-feel-on-top-of-the-world/