To Entitled Eagles: You’re Not Special

This is a sixth in a series, titled “Letter to an Eagle,” in which I author a letter to past, current, and/or future students of Boston College, expressing my views on my beloved alma mater, advising on surviving and thriving at The Heights, and sharing personal stories from my collegiate (and law school) days.

This sixth letter is addressed to the current students at Boston College, many of whom have an unwarranted sense of entitlement.


Dear Entitled Eagles,

Despite attending a prestigious university called Boston College, there are certain things that you are not entitled to.

First, you’re not entitled to any particular grade.  Certainly not an A or a B, or even a C+.

Grades measure your knowledge and abilities, however imperfectly.  If you exhibit superior capabilities, you get high marks.  If you exhibit deficiencies, you get low marks.

This rather obvious point has gotten lost over the years, although in fairness, the sense of entitlement to grades didn’t begin with your class.  During George W. Bush’s presidency, a lot was made of his seeming lack of intellectual capabilities, but as far as his college grades went—a C average—they were on par with his Democratic opponents Al Gore and John Kerry (although both, unlike Bush, showed improvement over the four years).

The point isn’t that all three had bad grades but rather that their Cs had some value.  The grade inflation at today’s Boston College isn’t quite as bad as it is at Harvard College—where the median grade is an A- and the most common transcript is a straight A—but BC isn’t immune from the problem.

This grade inflation is a symptom of an epidemic, a disease that you are also suffering from if you feel something must have gone wrong with the system if you have received a B.

And the only cure is a reality check.

However stellar your high school academic accomplishments may have been, you are now a smaller fish in a much bigger pond.  Your classmates who are taking the same exams as you also had the credentials, both academic and non-academic, that impressed the same people in the admissions office who were impressed with your credentials.  Now that you are surrounded by equally talented people, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that you’re not as unique and special as you were in high school.

You need to realize that this is a good thing.  BC’s motto is “Ever to Excel,” and the best way to ensure that you’re constently bettering yourself is surrounding yourself with those who are better.

Second, you’re not entitled not to be offended.

Just as there are going to be people who are smarter than you, there will be people who hold views that are different from yours.  These people may be school administrators setting the tone for the college, professors giving a lecture or fellow students making a political statement.

To you, the views of these people may seem completely irrational, wrong, or even dangerous.  It’s certainly your prerogative to say so in the classroom or organize a protest at O’Neill Plaza to spread the message.  In fact, considering the college setting, you’re probably encouraged to do so.

But what you don’t have the right to do is go around sabotaging people’s professional and academic careers because you felt offended with a view that you happened to disagree with.

If you want to talk about offensiveness, I’m offended that you’re offended.  Pure probability says that you, a student at a liberal arts college in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts, are a liberal.  I, on the other hand, entered BC as a conservative and graduated even farther to the right.  Whatever affront you may be feeling towards the disagreeable views in your surroundings, odds are pretty high that it’s nowhere near what I had to go through.

And as a person who felt affronted every collegiate day, I’m telling you:  you need to deal.

No matter where you end up after graduation, there are going to be people with whom you won’t see eye to eye.  It’s not a matter of lack of trying or understanding; it’s just a fact of life that people with different background and experience come to hold different beliefs.  The only way to live with them is to agree to disagree. You might as well start learning how now, while in college, when, at least in theory, you should be exposed to diverse ideas to stimulate critical thinking.

Finally, particularly for you seniors, your soon-to-receive diploma from Boston College doesn’t entitle you to a job, much less a particular job.

Perhaps it’s the grade inflation that rewards unqualified people with a diploma or a misunderstanding of what a Boston College education is meant to accomplish.  Regardless, there are far too many BC graduates who don’t have the self-awareness to realize they are unqualified and overpaid for the work they didn’t deserve but they nonetheless fortunately got right out of college.   What makes this sense of entitlement particularly unbearable is that the more As and majors you have, the more likely your delusion is severe.  Reading Plato and pontificating about the ideal economic system in the post-modern world may have added depth to your personhood, but they’re useless when learning how to write an e-mail at work.

Yes, you’re part of the Entitlement Generation, but if you take some of the above advice to heart and exhibit some humility, it would go a long way towards making you realize that while being a Boston College Eagle is special, in the grand scheme of things, you’re not that special.


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