KIM: The opportunity cost

Freshman Voices

I’m a bum. I’m not saying that I don’t get my work done, but in high school, my philosophy always centered on academically scraping by. My four years at high school weren’t filled with academic victories; I created no life-saving inventions, earned no national awards. Instead, I filled my time with procrastination, midnight Taco Bell runs and blackout weekends. I felt no need to go above and beyond; after all, a 92.6 percent and a perfect score were both the same A. Minimum effort for maximum results became the goal.

Then came March 28 — Ivy Day, the most dread-worthy day of the nightmare landscape known as selective college admissions. When decisions came out, my friends dropped like flies. Rejection after rejection, it seemed hopeless. Students with higher GPAs and better accomplishments — peers who were, in all respects more qualified than me — were shot down. Then, the impossible happened: I had gotten into Yale.

Once the surprise and excitement passed, I was left with one emotion: confusion. Why me? How had I, in a process that had massacred thousands of valedictorians, made it? The next few weeks at school only confirmed that sentiment. People were bitter and upset; I was the lazy one in class, the one that wasn’t supposed to go to Yale. What had I done to deserve my acceptance over the thousands, some of whom were close friends, who were rejected?

In economics, you learn about opportunity costs. They’re the idea that the options forgone factor into the overall cost of any action. So what was the opportunity cost of my acceptance? Was some hidden prodigy, who would have perhaps gone on to cure cancer, condemned to Harvard instead? Surely he would never realize his full potential at such a school. I began to feel guilty. How could I deserve to be called a Yalie?

After thinking for quite some time, I could only come to one logical conclusion: I realized that I don’t deserve to be at Yale — at least not yet. There are, of course, students in the class of 2017 — geniuses, changers of the world — who already deserve to call themselves Yalies. But I’m not one of them.

I realized, then, that my acceptance to Yale didn’t make me a Yale man after all. Instead, it gave and continues to give me the opportunity to become one. It’s not what I’ve done already that determines whether I deserve to be at Yale; it’s what I’ll do now, once I’m there. Being a Yalie is a title earned, not given, and it isn’t one earned easily.

I’m often asked why I chose Yale, but I think the real question is why Yale chose me. I can’t answer that question now. But in one, two, 10 years, I hope I’ll be able to. Yale saw something in me that I didn’t, and now, I can’t afford to merely scrape by. I’m not saying that I won’t have my fair share of hangovers and blackout weekends, but this time, my attitude will be different.

No matter what we may like to think, the actions that we take now will no longer be only for us; they will be for something greater. Whether we were the best, the brightest or the bums, Yale has given us all an opportunity we can’t afford to waste. Not just for ourselves, but for our school, and for those who were rejected so that we could be accepted. It will be so that the decision to accept us, to give us the chance to change the world doesn’t go in vain. It will be for God, for country and most of all, for Yale.

Leo Kim is a freshman in Trumbull College. Contact him at leo.kim@yale.edu.

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