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A Real-Life "Gossip Girl" Speaks

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What is it like to attend a prestigious private school? We get an inside look.

real life gossip girl

In my school alone, we had some of New York City's most elite -- kids of corporate CEOs, royalty. Many came from some of the top private elementary schools in NYC. Inevitably, with this caliber of kids and families, comes the struggle for success.

I went off to private school when I was 14 years old. I didn't have a problem with drugs or alcohol, my parents didn't ship me away to help me deal with anger management issues, nor did they decide to allow me to go because they didn't have "time." If it were up to my mom, I would have stayed home until I was 20. I simply wanted to go because all of my friends were going, too.
There's always been a stigma placed on "private/boarding school kids" -- they're troubled, hung out with the wrong crowd in middle school, fought, had substance abuse issues. The truth is that the majority of these schools are infiltrated with kids from wealthy families.

When dumped into an environment where you're going to school with 500 kids that are all aspiring to be as successful as their parents, the school becomes a breeding ground for competition. I would hear students boast that "They pulled three all nighters in one week," (at 14 years old!) or "when I looked out onto the quad, my light was the only one still on." I lived at my academic institution, and became used to keeping check on others -- how they were doing, what they were doing, what they were eating (or not).

What you see from the outside of any school -- private or public -- is the same: competition, stress, pressure. But in the private school culture, the stresses are a little higher, more intense, and the expectations from faculty and family are more apparent. Don't get me wrong, stress and pressure didn't always come from an outside source. A lot of the time, the pressure was self-inflicted. Students at my school were used to being the best, the smartest, the most athletic, the prettiest, the skinniest. They were thrown into a new environment and realized that they weren't "the best" any more. Is this common among all schools? Yes. Intensified at boarding/private school? Definitely.

I think it's the lack of escape students had to learn to cope with. Some succeeded; others didn't. Also, if someone had an eating disorder it wasn't monitored by a parent; in fact, it was made "normal" because there was so much of it.

I understand how someone at a private OR public school would resort to committing suicide. I saw many people drink until they passed out just to escape what they were feeling. It's part of being a teenager, and especially in a pressure cooker like a private school, at times this could seem like the only way out.

Will I send my kids to a private school? Yes. I learned to be independent at a very young age. I learned discipline and I am very driven. I want to do well financially and live the good life. Ultimately, though, I did struggle at times, I became a stronger person because of it. I hope, though, that I won't be the kind of parent that over-pressures their kid. I think I will understand what they are going through because of my own experiences.




next: Introducing Obese Barbie
1 comments so far | Post a comment now
SaraL February 23, 2009, 4:39 PM

I think this goes to show how we force unreasonable expectations on our kids. Is going to a top college, making the most money, really what’s bets for them? I read this interesting article on whether Ivy League schools are really worth it…



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