Today is the second-to-last day of classes for University of Michigan students. Most of us are studying for finals we’re not ready to take or slaving away on team projects in which there’s inevitably a slacker. As of now, I am officially finished with two of my courses — Advanced French and History of U.S. Foreign Policy. I have three more to go, which consist of three final papers and two final projects. Unlike most Wolverines, though, I have slightly different things on my mind. This afternoon, I will meet with Michigan’s institutional representative to begin the long journey that is applying for the Rhodes Scholarship.
Although the deadline is in August, I have already begun asking professors for recommendation letters and wondering if I have a legitimate chance to win. Upon reflecting over my past five semesters of college, I’ve come to realize just how lucky I am. Of course, I owe much of my successes to my parents’ support, my professors’ mentorship, and my friends’ encouragement. However, the one thing that stood out to me today was something more tangible — money. If I hadn’t had the resources, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in my unpaid State Department internship last summer in Paris. If I hadn’t founded my own company, I would never have been offered the internship. If my father hadn’t supported me financially, I wouldn’t have been able to start the business. In all of these examples, money was a key factor.
We all know the adage that money can’t buy happiness. Studies have shown that if you earn less than $15,000 a year, additional money does make you happier. Over that amount, however, there is no correlation between increased wealth and happiness. Ladies and gentlemen, news flash: Mark Zuckerberg is no happier than you are. However, if you had a chance to trade places with Zuckerberg (not his physical body or his wife, but just his professional status), would you? Personally, I wouldn’t want to work at Facebook, but hell, I sure wouldn’t mind being the youngest billionaire in history. For centuries, America has proclaimed itself to be a meritocracy, believing that if you work hard enough, you can achieve the American Dream. But the fact is that Zuckerberg did not come from poverty. The vast majority of his Harvard classmates were also in the top 10% of America in wealth. As income inequality is breaking records, the truth of America is that you need money to make more money.
So what’s my point with all that? Certainly not to boast of my socioeconomic standing. On the contrary, I honestly feel very undeserving of my accomplishments. I have the utmost respect for those (including my own parents) who earned every ounce of their success. I wish education in America could be more egalitarian and, more importantly, free. I believe that Affirmative Action should be economically as well as racially based. I look forward to the day when I can be financially independent from my parents, which I hope the Rhodes will help me achieve. Although I am far from perfect, I strive to spend every cent I have to its greatest potential.
How has money affected your life? Do you feel that having more money would make you happier? Were there instances where the lack of money prevented you from taking an opportunity?
À la prochaine,