State-schooled students still feel out of place at LSE
The LSE has reason to boast its accomplishments in getting higher proportions of “disadvantaged” students onto its campus. According to a report by Reform, in the 2016-2017 academic year 68.4% of entry level full-time undergraduates were from state schools.
Whilst these figures are extremely impressive when compared to other ‘elite’ UK universities such as Oxbridge or UCL, statistics do not always speak for themselves (being at LSE, we of all people should know this).
At the LSE, there is still an inferiority complex within state-schooled students in regard to their academic achievements and student life. This complex is a response to the fierce, brutal, and competitive culture at LSE: secure the most spring weeks, earn the most money, and own the most suits.
This competition is as clear as day, and I still was not prepared for it. As a first-year undergraduate from a state school, this complex was one that I struggled with during Michaelmas term, and still seek to recover from as Lent term gets underway. My inferiority complex seeped its way into many areas of my academic and social life: I didn’t allow myself to speak up in classes because my ideas seemed too simplistic and the same seemed to be true outside of class.
I subconsciously stopped myself from becoming too interested and invested in certain groups or societies, because they supposedly experienced a life I never did growing up in a state school. I automatically shut myself away from people because I thought we could never relate.
My school, great as it was, made me feel like I was not at all prepared for the upper-class culture surrounding an elite university in the capital city. Whilst I cannot speak for everyone from the LSE who is state-schooled, this imposter syndrome seems to be a very unspoken topic amongst the student community.
With universities constantly being scrutinised for not prioritising the wellbeing of students, it is important that these issues are heard.
But why, in my own experience, was LSE such a culture shock?
For one, I received little institutional support whilst studying for my A Levels and applying to university. I never had a tutor and there was little done to foster academic discussions outside of the classroom. The school’s career advisor was mainly for people who didn’t want a degree nor an apprenticeship; as far as they were concerned, this was as far as I could get.
Being “disadvantaged” of course does not mean that I get any sort of moral high ground over those whose parents perhaps earned a little more. We all were smart enough for one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and we are all worthy of being here, no matter the degree we study or school we come from.
Additionally, I have to acknowledge my own inherent privilege within the student community, as a straight, white student with a dual income. There are many layers to the complex issue of institutionalised prejudice at the LSE, much of which I am not qualified to debate on. Surely, this proves how far we still have to go to truly be inclusive.
But does this state-school inferiority complex really have an effect on life after London? Maybe so. Top jobs in law, politics, and business are still dominated by those who went to private school. This may well be because they were best suited for the job, or, perhaps it is because they had contacts that just weren’t accessible to those who did not go to a certain type of school. Still maybe it is a product of the fact that state-schooled graduates still feel like there is an inferiority complex that stops them from touching the skies.