Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

Silver or Sidelines?

1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, Silver Medal, Shannon Miller, Gymnastics Balance Beam

Had a good day today. Someone asked me the question, “What if you had to choose between going to a ‘silver medal’ graduate school or not going to graduate school at all?” It’s a great question for me. I’m an all or nothing man and that gets in the way of life.

What about you? If you know you’re going to get silver, do you still enter the race?


  1. Silver’s not so shabby.

  2. But you’re either first or last right?

  3. I refuse to do anything unless I get it perfect. Seriously. So how much do you think I actually get accomplished? Not a lot. I’m realizing that to always be the best is an impossible goal. But the whole point is to be in the game. The game that you create. Not the one you’re told to play.

    (Does anyone remember those silly 90’s “NO FEAR” t-shirts? “Second place is the first place loser.” How silly. And what a post yuppie concept. Funny that it was worn by a bunch of grunge kids with no goals. :) )

  4. I agree with Pebble, about playing your own game. Which graduate school you decide to go to depends on what you want. That is not often easy to discern; time spent discerning what you want is time well spent. Even after you finish your program, you will likely still be discerning what you want, as is the case for me.

    To the best of your abilities, ask yourself what you want from a program. Do your potential peers’ interests harmonize with yours, or do they challenge your perspective? Are your potential professors’ interests the things that interest you? An over-all gold medal graduate school may not be gold in your program. Searching out the top programs for your area of interest will always help you down the road, especially if you desire continuing to a PhD. On the other hand, if you are searching for a job, and would like to be as marketable as possible, perhaps the school with a gold-medal name would be best for your resume. If you can’t get into a gold-medal school, whether because of grades or finances, a silver school could help you in many ways. If your grades were not stellar in college, but you prove that you can earn the grades in silver-medal program, your chances have increased for getting into a gold program in the future. Yet again, if what you desire is a betterment of yourself, thereby increasing your quality of life, a silver medal school will be just right. Your education is what you make of it, wherever you are.

  5. Either John McCain or Barack Obama will be winning silver today, and going back to the Senate, definitely their second choice, though not a bad career.

    I doubt that either one of them (or Hillary, for that matter) will be too thrilled about it.

    Sarah Palin, however will be happy to put a silver medal in her Wasilla trophy case, along with her flute and white pumps.

  6. Pebble: I am totally the same way. It is hard for me to even create space in my imagination for being OK with less than the best (or at least less than really really good). I’m working on it . . .

  7. Good things to think about. Thanks Heather!

  8. I’m curious, when thinking back on the professors and authors that inspire you most, did they all attend gold-medal schools? Likewise, ones that you found to be rather uninspiring, did any of them attend gold-medal programs? My own personal opinion is rather in line with Heather’s. Graduate education should have more to do with meeting personal goals (finding the right fit) than crafting the perfect CV (unless the CV is the goal). Though gold-medal schools do arm grandmothers with the ultimate bragging material.

  9. Ha! You hit the nail on the head with the grandmother ammo. I have to say that yes, certain inspiring professors did go to silver-medal schools. As for the uninspiring ones, I don’t rightly remember. It’s a good angle to ponder. Thanks!