A Stanford Fantasy

On the detriment of asking “what could have been”

Ahsante Bean
Ahsante Bean

Here’s my favorite dialogue from The Social Network:

-“You don’t know my name, do you?

-“Is it Stanford?”


The first line accompanies a shot of actress Dakota Johnson—a former model scheduled to star in the upcoming film adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey—clad in a Stanford sweatshirt and panties. The second line accompanies an up-close, out of focus shot of Dakota’s backside, which leaves the viewer with the demanding task of looking past it toward the focused part of the frame. Thankfully, the viewer is then rewarded with a half-naked image of Justin Timberlake, lying under the covers of a cozy bed.

The film is, of course, idealized. Stanford is not actually full of Timberlakes, Johnsons, and, presumably, Timberlake’s Johnson. But the scene does convey that Stanford is light, warm, and fun—a retreat compared to the darker images of Harvard throughout the movie.

I grew up in California. Especially during March of freshman year, after tripping on layers of sidewalk ice mixed with dirt, cigarette buds, and the frozen tears of those who had fallen before me, I wished I could go back. Stanford, with its size, financial aid program, and academic rigor has a lot of the same benefits that Harvard does, but with all of the Californian rewards.

I was waitlisted there. By the time I found that out, I was already accepted here. I chose not to stay on the waitlist though, partly because I wanted to leave California.

But what if I was accepted? It probably wouldn’t have happened. But what if I had stayed on the waitlist and gotten in? In an admissions world that seems so arbitrary, questions like these fill in a lot of gaps for college students. Would I be happier elsewhere? Should I have worked harder in high school? Would I have been able to have sex with Dakota Johnson?

So, recently, I tried to answer them. I called up a friend of mine at Stanford to talk about what life is really like there. I was hoping to get the normal spiel about excellent extracurriculars, academics, blah, and blah blah. Nothing special—nothing like The Social Network. But unfortunately for my self-assurance, there was much more badass than blah.

“Basically, Stanford loves giving people money for no reason at all,” she said. She then went into detail about how her freshman dorm was given money to rent out a three-story cabin in Lake Tahoe for one weekend, along with ski lift-tickets for the entire group. Now, while that sounds pretty cool, keep in in mind that Harvard also provides students funding. Of course, not $250,000 more of it. But students can always apply for a DAPA grant, which is basically the same as a funded ski trip, except it funds paper plates and cups and mixers and no skiing and no cabin and no traveling.

It didn’t stop there. She told me about Full Moon on the Quad, an event during which thousands of students make out with one another randomly—some kiss more than 50 others in one night. And the best part is that, with the school barricading the quad and checking student ID’s for entrance, it’s basically school-sponsored. In that way, it’s a lot like Yardfest, except instead of only Tyga behaving like Tyga, everyone behaves like Tyga.

I could go on about how she talked of “75 degree weather in January” or the “average 7 attractiveness” for guys and girls. But I’ll stop there, because, around that point in our conversation, I tripped on some sidewalk ice and broke my phone.

I didn’t feel like talking much more anyway. I was hoping for something lame. Instead, I ended up with depressing thoughts of what could have been. I could feel more questions coming on—What if I was there? What if I want to be there? Why is it called Full Moon, rather than Full Mono?

With these thoughts, I wandered into my dorm. There was a surprise birthday going on for one of my entryway-mates. The atmosphere took the edge off of things. After a few minutes of talking to people, I felt more normal again. We talked about classes and things going on over the weekend—it didn’t take long to turn my attention back to this coast.

During the party, I realized something: We may not have Full Moon, but we show our full moons at primal scream. We don’t have Tahoe, but our closest city is much easier to reach. We don’t have California sun, but we do have Yard snowball fights.

Of course, all these comparisons are arbitrary. It’s the same with comparing all schools. I don’t know who I would have met at Stanford. I don’t know what my teachers would have been like. I don’t know what surprise birthdays I would celebrate.

But I do know where I am now. And that’s all I need for now, rather an unrealistic picture of where could have been.

So between any two schools—whether it be Stanford and Harvard; Harvard and BU; or Stanford and Moorpark Community College—comparisons are something best left for the movies.

Except for Yale. Compared to Harvard, Yale sucks.

Dashiell F. Young-Saver ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an English concentrator in Winthrop House. His column appears on alternate Fridays.


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