Manila Folder

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

My father used to clip articles about college admissions and place them in a manila folder. These slips of newsprint extended all the way back to the year when I had been in second grade, confirming some foundational principles of my family: that educational pedigree defines a person’s worth, that my mind had been painstakingly cultivated, and that I must go to college (and it must be a prestigious one). These principles started with my father, who attended the best university in Korea before emigrating to the United States for his graduate degrees. And these principles also started with my mother whose main criteria for her future husband was intelligence—because she wanted to have smart children. And then they had me. I ended up fulfilling the hopes held within that manila folder. However, I found that attending top schools restricted me in a way. My college classmates didn’t consider any career outside of finance, consulting, medicine, and engineering. And likewise, my law school classmates all gravitated to prestigious firms which mostly do the same type of work. Today I work in a field that has nothing to do with either of my degrees, and I love my job. I wonder if my father would rethink his approach to my upbringing if he saw that attending a top school gives you access to the most competitive choices, but not the widest range of choices—nor the most life-giving ones.

Place(s): Korea, United States

– E

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant