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I have friends who went to pretty good universities (world top 10), and I would love to apply too after my Masters although I am not sure how realistic this is, as I also had some personal problems during my undergraduate degree affecting my grades. However, I feel bad every time I think about it and realise that my university right now is not Oxbridge / Ivy League -although I too ultimately am interested in a career in academia.

One of my friends got into Oxbridge and I don't think he's more intelligent than me or particularly gifted at all to be honest, -but I just don't understand? - And: yes, I should know that it doesn't matter that much, and that I should not compare myself and not let this take over my thought processes. But I cannot seem to help it, it's on my mind a lot. And it's even keeping me from studying. - any advice?

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    It can happen that modest talent but exceptional focus are more productive (and have documentation to prove it). Or, perhaps, it is some kind of gift to not get distracted... by personal problems or world problems or anything else. – paul garrett Jun 24 '16 at 21:47
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    One central principle of success is: ignore others' achievements and focus on what you want to achieve. Surprisingly many successful people I know do this and do not care much about the others, whether better or worse. Sure enough, occasional checking where others are and what they achieve is good to get context, but only here and there. You live your life, not somebody else's. – Captain Emacs Jun 25 '16 at 1:19
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    Thousands of people antagonize over top universities, believing that once you get there you will automatically get the uber-professor position. Although it certainly helps, there are many examples of excellent professors / researchers attending good but not top-100 schools in their PhD. Also, "I don't think he's more intelligent" is the wrong mentality to have. People are usually judged by their outcome and not their subjective potential. And if your "personal problems" affected your grades while he excelled with his, then he has produced better results and you have to live with it. – Alexandros Jun 25 '16 at 10:19
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    I have not downvoted the question, but I find it completely legitimate to downvote without exposing oneself as the one who downvoted. – Dilworth Jun 25 '16 at 19:24
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    Also, academia is not an intelligence contest. It doesn't matter at all whether someone is intelligent or dumb. What matters is, for better or worse, whether you can deliver good research results. – Dilworth Jun 25 '16 at 19:28
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Since nobody seems to answer this somewhat vague question, I will:

1) Your question is not related to Academia directly, it is simply a question about fighting negative emotions (perhaps, jealousy?) that stem from failure in some sort of a competition. You say your negative emotions interfere with your everyday functionality, so the standard advice is to go to personal psychological counseling.

2) The one bit that is related to academia is: "One of my friends got into Oxbridge and I don't think he's more intelligent than me or particularly gifted at all to be honest, -but I just don't understand?"

The answer to this is that academia is not an intelligence contest. It doesn't matter at all whether someone is intelligent or dumb. What matters is, for better or worse, whether you can deliver good research results.

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    Thank you for your answer. I do think it relates quite directly to academia though, the whole prestige thing seems to be a big part of it for many people - although it should not be. I also know that I should not think this way, that's why I asked this question and hoped other people would be able to relate to this more, but nobody is - apparently! My friend getting into Oxbridge was intended to serve as a example, - this is not my problem per se, I was just wondering how people deal with the whole prestige issue in academia - "who have you worked with?" "who was your supervisor?" etc. – K. Schaffer Jun 26 '16 at 22:48
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    So maybe it is more of a personal problem after all. Well! Thank you for your answer! – K. Schaffer Jun 26 '16 at 22:48
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    I agree with Dilworth's answer. Prestige is a big issue in academia, but only because status is a strong motivator in all human activity. Academics are apes; we do apey things. – JeffE Jun 26 '16 at 23:36
  • I agree that it is a a strong motivator in all human activity. But this makes it in no way less relevant to academia. It's still worth discussing. – K. Schaffer Jun 27 '16 at 9:54
  • Actually, when I think of this, I'm not that certain that prestige is even that a big deal in academia. Many active and successful researchers (who have tenure/permanent jobs) don't really care that much about prestige. They are just happy and interested in their area/research, and pay much less attention to social prestige. Honestly, there's not much prestige in science anyways. And these days people are just grateful they even found a permanent position. – Dilworth Jun 28 '16 at 13:17
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My Two cents... I have to agree with Dilworth...This is not an academia issue but a personal one that you should pay attention to. I would suggest seeing a therapist who can help you with the recurring "rumination" regarding your worth as it relates to top universities. I think it is important to question, with the end goal of understanding, why this is such a big deal for you. The reality is that this kind of dilemma generally has it's roots in ones childhood and feelings of not measuring up to someone's (usually a parents) expectations. Even if you did make it into Oxbridge, you are likely to find something or someone else to compare yourself to and find that you come up short. You suggest that prestige is a big part for many people in academia... and it is... but so too in sports, the work environment, who you marry, the kind of car you drive, where you live, etc. You are more than all of those things!

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