In for a penny?

Daniel Prinz, Charlie Young, Rina Kuusipalo (AC)

 ‘It’s an honour being able to talk to the future prime ministers and presidents of the world’,  Friday lecturers often say, addressing the crowded hall of students at Atlantic College, the famous factory of world leaders. We have so many expectations cast upon us to change the world. But why does the focus rest on an artificial title, the arbitrary role of a famous person? It just seems slightly awkward since AC has produced, in fact, apart from a few exceptions such as an astronaut and the Royal Shell Chairman about 30 years ago, a surprisingly low record of these high achievers in society.

How do we measure the success of the product of AC? We don’t become the Donald Trumps, the advertised masters of the universe. Is that because we are not good enough to strive that high, or, possibly because this place teaches us that our Everest might just not be to become a machine that measures its success rate in assets and luxury goods?

Students who arrive at AC have, in most cases, gone through a relatively rigorous selection process; we are in many cases the big fish in our former schools, the little celebrities in our local communities. Why do so many people choose to leave that behind, then? We enter a hub of intelligent students, where we are not likely to stand out by our academic results anymore or by the incredibly active extracurricular interests that we can list. We become small fish in a big global pond, our egos and pride slowly corrode and we are humbled (mostly). The successful ones are, we were told, those who get their degrees from Harvard or the London School of Economics, who go on to make a fortune for themselves and then turn up at their college reunion looking like a Wall Street mogul, those who learn the rules of the system and excel at the game.

Is that what we came here for? And if we did believe in that before, it is the mission of this school to teach us something beyond that, a way for us to be as effective as possible regardless of fame, celebrity or economic wealth. Individual success does not repay the debt. AC should above all be a humbling experience. Our alumni often drop off the radar, so many promising, amazing people are never heard of again. This only means, however the radar itself is built on false ideals.

This in no way means that we do not have any responsibilities. £40,000 is a lot of money, no matter where it came from. That could pay for the construction of a school in many countries and keep it running for several years. Is each student that goes through AC that valuable to the world? What skills have you learnt that make you different from somebody in the school you came from? It will take a while to realise how much this place has influenced us. We’ll need to search for it and find the useful things that will improve the lives of those around us. There is a massive weight on our shoulders but we should be able to rise to the challenge.

If we don’t, this place isn’t worth a penny.



– United World College Student Magazine –


‘In for a penny, in for a pound’

If something is worth doing then it is a case of in for a penny, in for a pound, which means that when gambling or taking a chance, you might as well go the whole way and take all the risks, not just some.


2 thoughts on “In for a penny?

  1. As a prospective student I’ve been thinking a lot of what the future holds after AC. What you write here is really interesting and very relevant. I bet there are many that will start at school with great expectations and high ambitions. But, I believe it’s important to emphasize the fact that we’re given a life-education with endless opportunities to make a difference; not just a pass to elite universities.

  2. This is a very interesting point to talk about: what are the results after 2 years of UWC preparation?
    It is true, we all come to AC with many expectations and willingness to learn and share. Nevertheless, why do we mislay or lose our way? Are we all ready to integrate a much more competitive environment? Are all students as open to welcome others?

    Success is not measured with the type of university we get in or how much wealth we get to accumulate. AC should give us the sense of community, at least integration after 2 years; notwithstanding we all come from different backgrounds where we, as quoted above, are “the big fishes in school” or “the little celebrities in our communities” but then facing biggest challenges such as a higher academic education, language limitations (non native speakers) and understanding how things march in AC, result in giving to some more advantages in the UWC experience.

    Furthermore, UWCs nowadays have become, as mentioned before by many; springboards to the best universities in the world. We forgot the essence of the ideals and the reasons UWCs were created. Let us not lose the trails of our AC alumni, because we do have “a massive weight on our shoulders”. Do not fill it only with money, but also with commitment to what was your home for sometime.

    Think. Share. Act.

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