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Top 30 Undergrad vs. State School: My Firsthand Experience

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Jumb0, Oct 30, 2014.

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  1. Jumb0

    Jumb0 2+ Year Member

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    So earlier this year I graduated from a top 30 undergraduate university with a low GPA (3.21), so this Fall I began a DIY post-bacc program at my local State College in order to improve my GPA...I am taking five upper level biology courses, each with a laboratory component. 28 hours of class/lab a week in total.

    At my alma mater, taking five laboratory courses in one semester would have been suicide. In fact, the premedical advisers strongly urged students to never take more than ONE lab course a semester since they were notoriously difficult...Taking five science courses, lab or not, was just unheard of.

    Nevertheless, I have a high A average in each of these classes at the moment, with my lowest exam grade being a 97%. It sounds pretentious, but it is the objective truth that I am unambiguously the #1 student in each of my classes in terms of grades, class participation, and mastery over the material. Moreover, I am pulling off these grades with minimal effort. I only study for a couple hours the night before the exams, and I ace them with ease while my state-school classmates bemoan how "impossible" the courses are. I should note that I have never taken these classes before. They represent 100% brand-new material to me.

    In short, I am utterly SHOCKED by the disparity in rigor between my alma mater, which isn't even top 20 (though our SAT scores are), and this average state school. I mean, a senior level biochemistry course at this state school isn't even half as difficult as the introductory biology course taken by freshmen at my alma mater. Having experienced both schools firsthand, it is absolutely MIND-BOGGLING and disturbing to me that GPA's from these two establishments are supposedly given the same weight. Whenever one of my state-school classmates tells me that he/she is planning on going to medical school, I smile and nod as I die a little bit on the inside knowing that they may have a statistically better shot than me even though they struggle with basic concepts of the sciences.

    What. the. ****.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2014
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  3. Porkloins

    Porkloins Where am I 2+ Year Member

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    Lol. First off, it's pretty well established that where you went to undergrad has an effect on admissions. Both Wash U and Amherst for example state on their pre-health websites that their students with lower GPAs have higher rates of success than the AAMC averages predict. Second, if these students are really as dumb as you think, then there isn't any way they could possibly score well enough on the MCAT to pose as serious rivals to your top-30 genius. Don't concern yourself with the situations of others... all it does is harbor resentment, and make you much less fun to hang out with.
     
  4. Doudline

    Doudline 2+ Year Member

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  5. ithd

    ithd 2+ Year Member

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    not surprised by this, but it is what it is (admissions)...
     
    Temerit likes this.
  6. redpanda

    redpanda 'tern 7+ Year Member

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    Well, my friend, GPA isn't everything in med school admissions and one must still account for the fact that very smart people are at state schools for various legitimate reasons and therefore, it is not wise to apply some blanket GPA leveling function in relation to the perceived difficulty of the university curriculum overall. Just to let you know, the state school kids (OMG!) doing quite nicely in my well-respected med school (oh hai, AOA).
     
  7. Kochanie

    Kochanie

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    Trust me, I get it. I was getting B-s and C+s in classes I tutored my state school friends in (I go to a top 15). In the end, you'll do a postbacc and probably get in because "you improved" (LOL). I feel like even adcoms know this is a joke and just want high numbers.
     
  8. DoctorLacrosse

    DoctorLacrosse 5+ Year Member

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    if these students really don't know the basics of the sciences as you describe, then they can't break 20 on the MCAT and will never be doctors. that is why the test exists, and there is also a lot more that goes into medical school admissions than numbers.

    from what I can tell, you've attended ONE "top 30" school and ONE state school, and this provided enough information for you to generalize what kinds of students attend state schools? people choose their undergrads for a wide range of reasons, and I'm sure there are plenty of intelligent and qualified applicants that come from state schools all the time. if they weren't qualified, they wouldn't ultimately survive medical school, but they do.

    Not all schools are equal. There are Ivy League schools that inflate grades, and public schools that deflate grades. All you can do is work hard to give yourself the best chance you can. I used to wish all the time that I'd chosen an easier undergrad, but hindsight is 20/20 and worrying about the situations of others won't help. just my $0.02.
     
  9. nOchemallday

    nOchemallday 2+ Year Member

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    My reading on this is that 1) you didn't go to Harvard where the median grade is an A-. 2) this probably says more about the rigor (or lack thereof) of your state school than about the rigor of your UG.

    No one said life was fair.
     
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  10. Silverflash

    Silverflash 2+ Year Member

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    1) The admissions process isn't fair. At best it requires a little luck and at worst it's a crapshoot. That's just reality.
    2) The MCAT is the great equalizer. If one truly did receive a better education from Generic Ivy League School than from West Blue Ridge Mountain State University, you'll score better on the MCAT and your application will be stronger.
     
  11. Kochanie

    Kochanie

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    The issue here is the people that can get into Harvard that choose an easy school. Chances he can do well on the MCAT are high and chances he could get good high grades is very high.
     
  12. Lamel

    Lamel 2+ Year Member

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    The people in the ideal academic situation in the admissions process are those who attend top schools AND get high GPAs AND get high MCATs.
     
  13. efle

    efle not an elf Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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    Your experience is pretty typical for people who are premed at top schools who take a class at their local state schools. Competing for the limited number of As against a group of 34 vs 24 act scores is not even comparable. the worst part about being premed for me was seeing friends who were straight As in high school with top percentile test scores struggling for a B when they could have been killing it at their state university for free.
     
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  14. DoctorLacrosse

    DoctorLacrosse 5+ Year Member

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    perhaps I'm missing the point, but how is this an issue? they can choose whatever school they want for whatever reasons they want, just like everyone else. you should ultimately choose where you can succeed, where you'll be happiest, and where you can afford to go. just because you can go to Harvard doesn't mean you have to.

    the concern of the OP in the first post was that, in their opinion, students at state schools have a better chance at medical school even though he (or she) feels superior due to their undergrad choice. no one forces you to go to any school. you ultimately choose to go and you ultimately choose to stay when you struggle, just like I did when I struggled early on. I could've transferred to an easier school and chose not to. doesn't mean I should knock the people who chose the easier school, because you can't generalize the people who chose that school, nor can I predict their reasons for choosing it. again, just my opinion.
     
  15. estanton

    estanton 2+ Year Member

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    So if you had gone to a state school you'd be in med school now. That's what I'm taking from this.
     
  16. moop

    moop 1K Member Banned Account on Hold

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    It doesn't matter. If those friends really had the big guns, they'd whip it out on the MCAT. If they don't, then "I have bad grades bc my classmates are way smart" is just a lame excuse.

    Going to a rigorous top school makes the biggest difference in admissions when you perform above a certain threshold (3.6ish? Debatable ofc). Adcoms won't hold the GPA against you, you'll probably be able to kill the MCAT, and you have the orgy of opportunities that most state schoolers just couldn't touch

    Once you get past those thresholds, it's all history. No secrets as to why Yale applicants average 3.8/34 and around 50-60 of them matriculate to the top 20 med schools every year. (All publicly available data I've cited in previous posts if anyone's curious.)
     
  17. DoctorLacrosse

    DoctorLacrosse 5+ Year Member

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    they should have chosen their state university for free then. we aren't business majors trying to get a leg up by paying astronomical amounts of money for the prestige of an ivy undergrad. we're pre-med and our academic goal in college is to get into medical school. again, anyone struggling can transfer anywhere they want if they feel they'd be more successful there. the grass is always greener...
     
  18. IlDestriero

    IlDestriero Ether Man 7+ Year Member

    Sounds like you should have gone there from the beginning, saved some money, got your 3.99, and gone to Harvard medical school.
     
  19. efle

    efle not an elf Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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    They often don't take the MCAT because general chemistry (our biggest weedout by far) and biology give them C's and B's and they quit the premed track. It's quite common here for people to have barely-competative (3.4ish GPA) and get 34+ on the MCAT. They still get into med schools at really high rates, but not top-tier ones because of the GPA. A 34 and 3.9 at local state would have been much easier for them, and also more competative.

    I totally agree. Problem is, kids who were the smartest person in their high school think they'll keep up the straight A's in college, only to find out what it really means for their 2250 SAT to be mediocre among their peers after getting there.
    Nah, I'd rather go to a top school on a full tuition scholarship, get a 4.0, and go to UCSF. Better weather :p
     
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  20. soccerman93

    soccerman93 2+ Year Member

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    Out of curiosity, how did they make general chemistry a weed out class? Was it a brutal curve or something? I'm interested as to how they'd weed kids out in a chemistry class with (ostensibly) minimal calculus involved.
     
  21. efle

    efle not an elf Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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    ~950 students take it, it is curved so the mean GPA awarded is a B/3.0 (so half of the people taking it get seriously noncompetitive grades). Then Chemistry Lab is a separate course with the same curve applied. About 650 make it into general bio, where the exam same curve is applied (average student gets a 3.0). By the end of Organic II, there are about 300 (and yet again, average is a 3.0).

    Intro chem here is quantum and reasoning based, no calculus or really any math involved at all. You don't talk about what is usually considered chemistry (acids and bases etc) until second semester.
     
  22. moop

    moop 1K Member Banned Account on Hold

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    Eh..... Even as a premed, college is a time to explore as many different academic fields as is humanely possible.

    Medicine would be a much better field if premeds didn't completely waste 4 years on doing nothing extra but what's necessary to get into medical school. (Yes, I said "waste.") Boxes them into a corner that is 1) disastrous when they can't get in, and 2) not conducive to intellectual diversity and the generation of new ideas once in medical school. Something about medicine despising change comes to mind....
     
  23. PantherPride

    PantherPride 5+ Year Member

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    Sure you can go to your "easy" school and get a 3.9 GPA and 36 MCAT. But when you get to your your interview day and realize you're competing with people that have the same stats, if not better, but did it going to Harvard or Yale or Stanford, and were able to take advantage of a multitude of opportunities at their finger tips that you didn't have, you'll realize that you are the one at a disadvantage.

    If you go to a top school, don't be surprised that your courses are more difficult than less prestigious universities. If you were smart enough to get in, hopefully you realized that beforehand. That's why its a top school. If you didn't succeed academically as a premed at your institution, that's fine, because there's plenty of others that did.
     
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  24. ChiDO

    ChiDO 7+ Year Member

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    It's a numbers game. Go to cheap state school. Get 3.8+, work hard score 30+ MCAT, get into medical school.

    That's what I tell anyone who asks what I would do if I had to repeat college.
     
  25. efle

    efle not an elf Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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    I'd rather be disadvantaged with my 3.9/36 at a top tier interview, than not be there at all because of my 3.3/36 at a top non-inflater.
     
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  26. efle

    efle not an elf Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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    This is also the advice I would give after seeing so many smart, hard workers get C+/B- and have their plans to do medicine fall apart.
     
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  27. grivacobae

    grivacobae Whatascrub 2+ Year Member

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    Well damn, here I thought Will Hunting was just a character in a movie
     
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  28. godawg300

    godawg300

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    Go to a top school and get a good GPA...done. Pick one where it's possible to get a 3.7+ GPA (Stanford, Harvard, not WUSTL or Berkeley). Honestly though, most of the applicants I have met at top tier med school interviews have been from top tier undergrads (not Blue Mountain State or whatever).
     
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  29. DoctorLacrosse

    DoctorLacrosse 5+ Year Member

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    I expected a response like this to what I said lol. I wholeheartedly agree with exploration and educational/experiential diversity, but my point is that anyone who seriously wants to become a physician has to get into medical school, so that is the ultimate goal. it's much different for people who decide on medicine later and what not, but for most I think this holds true.

    at the end of the day we all do everything in our power to reach that goal, so if you're really struggling at your undergrad, you should consider changing your habits until you find success, or transfer if you can't. The 2300 SAT score may get you into Princeton, but if you can't hack it and get good grades there, then it doesn't make you any better than the successful student who chose a state school from the start. they could be just as "intelligent" as you are, so we can't generalize. all I'm saying
     
  30. Graywolf

    Graywolf 5+ Year Member

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    Exact same experience here. Went to undergraduate where there was no free handouts and then my state school to take 4 courses the past year and a half. Their highest level "Molecular Neurobiology" bio class with graduate students was easier to get high exam grades than my freshman Bio 101 course. Getting a 98% was as easy as a couple hours on the weekends. I mean, I was working full time and volunteering at nights.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2014
  31. TheRhymenocerous

    TheRhymenocerous 2+ Year Member

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    I had the same experience. I took my first semester of gen chem at my fancy alma mater where the class was curved to a C+/B- and am now in classes that aren't even curved because you can actually get a 95%. Admissions committees are well aware that not all GPAs are created equal – go look at the class profiles from any top med school and you'll see that most students went to prestigious undergrads.

    Also, I am still always amused by the way people refer to school rankings on this site, as if there is some definitive list that would let you say "top 30" and have it mean anything.
     
  32. moop

    moop 1K Member Banned Account on Hold

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    De facto, SDN means USNWR.
     
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  33. TheRhymenocerous

    TheRhymenocerous 2+ Year Member

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    Yeah, I figured, but that list is still fairly meaningless (and I say that as someone who went to a "top 10" school). I mostly find it amusing that we're expected to hear "top 30" and have that mean something different from "top 20" or "top 40." But hey, maybe other people are more well versed in rankings than me.
     
  34. efle

    efle not an elf Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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    Top 20 is the most commonly used, and isn't even meant to refer to a strict set of 20 schools, but that's approx. the number of really well-known places with average students at about the top 1-2%. Similarly HYP or HYPSM is used to refer to the real cream of the crop extremely elite, even though places like U Chicago or CalTech are just as respectable.
     
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  35. Gorne

    Gorne 2+ Year Member

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    Absolutely true. I busted my ass for 4 years through the pre-req's to come out with a 3.0 out of BU. Did a DIY post-bac at my state-school and took nothing but upper-level/grad-level courses, came out with a 4.0 and had a very relaxed stress free time.

    It's not that the material is any easier. It's tested easier and curved easier.
     
  36. Kochanie

    Kochanie

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    Right and I won't, not to the extent many top premeds here did. However, I just get annoyed that I then have to spend 2 years doing well at crappy institutions to prove that I can exceed as much as they did, they just had an advantage the entire time.
     
  37. Kochanie

    Kochanie

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    I agree and no worries, I wholeheartedly which I could transfer to another school. But I can't, so I'll just spend two years after undergrad pretending like I matured when my courses just got significantly easier. :D I'm just bitter that a person with an 18 ACT can get As at a **** school for identifying the end of a mechanism.
     
  38. Ace Khalifa

    Ace Khalifa I am the definition of awesomeness 2+ Year Member

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    But it IS possible to get a 3.7+ at Wash U...I'm living proof of that.
     
  39. Porkloins

    Porkloins Where am I 2+ Year Member

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    Careful brah don't wanna break the whining/entitlement circlejerk
     
  40. godawg300

    godawg300

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    I should not have said impossible. I actually have no idea how hard it is to get a 3.7 at Wash U. But OP should pick a school they think they can succeed at. If they are qualified to get in to any of those schools, they should be able to do well if they work hard. I have no regrets going to a top tier school. It's worked out really well for me. Bonus points for doing well at wash U @Ace Khalifa
     
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  41. Czarcasm

    Czarcasm Hakuna matata, no worries. 2+ Year Member

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    My sentiments exactly. It's really unfortunate too as I went to a Top 30 Undergraduate school and many or most of my peers did not make it into medical school because of their abysmal GPA's. Instead, they sought out other career alternatives like pharmacy. Still, others adamant about doing medicine pursued DO schools with some success, some even going as far as the Caribbean. Yet, those at a local public university are able to maintain a 4.0 gpa with relative ease and are statistically more likely to get into medical school. It's very frustrating if you ask me. I think about this more than I probably should. Our education system is so flawed. This disparity set me back a few years and had it not been the case, I would probably be in medical school by now. Unfortunately, my average MCAT score was not competitive enough to compensate for my average GPA. So here I am 5 years later, taking a post-bac; already retaken the MCAT, and applying once again, this cycle.
     
  42. Ace Khalifa

    Ace Khalifa I am the definition of awesomeness 2+ Year Member

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    The difficulty of getting a 3.7+ at Wash U is dependent on many factors, obviously. It is way easier to get a high GPA if you're an anthro or psych major than if you're a biochem major or BME. Also, some classes are harder than others (read: orgo) regardless of your major. Also, sometimes even if you work hard, you still don't do well, which can be attributed to mental and emotional health issues (I know this because our Wash U Confessions page has like hundreds of anonymous posts about depression, anxiety, and other debilitating issues that affect studying and life in general). I have no regrets either, tho had I discovered SDN freshman year instead of right after I submitted my AMCAS this summer, I would have tried to do more EC's. And thanks! It wasn't easy to get a 3.7_, but it's definitely possible. And you have been so successful! I wish I could have applied to more top schools, but my lackluster EC's made me not do that.
     
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  43. efle

    efle not an elf Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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    Approximately the top quarter of the STEM classes get an A-/A (3.7/4.0) so they do exist, and then if you pad that with the notoriously easy science courses (like Planetary science etc) you can get a solidly competitive GPA going.

    On the flip side, if you want to be a BME/math double major premed like the poor, naive, 21-credit loaded freshman I met volunteering recently, you're gonna have a bad time.
     
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  44. Ace Khalifa

    Ace Khalifa I am the definition of awesomeness 2+ Year Member

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    Seriously? Let me guess, you couldn't talk him/her out of it.
     
  45. efle

    efle not an elf Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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    Yeah I told him about my freshman roommate's experience as a BME major (room mate is now Systems) and how insane it would be to add math on that and attempt a competitive GPA. Volunteer basically gave me a "I was the smartest kid in my entire hamlet, I mean I got a 34 ACT (waits a moment for me to be impressed or possibly request an autograph), I think I can handle it". I wonder where he is now...probably Uncle Joe's.
     
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  46. Ace Khalifa

    Ace Khalifa I am the definition of awesomeness 2+ Year Member

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    What's a hamlet? And yeah, I don't think he can keep that up for long.
     
  47. efle

    efle not an elf Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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    It's a famous Shakespeare character
     
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  48. Ace Khalifa

    Ace Khalifa I am the definition of awesomeness 2+ Year Member

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    Wow such sass lol. I meant in the way that guy used it, but I guess that's not important.
     
  49. wuhsabee

    wuhsabee BEARS. BEETS. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. 5+ Year Member

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    Oh no she didn't..

    [​IMG]
     
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  50. efle

    efle not an elf Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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    The goog to the rescue:
    1. a small settlement, generally one smaller than a village.
    I was making a joke about he was the most special person in his whole high school class of 50 people. I actually saw this happen twice, another guy on my freshman floor was from a very rural area and had apparently never met people as smart as him. He went from cocky to defeated to a nice, humble guy as the semester progressed...thanks Kitty Mao Mao (chemlab midterm was what really broke him).
     
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  51. WillburCobb

    WillburCobb I am the pull out king Banned Account on Hold 5+ Year Member

    It's more of a Dutch rudder style circlejerk.
     

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