A guide to university for a Grammar school kid

What not to say in order to keep your friends

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The Grammar school is something of a rare phenomena nowadays. Getting to university and realising that everyone around you is either from a private school or a state school is very daunting because you know that however much you try and kid yourself, you won’t be able to relate to either sphere of experience.

Explaining to complete strangers that you spent seven years in a state-funded, non-comprehensive school that wasn’t rowdy or exciting, nor full of excessively rich kids, is no easy task. The Grammar school is problematic to paint a picture of unless you’ve experienced one for yourself, so when a stranger at an awkward fresher’s pre-drinks inevitably asks you what kind of school you went to back at home, you have a few acceptable options as an ex-Grammar school student.

Nod and smile, as if you haven’t heard the question at all. 

Everyone who has been to a Grammar school knows that admitting you went to a one tends to come off as implying you are ultimately more intelligent than anyone else in the room. Equally, everyone who has been to a Grammar school knows that this is completely and utterly not true. It is altogether easier to play ignorant and hastily grab another vodka and lemonade to drown your sorrows with.

you basically went to Eton didn’t you?

Run and hide from everyone around you. 

While potentially not the most dignified way to avoid the question, feigning sickness or pretending you have a deadline (even though term hasn’t officially started yet) is perhaps the best option for all involved. No need to put yourself through the trial and tribulation of attempting to answer, the sweat and sorrow of admitting that nobody will ever relate to your school experience – just go home, you don’t belong here.

Pretend you went to a private/state school because it makes everyone’s lives easier. 

Just smile and wave kids, everyone will get on so much better if you choose to turn away your personal identity and pretend you’re just like everyone else and you have great memories of all the kids who got expelled from your school (even though in reality, nobody ever did.) Or the kids whose parents donated an arm and a leg to the school fund every year (even though in reality grammar school parents are stingy and unlikely to give more for their gifted children’s intellect.)

At least you didn’t go to private school

Laugh along with the private school banter and hope nobody expects your dad to own a Tesla and you to have a housemaid who knows you better than your mum.

Choosing either a private or state school persona to replace your grammar school identity relies on you actually having some knowledge of what’s it’s like to go to either. We have already established that you just don’t have this knowledge, it’s nothing to be ashamed of but you have been living in a bubble up until now. If  you’re lucky enough to have friends from the outside world who went to ‘normal schools’ – you are the lucky few so make the most of it and learn how to be ‘normal.’

Laugh along with the state school kids remembering setting bins on fire during break time and pretend you’re not shocked at the thought of it.

Same as above applies, just don’t forget to keep it to yourself that your school uniform involved wearing a wrap-around kilt. If you accidentally let that one slip then everyone will see right through you in a heartbeat. You have been warned.

We probably played hockey too

Slowly remove yourself from social situations when people start twigging on that you are not, and never will be, one of them.

Inevitably, everyone will slowly realise that you’re lying through your teeth and have no idea how to actually relate to any of your peers. Now is the time to gradually start to make excuses for yourself and tell everyone your diary is fully booked up for the next week, month, year, entire degree? It can be a tough life living as an ex-grammar school pupil, it’s almost like you’re a toddler still learning to walk, whilst everyone else around you is already a fully fledged human with the ability to run a marathon. It’s okay, they say you shouldn’t compare yourself to others.

Finally, openly embrace your grammar school past.

When you eventually realise that none of the above options will actually work, you’re left with only one thing left to do. Just be honest, you went to a grammar school and that’s (kind of) okay. Yes, it’s embarrassing to admit you have next to no real life experience; you can write an essay like an 18th century philosopher, and you can’t hold a normal conversation with another human being. But this is the perfect opportunity to leave that all behind. You will have to deal with the blank stares and tricky explanations that sits a grammar school precariously on the fence between private and state schools, but in the end it will be for the best. And besides, if it doesn’t allow you to come to terms with yourself, at least it means you can live vicariously through other people’s experiences.