As America and the rest of the world begins to try to put together what the next four years are going to look like under the presidency of Donald Trump, lots of different aspects of his life are being explored and discussed, both in personal and professional capacity.
Much of the run up to polling day was taken up by the numerous personal scandals that were surrounding the Republican nominee. Audio tapes were released of him making lewd and sexually aggressive comments regarding women, many different individuals came forward with accusations of assault. There was also a general questioning of Trump’s qualification to lead a world power seeing that he had never held a single political office up to this point. Some experience that Trump does have on record, however, is his education, but could that too be more complicated and embellished that we have previously been lead to believe?
Student on merit?
One of Trump’s favourite insults to throw at Barack Obama has always been the fact that he claims his academic records shows he was a ‘terrible student’ who didn’t deserve his places at Columbia University and Harvard Law School. Tellingly, there is no evidence to back up these claims, but there is, in fact, evidence that alludes to the fact that Trump has actually inflated his own academic record, namely that he used deep family connections to gain admission in to the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
A matter of record?
A deep look in to the President elect’s academic record paints a somewhat unflattering picture. Though Trump has repeatedly allowed the media to mention that he graduated first in his Wharton class, there is no indication on paper that this was the case at all. He did not take part in Wharton’s much revered MBA program, instead receiving a standard undergraduate degree. Additionally, Trump did not even attend Wharton School for the full four-year stretch, rather transferring for his last two years of college after spending the first half of his higher education at Fordham Jesuit university in the Bronx, New York. This begs the question, how did he manage to get into Wharton?
A book written by Gwenda Blair on the history of the Trump family makes the case that the young man was granted admission as a transfer student to Wharton because the person with whom he had an interview was an old school friend of Trump’s older brother Freddy. Of course, it also didn’t hurt that Trump was the son of the wealthiest man in New York during that time, the kind of connection that the college would have been crazy to refuse. By all accounts, all of the evidence points to the fact that Trump’s grades during his time at Fordham were nothing more than ‘respectable’.
A First or not?
As his media fame grew, so did the stories of how Trump graduated first in his class, but in actual fact, the commencement program from his graduation year, 1968, fails to list him as graduating with additional honours of any kind. This led to future instances of Trump denying he ever made such bold academic claims, but real clippings from newspapers profiling him in the past mention the falsehood for all to see.
A source close to the story has stated that Trump agreed to transfer to Wharton to appease his father, and that although he definitely turned up to classes, he only did the bare minimum of what was required to get by, clearly showing signs of boredom and more interested in external business opportunities and activities than his studies.
Several reporters over time have attempted to contact Wharton School for verification, one way or the other, of Trump’s academic prowess, but the same old line of student confidentiality acts as a blocker, with the school only able to release an alumni’s year of graduate and the degree they were granted.
Connection or talent?
Ultimately, unless Trump releases his own academic records, there is very little chance that the public will ever know for sure how successful of a student he really was. Having demanded that President Obama publish his records, there is a case to be made that the future President should hold to the value of his own words, but in all honesty that is very unlikely to happen. Did Trump gain admission to Wharton via family connection rather than academic talent? Perhaps he used writing services to get by while he was there because he was clearly more focused on making business deals and amassing a further fortune? One thing that can be said is that eventually, Trump’s time at college meant very little for his future, as after graduating he promptly began work at his father’s real estate firm and never looked back. Within a few years he was president of that company, and now, against all odds, he just happens to be the President of The USA, the most powerful job in the world.