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How They Did in College

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Obama: Good, Despite the Partying!
Obama began his higher education at Occidental College, a small liberal-arts school in Los Angeles, on a full scholarship in 1979. He recounts in his memoir that his time there was filled with deep discussions of race — and some indulgences in drugs and partying. He jettisoned his “Barry” nickname and embraced his birth name. His favorite class was Modern Political Thought. But after two years, yearning for a more constructive atmosphere and the excitement of New York, the 20-year-old transferred to Columbia University. At Columbia he cleaned up his act and focused more on his work, majoring in political science and international relations and writing his senior thesis on Soviet nuclear disarmament. Though he was regarded as smart and capable, he didn’t stand out, and many of his classmates didn’t foresee his eventual success. "He was not at all a high-profile student, not the sort of guy who is class president, who everyone says is going to have a future in politics," Stuart Levi, a fellow student at Columbia, told the Daily News.

Romney: Top of His Class at Mormon U.
From Detroit, Romney went to Stanford, but by then was already seriously dating Ann. To earn some money to fly home to Michigan and see her — she was, after all, still in high school — Romney took on a side job chauffeuring for the physics department. For several months his parents were entirely unaware of his weekend escapades; Romney remembers one time he was secretly home and had to flee out the back door as his father came in the front. After his freshman year, feeling a tad listless, he followed his father's example and decided to complete the two years of missionary service expected of all Mormons. He was ultimately assigned to a town in Normandy. For 30 months Romney went door-to-door preaching, yet believes he likely converted "no more than a handful," speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt for his 2007 book A Mormon in the White House. Other than a serious car accident — which left Romney unresponsive and convinced one not-too-observant French official that he was dead — Romney was soon back in Michigan, where he promptly proposed (again) to Ann Davies. This time, she agreed. While away in France, Ann and at least one of her siblings had converted to the Mormon faith; by the time he returned, Ann was attending the church-operated Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Romney transferred there soon after and would go on to raise $1 million for the school as head of the all-male Cougar Club, graduate with the highest GPA in the College of Humanities — Romney was an English major — and be asked to speak at graduation.


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