High-school senior Ronald Nelson had an incredibly hard decision to make this year about college — mainly because he got into all eight Ivy League universities.
In the end, he decided on the University of Alabama and rejected offers from all eight Ivy League schools.
Nelson also rejected offers from Stanford, Johns Hopkins, New York University, Vanderbilt, and Washington University in St. Louis.
He decided to pass on these big names in favor of UA for two big reasons: He got a full ride from Alabama and got into its selective honors program.
“It took a lot of soul searching for me to push that first ‘accept’ button for Alabama,” Nelson said. “Of course there’s a bit of uncertainty.”
It’s easy to see why Nelson got into UA’s honors program and every single Ivy League school. As a student at Houston High School in Memphis, Tennessee, he has a 4.58 weighted GPA, has taken 15 AP courses, and achieved a 2260 out of 2400 on his SAT and a 34 out of 36 on his ACT. He’s the senior-class president of his high school, a National Merit Scholar and National Achievement Scholar, and a state-recognized alto saxophone player.
Despite his achievements, Nelson did not receive a performance-based scholarship from the Ivy League schools. None of them offer merit scholarships, nor do several other prestigious universities, such as Stanford.
Like many top universities, each of the Ivy League schools vows to meet the full financial need of any student who gets admitted. However, this doesn’t mean they’re covering every student’s tuition. Rather, they use factors such as a family’s income, assets, and size to determine “demonstrated” need.
Each school offered Nelson some financial aid, he said, and “some of it could have been manageable for the first year.”
After that first year, though, his aid package would shrink; his older sister graduates from college in 2016 and his parents would then only be supporting one child’s tuition. The change, according to Nelson, would be “pretty drastic.”
“[The schools] told me that I would probably end up paying quite a bit more over the next three years,” he said.
Nelson and his family were faced with a choice — stretch their budget and potentially take on debt for a brand-name school, or save their money for a graduate degree down the line. His father, Ronald Sr., is an engineer who works as a manager at the Federal Aviation Administration and his mother, Sandra, works in management at FedEx headquarters.
“I think it would have been possible, given some sacrifice,” Ronald Sr. told Business Insider about sending his son to an Ivy League school.
After some thought and consideration of all the schools’ offers, Nelson decided it wouldn’t be worth the financial strain to use this money on his undergraduate education. He plans on going to medical school after college, and knows he’ll be faced with more tuition costs.
“With people being in debt for years and years, it wasn’t a burden that Ronald wanted to take on and it wasn’t a burden that we wanted to deal with for a number of years after undergraduate,” Ronald Sr. said. “We can put that money away and spend it on his medical school, or any other graduate school.”
Looking long term, Nelson doesn’t think his decision will impact his chances of getting in to a top medical school or other graduate program. After speaking with his teachers and guidance counselors, Nelson said, he realized that “any undergraduate school can prepare you for a graduate program. It’s just determined on how much work you’re willing to put in.”
At UA, Nelson will be part of the university’s “Fellows Experience” through its honors college. A visit to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as part of the program’s multiround interview process helped seal the deal for UA. He got meet other students he would study with over the next four years and was impressed by them.
“It was kind of amazing being around so many like-minded students, which is why I think I’ll be able to have a similar situation [to an Ivy League school], considering the type of students they’re attracting,” Nelson said.
The financial incentive for attending Alabama was high. Due to his high standardized-test scores on the SAT and ACT, UA waived Nelson’s out-of-state fees and covered his tuition costs. Through the fellows program and his National Merit scholarship, Nelson will also have stipends for extra campus costs and potentially studying abroad.
While some people may see his decision to turn down schools such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Stanford as ill considered or shortsighted, Nelson said he’s received a ton of support for choosing UA. One teacher, he told Business Insider, complimented him for “making such an informed decision” about where to work towards his undergraduate degree.
“I’ve had a lot of people questioning me — ‘Why are you doing this?’ — but after I explain my circumstances, they definitely understand where I’m coming from,” Nelson said. Overall, though, Nelson doesn’t appear to have any regrets about his decision and seems excited to start college in the fall.
“The Ivy League experience would certainly be something amazing, to make these connections, and have these amazing professors,” he said. “But I really do think I’ll be able to make the same experience for myself at the college I chose.”
article by Peter Jacobs via businessinsider.com