College Decisions - After the Fact

Hello all :slight_smile:

I am a freshman attending Brown University. I chose Brown after a getting into 3 Ivys (Brown, Harvard, and UPenn), Williams, Pomona, USC, and an in-state school. After visiting campuses, my decision came down to Brown and Harvard. I thought back on my visits, remembered how much I loved Brown and its campus’s dynamic, and I matriculated there. I could not ignore the sense of peace and happiness I felt just walking around the campus and interacting with the admitted/current students.

Unfortunately, my family and friends did not take my decision as positively. My mom didn’t speak to me for a week because I turned down Harvard. My dad was shocked for a day or so before he finally came around. My aunt was furious, claiming she would have never let her child do what I had done. Many people were confused or even angry with me. There were a few individuals that understood my choice and stood by me. But this was kind of a rough time for me. For most of my high school career, I pushed myself and excelled for both myself AND my parents. There was always, always a desire to make them proud and happy. So when I went against their hopes/dreams for their only kid and chose Brown over the H bomb, it was the first real decision I’d made for only myself and my happiness in a long time.

Let me preface what I’m about to say with this: there is no denying my love for Brown, even today. It’s a wonderful institution, and the academic freedom is unparalleled. I feel like I am studying exactly what I love to learn; everyone in my classes is engaged in their studies because they, too, are studying what they love. But each time I return home, I still receive questions of “How could you turn down Harvard?” “Brown over Harvard? Really?” or snidely asked “How’s Brown, wherever the heck that is?”

Has anyone else here experienced so much backlash from their college decision from family/friends? How did you deal with this? I’ve tried ignoring these remarks, focusing on my own peace of mind, and just living my life. But they’re always there. And I know this seems like a petty problem, but I would really like to learn how to completely disregard these comments.

Thank you!

Eh, people will second guess your decisions your whole life. Be confident in the knowledge that you’ve made the right choice for you. You’re not the first kid to turn down “the H bomb” and you won’t be the last–after all, even Harvard has only an 82% yield rate, which means almost one out of five accepted students chooses not to attend. Besides, it’s not like you forwent Harvard for Southwest Wyoming State Vocational School or something; you’re at Brown, a highly selective and prestigious Ivy League school. @SgtBaconatBrown

Yeah, I’m feeling the same thing. Harvard has great name recognition, but on a practical level the prestige and academic differences between Brown and Harvard are negligible.

People are always going to criticize your choices, whether it’s the college you went to or the shirt you chose to wear on a particular day. Sometimes those will be people who are close to you. You’re doing the right thing by letting the comments roll off your back. Depending on your family members, certain statements may be helpful.

You could go the genuine route: “I just really loved Brown!” or “When I visited, everything just clicked!” or something similar, said in a really bright and positive tone of voice. Then change the subject.

You could go the silly route: “I wanted to go to college in the tiniest state in America.” “I don’t know, Harvard is too Harvard for me.” “Because Bears will beat Pilgrims every time!” Basically some non sequitur that indicates that you are not taking the question seriously. Then change the subject.

If people are snide, you can act like you didn’t notice they were being sarcastic. “How’s Brown, wherever that is?” is answered by “It’s great, I love it! It’s in Providence, which is an amazing town.” “Brown over Harvard, really?” is answered by “Yes! I love it!” Again, bright and happy, like you didn’t notice they were being sarcastic. Keeping upbeat forces the other person to re-state the sarcasm and snideness, which really puts the onus on them to be a you-know-what.

Or, you can take the more direct route: “Aunt Fanny, you’ve intimated to me that you don’t approve of my choices about 768 times this break. I appreciate your concern, but I love Brown, and I won’t change my mind. Please drop the subject.” And then refuse to engage. Again, how comfortable you are with this really depends on your relationship with these family members and friends - you may choose the other routes instead - but it is a possibility.

I am personally a fan of the raised eyebrow and a “Really, you asked me that?” response. It makes people think before they ask the question again.

My daughter chose Northwestern over Yale and she got a lot of grief from many people. She finally just responded by saying, “Yeah, stupid, huh?” and that ended any continued conversation.

Do what you love. Be a rockstar at Brown and don’t look back! All the schools mentioned will get you where you want to go. You need to be at the place that inspires you to grow and and pursue your passion. Tell your family how much you love them and appreciate what they have done for you. Brown is where you were meant to be. Good luck!

I think you should go to the best college possible that fits you not just by name recognition. Brown and Harvard are both great Ivy League schools and if you feel better at Brown then you made the best decision for you. Brown is one of the best schools in the country so its an honor to be going there and I know you could be very successful there.

Transferred from Emory University to the University of Oklahoma. If anyone skeptically asks why I did so, I just respond that Emory did not offer my major and not only does OU have exceptionally strong programs in my area of interest, but it is also a large university in a college town, something I realized I wanted after starting college. If they want further elaboration, I just go into detail about the opportunities I’ve had since starting at the university, both in my department and outside of it.

@SgtBaconatBrown You made the right choice for you and anyone who questions it after-the-fact is insensitive and idiotic. You sound much more mature, happy, and grounded than your mom and dad and other relatives. It’s one thing to give advice before May 1, but anyone who is not supportive of a child or relative after the decision is made has serious issues. As a Brown grad, I understand the amazing place it is and how someone who is happy at Brown will excel there and after, whether in jobs or grad school. That will be better than being at a school – whether HYPSM or anywhere else – that was less of a good fit. I know several people at Brown who turned down Harvard for undergrad. Also, for some students, attending small LACs – and even not the very top ones – will lead to more success than Ivies or other so-called “better known” schools. Congrats on your mature decision. You sound like you’ll do great at Brown and after.

Unfortunately, you will probably not be able to change your family’s attitude or remarks towards you. You can only control your own emotions.

You can refuse to engage in discussion with them. “I’m sorry you feel that way. I will not discuss this any further. Please change the subject.”

You could cheerily respond, “Well, it’s too late now!” Then say you love Brown, and change the subject in your next sentence.

@intparent I love your suggested response!

Are all these family members alumni of HYP???

If you had chosen to attend a directional third tier state school I could understand their disappointment.

As Erma Bombeck said “Family, the ties that bind…and gag.”

Wow! I didn’t expect to get so much help. Thank you everyone :slight_smile: These suggestions are wonderful

Way to go @SgtBaconatBrown … congrats on your choice! My D1 chose Pitt over Harvard and UPenn as she was one of the 10 GAP admits that year. Folks around us were more befuddled as I had attended Harvard (B School) and money was not a concern, though she had a full ride for her undergrad at Pitt. Fast forward 5 years and she could not have been happier with her choice. She is at Pitt Med now and did not even bother to apply to other Med schools.

@TomSrOfBoston Haha no they graduated from Temple. But my parents and my aunt grew up in poverty. They would have killed to go to Harvard growing up

@i012575 Thank you! And congrats to your D1 :slight_smile: I’m glad she’s happy where she is

Personally, I regard Harvard and other colleges as schools that should be evaluated independently and on their own merits, which is a process you undertook when you made your decision. If you had chosen Harvard, you may have regretted it, and that may have been the subject of your topic.

When then candidate, now Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker was asked by the Boston Globe to take the Proust Questionnaire, he responded as follows:

Q: What is your greatest regret?

A: Not having gone to Hamilton College. I never really felt comfortable at Harvard.

I can totally see a person choosing Brown over Harvard. I can also see someone picking Pomona over Harvard.

The lesson here is learning to trust yourself over other people, including parents and aunts. There will always be people who don’t agree with or understand your choices. That’s okay. You don’t need to justify yourself. Especially if you’re comfortable with your decision.

The people who reacted so negatively to you’re decision? Eh, that speaks more about them than you.

@SlackerMomMD took the words right out of my mouth. It’s about them (and not in a good way), not you.

So many kids would KILL to get into Brown … and would find it an easy choice over Harvard to boot. They are such very different – yet comparably selective – schools. Those comments are just a measure of people’s ignorance (and insensitivity).

You could go any number of routes – humor, sarcasm, cheer, etc. – but I think the easiest would be just to reaffirm your happiness with your choice without a hint of defensiveness and move on.

It’s BROWN fuggodsakes!

And one of the downsides of Harvard, otherwise obviously a very fine institution, is that it is a magnet for kids who are there JUST because of the name. (And I say that recognizing that many wonderful people have gone there for all the right reasons, including several of my very favorite young people.)

@TomSrOfBoston just wondering, what do you consider a “directional third-tier state university”?