Comments on blogger choosing Vanderbilt with Cornelius Scholarship over Yale/Harvard

<p>Michael, blogger for the NY Times "The Choice," ultimately chose Vanderbilt's Cornelius Scholarship over Harvard, Yale, Duke, Wash U...</p>

<p>Comment on his blog. I thought I would share:</p>

<p>"Congratulations Michael on your decision and your process. As someone who was been out of school a while, I feel I can add additional perspective.</p>

<p>My first thought is that college admissions today is far more competitive today than it was a generation ago. Last year there were 2.5 million people to graduate from high school and 1.6 million or 64% were college bound. There were 4200 freshman slots at either Harvard, Yale or Princeton Colleges– enough to accommodate 0.26% of all students. There were about 31,000 freshman slots at US News Top 20 private universities representing less than 2% of all high school seniors. When I applied to Yale in 1978 the school admitted 25%. Today, there are at least 20 schools, including Vanderbilt, that are more selective and diverse. Statistical, you could re-create each class at top schools at least 2 to 3 different ways.</p>

<p>My second thought, is that in almost every aspect I can imagine, Vanderbilt is an elite university. My class at Vanderbilt had members from every top prep school including Andover, Exeter, and Choate as well as public school powerhouses such as New YorkÂ’s Stuyvesant or Evanston Township high. Classmates won Rhodes, Luce and Fullbright scholarships as well as were sons and daughters of billionaires, Fortune 500 CEOs and brand name entrepreneurs. As an intern on Capitol Hill, I visited classmates working for a rising senator named Al Gore. I would later come to find out that Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Co, two of the worlds leading management consulting groups and were founded by Vanderbilt alumni. My classmates went on to win Grammy awards and lead billion dollar enterprises. I had friends who were the first in their families to attend college go on to become doctors.</p>

<p>My third thought is that your merit scholarship is an amazing and humbling honor. Since most of the the Ivy league doesnÂ’t generally award academic scholarships, the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship is one of the most prestigious recognitions an incoming freshman can win anywhere. In my mind, it is comparable to the AB Duke or PennÂ’s Huntsman. And this is well considered by leading graduate school admissions staff. Two of my friends at Vanderbilt went on to win coveted spots at Harvard Medical School and others attended top graduate schools (Stanford, Yale, Columbia, Wharton and Kellogg). Incidentally, VanderbiltÂ’s grad schools are awesome too and rank above many Ivy counterparts!</p>

<p>My forth thought is that the quality of the Vanderbilt experience and brand continue to grow. Ultimately, a college is a community. The Vanderbilt commons probably offers one of the best freshman year experiences of any university. I love Yale and its traditional campus but face it – a lot of its residential colleges are old and the romance of 150 year old facilities wears off quickly. Vanderbilt has a brand reputation and network of alumni that dominates in the South. Awesome schools in the Northeast are almost a “dime a dozen”. And to put it into perspective, outstanding schools such as Penn, Chicago, Washington U and Brown struggle with their brands primary because of their “descriptive” names.</p>

<p>My last thought is to take all of this with a grain of salt. Every college journey is ultimately unique and one of personal discovery. Joseph Campbell offers the mythic “hero’s journey” as a deep seeded need. Many of our most admired leaders never attended college or dropped out ( Abraham Lincoln, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison). And some have reached heights from humble academic beginnings. Ronald Reagan went to little Eureka College. Jim Cameron, the director of blockbusters such as Avatar and Titanic, didn’t attend USC’s film school but rather the small junior college next door.</p>

<p>I wish you all the best on your continued journey for it is the reward."</p>

<p>Comment from:Vanderbilt</a> Tops Yale, in a Squeaker - The Choice Blog - NYTimes.com</p>

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<p>I would have went to Harvard.</p>

<p>I was in a situation extremely similar to Michael's. I earned the Cornelius Vanderbilt scholarship yet also was accepted to Harvard. I distinctly remember both days I learned about the two respective acceptances. Vanderbilt had always been my dream school, but because of financial issues, attending was out of the picture unless I earned a scholarship. When I found out I had received the CV scholarship (keep in mind this was a month before April 1st), so it's easy to imagine why I almost cried. Learning of my acceptance to Harvard, however, was somewhat bittersweet, as it meant that I would probably have had to relinquish attending my "number one" school (Vanderbilt) in favor of the world's "top" university. After all, who turns down Harvard, right? In the weeks before Harvard's Pre-Frosh weekend, I had actually been preparing myself to let go of Vanderbilt. Everyone knew that I would surely attend Harvard. Considering my family's economic plight, financial aid at Harvard was on par with the CV scholarship too, so money was no issue.</p>

<p>Well, everything changed after visiting Cambridge. I left Harvard rather unimpressed and, worse, even more confused. My ego was still telling me to attend Harvard. Yet, as cliche as this sounds, my heart was telling me that it wasn't the place for me. Like Michael and his experience at Yale, "[my trip to Harvard] that was supposed to be a shining light instead oozed a murky gray." It didn't help matters that Pre-Frosh weekend only allowed me a week to decide.</p>

<p>It's very easy for those who have never had a chance to go to Harvard to quickly say, "Go to Harvard." I used to be guilty of it. But when it comes down to it, they aren't the ones who will be spending four years of their lives in a place in which they could potentially end up miserable. Personally, barring the school's prestige factor, I didn't really see why anyone would love to go to Harvard in the first place. Granted, this is all my opinion, but I found the campus rather drab, and it was certainly lacking various amenities present on almost every other top-50 school across the country. And it was painfully obvious that too many current students are there purely for the name of a Harvard degree. For some, that's a legitimate reason, and those are the kids for whom Harvard is a good fit. But for me, and other kids who wish to have a more well-rounded college experience, it just isn't the right place. The idea of a social life among many students I spoke with at Harvard differed severely from my own.</p>

<p>Obviously, my decision might have been different if it were Harvard versus a no-name state school. But Vanderbilt is no slouch on the prestige scale (for what it's worth, it's ranked 17th in US News, and that number is bound to go up, considering the significant increase in selectivity this year). Does it have the prestige of Harvard? No, but past a certain point on the "rankings," I'd argue that most schools (~ Top 20) are fairly level in terms of the career opportunities one receives. It's more about the student's ambition and drive at that point. I wholeheartedly agree with the theory that actually attending Harvard is not what's special, but rather knowing whether or not you were capable of getting in (since Harvard and other top schools are great at detecting "winners".)</p>

<p>Do I regret my decision? Sometimes I do question whether or not I made the right choice, and I think about Frost's commonly misinterpreted poem, "The Road Not Taken." I have regretted the fact that I cannot go to both Harvard and Vanderbilt. At the same time though, it's a blessing for me to have had such outstanding options, so it's difficult for me to become too upset over this fact. Regardless, any doubt in my mind about my choice quickly evaporates when I consider the reasons that I chose Vanderbilt. I want to work in the music industry, and Music Row is a block away from Vanderbilt. Here's an example where forsaking Vanderbilt for the Harvard pedigree would prove of little advantage (if not a hindrance, considering the immediate connections in proximity of Vanderbilt). Now, if I wanted to work on Wall Street, then choosing Harvard would have been much more logical.</p>

<p>In the end, it all matters what you want to do, what you[/] feel fits you best. Harvard is still a college, and if happiness is the ultimate goal in life, why go to a place where you might be unhappy, strictly for the sake of earning a degree from the "most prestigious" university in the world? So I challenge all of you out there who think they HAVE to get into HYPSM or else they are a failure: are those the places you *really want to be, or are you merely caving into outside pressure (whether parental, societal, etc.)? Sit down and think about that question, and I guarantee you might surprise yourself.</p>

<p>It's late, and I'm sure I've made a few typos, so please bear with me! I hope my post enlightens people on making perhaps the biggest decision of their lives (it certainly was for me).</p>

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<p>Amazing post, waylay. I commend you for going against the grain on that really tough decision.</p>

<p>I wonder if I'm sort of anomaly. I received the Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarship as well (of this year, class of 2014), but I didn't get into a single Ivy (I applied to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Brown). At first I felt a little bad about it, but the more I read posts like the ones above, the more I think I may be in for an even better college experience than I could ever have hoped for.</p>

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<p>I think waylay00's situations is a bit different from Michael's. Michael's clear first choice was Yale (you can read his posts - he states this explicitly) while waylay00's clear first choice was Vanderbilt. Michael even went as far as to state that WashU and Davidson were his other top choices, NOT Vanderbilt. I believe that money was the primary factor in his choice and ultimately he wanted to graduate debt-free.
As someone with a very similar decision to make (for me it was WashU vs Yale) I commend Michael. If anybody told me a year ago that I would get a scholarship to Wash U and an acceptance from Yale, I would NOT have believed them and would have definitely predicted that I'd pick Yale. When both options actually materialized however, I was surprised to find myself leaning towards WashU. Life is full of difficult choices and for many college is the first big one that we decide. I commend Michael (or anybody in a similar dilemma) for having the introspection to come to the right choice for them - whether they realize it or not at the time.</p>

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<p>anonme2010..I was also impressed with Alex's post on the NYT's..so graciously written. </p>

<p>waylay00, you will love being a College Scholar and being a CV is an extreme privilege among your peers at Vanderbilt, many of whom you will see are your equals and betters in your class. </p>

<p>Vanderbilt's recent classes are just amazing and although our son won a Chancellor's...we realized very quickly that his roommate deserved one (wonderful guy who will be an RA next year) and so did many many others he has come to respect and know in his class. Granted, many of his wonderful new friends are on Vandy's generous financial aid but for our son..he would simply not be at Vanderbilt without this merit aid.</p>

<p>There is an element of sheer dumb luck in some of these selections, although I am sure Michael and waylay00 will do Vanderbilt proud and will make their marks in their own majors and among their peers.</p>

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<p>Hahaha, interesting statistical trend--I got into Vanderbilt and got waitlisted for Harvard as well!! Coincidence, or no?</p>

<p>For me, the choice was very hard on one level--simply the idea of going to Harvard for its opportunities, it's location (I like cold places, and I want to at least go to the Northeast for a while, strange as that seems), etc.; not necessarily the name, because that doesn't matter for me. And I got rejected from Princeton and MIT, waitlisted for Oberlin, and didn't want to attend an in-state school even though my grades guarantee me admission. That made it tougher, because it felt like if I got rejected from Harvard I'd have no other choice BUT Vandy. But eventually, I was able to write my rejection letter...
I decided that ultimately, I did not want to be a number in a crowded lecture hall. I wanted some degree of intimacy with my classes, and at Harvard I get the impression that you don't get this until your upperclassmen years if at all. I did not get the Cornelius or Chancellor's Scholarship, but I did get the Curb and National Merit, and combining that with my other scholarships with financial aid I realized attending Vanderbilt would cost me less than $7,000 my freshman year, when I had absolutely no idea whether I'd get anything from Harvard or even if I'd get in. I was scared about the purported emphasis on Greek life at Vandy, but felt that between the Commons and other factors, it wouldn't be so bad.</p>

<p>Also, I experienced some just plain cowardice. :P The idea of getting rejected by MIT, Princeton, AND Harvard despite my stats was too bruising to my ego. Plus, if I turned Harvard down now and later decided to either attempt a transfer in or try for graduate studies there, I could always say, "Hey, you liked me last time I applied!"</p>

<p>I am fairly satisfied with the decision, although naturally I have my own college fears. Who doesn't? Although I may yet attempt to transfer into MIT--I LOVE everything about the school, and might get a better upperclassmen study experience there. But it is in the wind still. Who knows? A lot of kids who get rejected by MIT go to Vanderbilt and love it. Maybe it's a sign...</p>

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<p>Do not worry about Greek life if it is not your scene..it is strong at Vandy but it is strong at UVA, Duke, Emory, and Dartmouth, Wash and Lee and many great state colleges etc...and there is no point in denying yourself the opportunities at any of these colleges if admitted on a decent financial aid package. You have an amazing deal at Vandy, and I know so many families that would have to pay tons more and can't come therefore even if their child prefers Vandy...
My son is independent and his problem is being too busy with too many distractions with nightly offerings on campus and nearby....His major Extra Curricular took up so much time that his studies were compromised at one point...I would only suggest that you show up and join a couple of things freshman year to get up with a good group of peers. I also council my son to stay open to his Greek friends..they are also in all activities and ever present...and many are super nice people
Lastly, consider Alternative Spring Break...son suddenly has yet another set of friends from his location..read up on that on the website...lots of bonding with his team on spring break...</p>

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