Regret after turning down top schools?

This spring, I was accepted to the University of Southern California as well as UNC Chapel Hill, but I turned them both down to accept a National Merit Scholarship at the University of Alabama. It was a really difficult decision for me, and it took a while to be okay with it. I know that I was incredibly lucky to have so many amazing options, but I’m just wondering if at some point in the future I’ll regret not choosing a higher-ranked school (even though it would have put me in nearly $100,000 of debt). I’ve been told that safety/state schools are what you make of them, but it’s really hard to look past the connections, opportunities, and prestige that come with top tier schools. Does anyone who is or was in a similar situation have insight or advice they would be willing to share with me?

Yes. Enjoy not having to pay back $100k in debt.

Please read this featured article:
https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/student-here-ask-me-anything/2192533-the-upside-of-rejections-how-i-fell-in-love-with-my-safety-school-ask-me-anything.html

Not quite the same situation, but you will probably come to love your college.

My D did something similar at UofSC. Loved every minute of it. Was in honors college as I assume you are. Wonderful research opportunities. Added money to savings from overage each semester. Now in PhD program at Ivy. Has wonderful friends from time there. Zero regrets.

Just curious what you hope to major in, if you know.

Not having all that debt will allow you greater flexibility to take unpaid internships, study abroad, go to grad school etc.

@mjut02 : Don’t look back! And you still have plenty of opportunities for a graduate program at one of these “higher-ranked” prestigious institutions, and most importantly, without much of debt.

Cheers! :smile:

For a contrasting perspective through which you can view your own decision, the prominent respondent in this Boston Globe interview associated his “greatest regret” with attendance at a highly ranked school: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/10/15/charlie-baker-takes-proust-questionnaire/p2B2GsYFIUnYnVLsZCiX3I/story.html.

Your future debt-free self will be grateful for the choice you made.

Graduating with $100,000 or so in student loans (if you could even take out that amount in loans) would handcuff your life decisions for 20+ years after graduation. The large payments you would have to make to cover the your undergraduate loans would interfere with every adult decision you make – it would mean you probably couldn’t take that amazing job at a start-up for less pay, get that new car, take a nice vacation, go to grad school if you choose, get the home you want etc.

Your hard work throughout HS has earned you a wonderful opportunity at UA. Go forth and make the most of your college experience.

OP: USC & UNC with $100,000 of debt were not realistic options in your case.

If your options were among Alabama on scholarship versus Princeton, MIT, Stanford, Yale, Harvard and a few other super elite universities, then one might have future regrets.

You made a great decision! Don’t look back!

PS. Last year H’s company was hiring and a new grad from Alabama beat out applicants from MIT and one of the Ivies.

I wouldn’t look back. I also wouldn’t spend a lot of time on this site. Best of luck to you.

If Alabama keeps giving those generous scholarships to recruit top notch students such as yourself, they’re going to climb the rankings up to USC’s spot in short order. No need to look back here. You have made an excellent choice and all the best to you at Alabama!

Agree with all of the above, you made a great decision!

Alabama’s Class of 2023 has 256 NMFs, so you are in good company.

https://uasystem.edu/news/2019/09/in-state-enrollment-up-10-at-university-of-alabama/

We have a rising senior. We are weighing your question(s) as well; she stands a chance of getting into top schools and has worked very hard. FIT in a school choice is super important. I agree with the other posters, and yes, our student is also considering Alabama. This article (actually series of articles) is well worth reading.

https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2020/06/why-you-dont-feel-successful-at-princeton

Fit is fine, in fact its great… if its affordable. If the choice is fit vs going almost $100K in debt, the choice is pretty clear. Kudos to the OP for making a tough choice. That said, there are also benefits to being the top of the middle rather than the middle of the top. ANd USC got plenty of bad press with the cheating scandal. Perhaps you really made a wise choice.

You forgot the $500 that Alabama is giving you every year for books, the $3,500 that Alabama is giving you every year as a stipend, and the $2,000 that you can spend on summer research.

So not only is Alabama paying for your tuition, room and board, you are getting your books for free, a summer research trip, AND about $65 a week for whatever you want.

Seriously, that is a great deal.

Of course you may have regrets!! We all have regrets at times for things, and not all of them make a lot of sense. It’s human nature. You could have regrets after picking either of the other two schools as well. You just would be paying back large loans as you had the regrets.

OP- every Freshman has a bad day or two (or three). You wouldn’t be human if during that bad day you didn’t think 'why oh why didn’t I go to XYZ college". Because of course, at that college, nobody ever has a bad day. (you know I’m being facetious).

Of course you’ll have regrets. Even making a great decision (which I think you have made- you just can’t imagine at this point in your life what a chain around your neck 100K in debt would be) is going to come with “what if’s” and second guessing.

Move forward. Make a conscious decision to take advantage- really take advantage-- of college. If it’s a choice between sitting in your dorm watching a rerun of Friends or going to hear your roommates chamber music ensemble- go to the concert. If you have an hour between classes, don’t sit by yourself drinking coffee-- check the campus calendar, see if there’s an exhibit, or something cool in the library, or a talk by someone who is allegedly famous but you’ve never heard of.

College can be amazing. And the kids I know who DON’T find it amazing, are the kids who take their HS lives-- the same friends, the same activities, the same food-- and just transplant it to a new location. You can do this!!! Amazing opportunities just there for the taking!!!

@blossom: Maybe not the best point at which to interrupt a sentence:

“And the kids who DON’T find it amazing, are the kids who take their HS lives”

Glad that you later finished that sentence !