Editor’s note: The following article is by Peter Jacobs of Business Insider. We are posting it here because it is a great illustration of the main advantage of many public honors colleges and programs–merit aid for highly talented students that they cannot receive at most private elites.
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 to 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.”