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Jaden Mensah, Grade 12, Staff Writer


Amidst the frenzy of college recruitments at the High School of American Studies (HSAS), a staggering 23 students have nailed athletic offers from prestigious institutions across the nation – a new record for HSAS. Despite this, some students have chosen to reject the offers to pursue their education.

For most students, the allure of Ivy League and other top-tier colleges may seem irresistible. Yet, amidst the flurry of acceptance letters, a handful of students have decided to chart a different course, prioritizing their educational journey over college prestige.

Michael McLean (‘24), a 3x state champion for track and field, made waves by turning down an offer from Harvard University in favor of attending Howard University. "Harvard is an incredible opportunity, but Howard is an HBCU – it offers an environment where I feel I can truly thrive and make meaningful connections."

Similarly, Sophia Rodriguez ('24), a softball player who led her team to states throughout her four years in HSAS, received offers from UC Berkeley and UCLA but opted to enroll at a local community college to pursue her passion for entrepreneurship. "While Berkley and UCLA are undoubtedly prestigious, I believe that the hands-on experience and mentorship opportunities available at my local community college will better prepare me for my entrepreneurial endeavors," Rodriguez shared.

For some students, like David Martinez (‘24), the decision to decline offers from prestigious universities is rooted in financial caution. "As much as I would have loved to attend Columbia, the generous scholarship package from my state university made it a more practical choice for my family," Martinez explained. “I don’t think I want to be trapped in a system of debt.”

Not everyone shares these sentiments. Mr. Leon, a long-time teacher at HSAS known for his blunt opinions, criticized the students for rejecting the elite offers. "You know what – they’re all schmucks. They’ve been handed opportunities on a silver platter that others would simply kill for. Turning your backs on some of the best schools in the entire nation is just plain foolish."

However, other students supported their peers' decisions. Samantha Chen (‘26), a sophomore, said "I think it's admirable they're looking at the right overall fit, not just chasing prestige."

These students have chosen to challenge the notion that success is synonymous with acceptance to elite institutions. Instead, they champion a more comprehensive approach to higher education – one that prioritizes personal fulfillment, social impact, and intellectual



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