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Why one student said no to the Ivy League

Ashlie isn’t going to change the world…she already has, and her story is an important one for college-bound students. Ashlie is bright, ashlie_headshotwitty, intellectually curious, generous and much more.  She’s incredibly talented and this was recognized by the Ivy League University that accepted her. She, however, chose not to go there, and instead selected a college that does not have even a fraction of the name recognition of this Ivy League School.

As a high school student, Ashlie was involved in Best Buddies, a peer-mentoring club for students with special needs, she enjoyed working on a campaign for Fair Trade in her town, and she enjoyed hiking, kayaking, and camping with her family.  Ashlie enrolled in honors and AP classes, and while her AP scores in the social sciences, English and Languages were fantastic, the ones in math and science were not nearly as stellar.  Her SAT scores were reasonably solid but not what one would assume is necessary to get into an Ivy League school.   Clearly, it was her proven desire to change the world that captured their attention.

While in high school, Ashlie founded a non-profit organization called Hippies for Hope (small plug… Hippies for Hope is  dedicated to global youth understanding and promoting the ability of young people to empower and support one another. For every tie-dyed shirt purchased, Hippies for Hope donates a shirt to those in need, like the girls at the school with whom Hippies for Hope has partnered in Tanzania. Additionally, students at universities in the Northeast U.S. have been donating t-shirts monthly to local children’s hospitals, shelters, and group homes. There’s nothing like a tie-dye t-shirt to brighten someone’s day and let them know that someone out there is thinking of them during challenging times.

Ashlie turned down the opportunity to attend the (at her request) unnamed Ivy League school, and instead, opted to enroll at Gordon College, located just north of Boston, MA. Gordon is a small Christian college set apart by its tight-knit community and socially progressive approach to education. Ashlie has taken advantage of many of the opportunities at Gordon including creating her own major, studying abroad, and taking advantage of a very unique housing arrangement.

Ashlie is studying Community Development, Spanish, and teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). After obtaining her degree, she would like to teach ESL and work in community and educational policy development. Her hope is to empower individuals living with disabilities as well as those in immigrant and refugee communities. Ashlie chose to attend Gordon over several other institutions because of the academic freedom it offers its students, and, she says candidly, Gordon offered her a substantial enough scholarship that student loans became unnecessary.  Ivy League schools offer no merit/scholarship money and her family did not qualify for sufficient need-based funds to make an Ivy League education possible for them.  As the parents of five children (Ashlie is the youngest), they were unable to afford $50,000+ per year for college.

On her campus visit to Gordon, Ashlie was struck by the warm and eager energy of every student, professor, and staff member she met at Gordon. The 400-acre, Oceanside, campus added to the positive atmosphere, and Ashlie and her family immediately felt welcomed and at-home. After a long day of visiting other New England colleges, Ashlie’s mind was completely changed when she visited Gordon’s unique campus, and her decision to attend Gordon has only been solidified and confirmed after three life-changing years there.

Ashlie traveled to South America as part of her undergraduate learning experience. In Chile, she lived with an indigenous family and studied their education system. Ashlie ventured to Argentina to compare the Chilean and Argentine education systems. After travelling to Tanzania in high school to visit the girls’ school her non-profit supports, Ashlie went back a second time as an undergraduate.  She has just used her summer earnings to book plane ticket to go a third time so that she can proudly watch the first group of young women graduate from the school Hippies for Hope helps support.

At school, Ashlie lives with one of her professors and her family. Ashlie says they have given her an actual “home away from home”, and they provided her a significantly more cost effective alternative than living in a dorm when finances got tight. She is quick to say that this is a great example of how Gordon’s professors will go above and beyond to ensure that their students thrive as part of a close community.

As she approaches her senior year at Gordon, Ashlie looks back on her last year in high school- a frenzied few months of applications and re-drafted essays. Ashlie will tell you that in applying to the Ivy League, she was more concerned about name recognition than the type of education that was the best fit for her. She’s thankful to have chosen a school where her professors call her by name, where her faith and academic lives meet, and where her goals are championed and encouraged by the entire community. She says that Gordon has been the perfect undergraduate experience because it has allowed her to take challenging classes while simultaneously being involved on campus, in the Boston community, and throughout the world. In the years to come, Ashlie plans to use the network she has established in and around Gordon to gain a teaching certificate, work internationally, and potentially continue her research in educational policy. Graduate School at an Ivy League college is a definite possibility due in part to Ashlie being able to complete her education at Gordon debt-free. Ashlie is looking forward to a non-traditional post-graduate experience which she hopes will include a Fulbright Scholarship.  She hopes to travel and expand her organization throughout South America and East Africa.




Article written by College App Wizard

College App Wizard
Lynell's 20 years of experience as a college counselor, consultant to The College Board, an Associate Director of Admissions and Director of Financial Aid have given her a unique insider's perspective to the college application process. She has helped countless students and parents navigate the path to college. She also volunteers her time with several non profit organizations to help low income students go to college.

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