Turning down Harvard to go to The Ohio State University was the best decision of my life

‘I’ve always loved Ohio State and the Buckeye tradition. It’s more like home here’

Germantown high schooler Jamar Foster has turned down Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Stanford all for the chance to attend The Ohio State University.

Born and raised in Ohio, when Jamar was awarded acceptance letters from several elite East Coast schools, he ultimately decided that he would have a far better experience as a Buckeye than in an ultra-competitive Ivy. Here Jamar, who hopes to major in PR and Communications and minor in African-American Studies, explains why he decided to go Scarlet.

Jamar Foster

So why did you turn down a place at Harvard to go Ohio State?

When you grow up, a lot of people say Harvard is the biggest thing you should strive for. So when I got to senior year, I was trying to figure that out. I got in, and thought: “Wow, this amazing.” But once I went there to visit, I realized it was really big and none of the kids looked happy. They all looked unhappy, overworked and stressed. And when I sat in on one of the classes, it felt really cut-throat – everyone was in competition with each other.

I thought about the social scene and quality of life I wanted to develop for myself in college, and I knew that Harvard was not where I was going to be comfortable.

It was a really big decision. Around 2000 kids are lucky to go to Harvard every year! So I took a step back and thought if I should turn down my place. I spoke to my mom and started thinking about it. My mom went to Ohio State so this is a family thing. I’ve always loved Ohio State, I’ve loved the Buckeye tradition. It’s more like home. A lot of my friends are there, and I’d be able to graduate with a lot of my friends. And that was it.

What else drew you to Ohio State?

Number one, I’m saving more money than going to Harvard! Also the people at Ohio State are very warm and inviting. I could see myself living my whole life there. It’s a true college experience and a true college life. Also the football games, the spirit, the student life – that’s what I really gravitate to.

How did your friends, family and teachers react when you told them you were going to Ohio State instead of Harvard?

At first shocked but once I explained it to them, they all said: “Yeah, this is really interesting.” That was a big help.

Was it a tough choice?

It’s nice to tell your family and friends you got into Harvard – and that prestige goes away when you turn it down. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter where you go, it’s what you do after. People can come from all walks of life, and go to any university without a big brand name and succeed after. Barack Obama didn’t start at Harvard, he went to Occidental and then to Columbia.

College is what you make of it. That’s what I see. I realized I didn’t want to be competitive like Harvard students – I want to uplift myself and be successful in my own way. And I can do that at Ohio State.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I just finished this book that everyone should read, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania,” by Frank Bruni. It’s something that really helped.

Ohio State