The recent high school graduate of a small Virginia boarding school calls her college admission process “an unfortunate circumstance she will forever regret” after her parents, who gained access to her college application accounts, accepted her offer of admission from Princeton University and declined her offer from Brown University.
Eighteen-year old Jane Tran (not her real name to protect her family’s privacy) chronicles her “grueling and traumatic” application process in a series of videos available on her YouTube channel, notprincesston. “The college app process definitely took a mental and physical toll on me,” said Tran, when contacted. “I caught the flu twice: once before early action decisions came out, and the next time in the midst of my interviews.”
When one bout with flu put Tran in quarantine in her school’s healthcare center, her mom, who lives in another state, called so often about staying on schedule with her college apps, the nurse commented that Tran’s parents seemed more stressed about the college process than she was, says Tran. “I decided to share my story because I don’t think parents should be the ones driving the bus.”
Initially, says Tran, she created the YouTube videos this summer “as a parody of poison Ivy League admissions mania.” Her videos have become so popular with college-bound teens “desperate for actual advice,” however, that she has instead developed a straightforward video catalogue of college admission pointers – from someone who has just successfully completed the process herself, she points out.
In these videos, Tran is articulate, informative, and entertaining, clearly expressing her dislike of what she calls an “arbitrary” college admission process while also showcasing her wicked sense of humor. College pennants emblazoned with “DESPAIR,” “NOWHERE,” and, shown briefly, “F— U,” decorate the wall behind her, above a shelf with a collection of teddy bears – one sporting a tiny t-shirt that reads: “DON’T HAPPY, BE WORRY.” Tran wears a matching tee in one video and in another, a Princeton tee that, below the iconic orange and black Princeton shield, reads: “Because not everyone can get into Brown.”
Brown University was – is – Tran’s dream school. “Brown has always been different,” an alum told her during an admission interview, and Tran concurs, fondly reminiscing in one of her videos about sharing her Knitting Club experiences with Brown admissions in what she terms her “CommuKnitty Essay.”
Not only was Tran attracted to Brown University’s unique self-designed curriculum and the possibilities for interdisciplinary study she envisioned as an aspiring cognitive studies major, Tran loved the “open-minded and fiercely intellectual community” at Brown that she believed matched her own mindset perfectly.
But, says Tran, “my parents hated Brown for all the reasons I loved it.”
First Tran’s parents insisted they could not afford Brown when Princeton offered more financial aid. When Tran appealed her financial award from Brown to successfully eliminate any significant difference in affordability, her parents still resisted Tran’s preference for Brown.
Tran now says she believes that her parents “would stop at nothing” to get their way concerning her college choice. Ultimately, she says, “they hacked into my admitted student accounts, enrolled me at Princeton, withdrew my admission to Brown, and then told me what they had done in an email.”
“I definitely lost a lot of respect for my parents after this college app process,” says Tran. “I might have eventually committed to Princeton on my own if my parents had talked it over with me – the issue is that they made the decision without my consent.”
Tran says making her YouTube videos is her way of accepting her fate, but “doing it my own way.” She adds, “unlike my parents, I will go in with an open mind… and I will try my best to make my Princeton experience my own.”
(Note: Tran’s mother was contacted but declined to respond)
PART 1 of a series