What Happened After a 16-year-old Chose FAMU Over Harvard

Ralph Jones’ unconventional story didn’t end with him choosing an HBCU over an Ivy League university. 

Ralph Jones Jr. 
Ralph Jones Jr.  Ralph Jones Jr. 

There has been a swarm of media reports celebrating young African-American teenagers who have been killing it in college admissions. There are the DC-area triplets deciding between Columbia and University of Pennsylvania, the North Carolina young man who got into seven Ivy League schools and the New York teen who got accepted into all eight prestigious universities.

But what happens when an Ivy League school comes calling and you take a less expected path? What happens when you choose a different school, with less prestige, over the Ivy? What happens when a black kid decides that he would rather take his talents to Florida A&M University over Harvard University?

Ralph Jones Jr., a prodigious young man, who entered college at the age of 16 can tell you a little bit about that.

Jones first drew media attention back in 2010, when he shocked those who knew his story by choosing Florida A&M University over Harvard. At that time his path seemed clear. The then-16-year-old navigated through overwhelmingly intense social media criticism for his unexpected choice.

Does he regret it?

“No. No I don’t,” Jones told The Root, with zero hesitation. “It’s funny … the same kinds of people who were sending me [hate mail], you know they still send it, but on the opposite side, the support I’ve received has been immeasurable over the past four years. The opportunities I’ve had afforded to me I don’t think they could’ve afforded to me anywhere else.

“I was at Lockheed as a freshman, I interned at Apple with only two years under my belt. The things that I did there I don’t know anyone else who has done anything like me and I have friends at Cornell and Boston University and Georgetown and … they don’t have it,” he enthused. 

“My résumé [is] one that I think is arguably comparable to any student right now in the nation who’s my age and … those opportunities came directly or indirectly from my time at FAMU. I don’t see myself doing anything differently in retrospect,” Jones added.

By now, Jones should be prepping for his graduation … but as it turns out going to FAMU over Harvard wasn’t the only path-least-taken upon which he embarked.

“As much as I grew professionally and maturity-wise while I was at FAMU, I also grew spiritually, and as a result to that, my sophomore year was my last year,” Jones said.