CHAPEL HILL, NC—In an effort to relate to non-scholarship students, Morehead-Cain Scholar Claire Frist has employed many of the tactics for feigning humility she had intended to use while an undergraduate at Harvard University since arriving at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in August.
“I’m not different from any other Carolina student, I just worked hard and got lucky,” Frist said, using a phrase she had often imagined using to explain her admission to Harvard.
“I didn’t expect to be a Morehead, it just happened,” she added, “I expected to go to Harvard.”
Frist spent a good deal of her junior and senior years at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, practicing the awkward and self-effacing way in which she would tell people that she went to Harvard, “but only if it came up.”
“I don’t want it to seem like I’m bragging. I know how much help I’ve gotten along the way, so as soon as it looked like going to Harvard was a real possibility, I started thinking about how to convey my humility. I think those skills are just as applicable to receiving an honor like the Morehead-Cain Scholarship,” she said.
Frist said that, despite preparation, it has been more challenging than expected.
“When you go to Harvard, you only have to be humble over the breaks. As a Morehead, you have to be humble every time you leave the Foundation,” Frist said. “Even when you are trying to get away from that constant pressure, and just be with other Moreheads, you have to come up with some elaborate excuse for what you are doing. It can be exhausting.”
Frist, who considered Amherst and Williams Colleges in addition to Harvard, Princeton and Yale, often tells friends that she came to the University of North Carolina because she liked the feel of a big college town.
UNC was the only public university to which she applied.
Frist noted that while being a Morehead-Cain scholar had the potential to alienate new acquaintances who did not have prestigious scholarships, much like attending Harvard could alienate students from other universities, the specifics were often different.
“I thought I would tell people I went to school in Boston. Now I tell them I go to school in North Carolina,” she said.
When asked what she would say if someone asked if she went to Duke, Frist replied, “Oh, in that case I would tell them that I’m a Morehead, because, well, I just don’t want them to get the wrong idea.”