Student feature: Carson Peterson selects Brown University

Hugh Murphy, Buck Balling, and Miles Newman

Carson Peterson ‘23 on the process of committing to Brown University and his thoughts about the future

Peterson (center-right) posted this on his Instagram account @cman805. The caption said, “I’m excited to announce my commitment to Brown University ✊🏾” Graphic by: Brown University

On Nov. 15, Carson Peterson ‘23 announced his commitment to Brown University via his Instagram account. Peterson rows for Casitas Rowing and has several rowing achievements. He qualified for the 2022 World Rowing Junior Championship selection camp in February of 2022. His success caught the attention of many of the nation’s top rowing programs including UC Berkeley and University of Washington. Peterson’s decision was the culmination of a process of emails, talking on the phone, scouting and campus visits.

Peterson said, “[The college selection process consists of] a lot of emailing and then your junior year is when you are allowed to officially talk with the coaches, sometimes they’ll come out to races. Brown actually came out to one of my races when I was a junior. Not only are you talking to them but that’s when you have to build up your speed. It’s sort of like college applications where they don’t see the end of your senior year, they see your junior year and maybe the start of your senior year. Junior year is a big year, in both school and rowing.”

Peterson said, “Honestly my entire school career I feel like I have been really lucky with the lineup of teachers and the lineup of classes I get. Somehow there’s always this perfect combination of the right teacher and the right amount of work and so homework hasn’t ever really been that horrible for me. I’m definitely a chronic procrastinator and if something is optional and not worth points I probably won’t do it. Being able to absorb the right amount of information in class and get by on tests is definitely how I handle it.”

Peterson has many interests and passions outside of academics and rowing, and he feels they are key to his success and well-being.

Peterson said, “I personally take downtime, time to have fun or do what you’re interested in, very seriously and so there’s a lot of my schedule that’s allotted to that. I think that’s probably the biggest reason why I’m able to balance my life, understanding that downtime is one of the most important things.”

Some of these interests include clarinet, which Peterson plays in the Honors Wind Ensemble, and cooking, for which he was featured in season two of “Top Chef Jr.” in 2018. Due to his dedication to rowing and school, Peterson feels like his creative side has weakened over time.

Peterson said, “I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely lost touch with that side of me, that creative side and there are a lot of times where there is a struggle between my academic and rowing life and my creative life. There isn’t really a balance between them. I sort of knew after my freshman year that I would have to choose one or the other if I wanted to get to the place I wanted to be. and I ended up choosing rowing. That doesn’t mean I don’t cook. I cook all the time, but cooking at the level and in the way I used to where it’s impactful is leaving. It’s sad, it is really sad. and I know it will come back to me when I’m older, but that was definitely one of the toughest decisions I had to make.”

Peterson (center) recreating his rowing position on the senior lawn. Peterson said, “Brown actually came out to one of my races when I was a junior. Not only are you talking to [colleges] but that’s when you have to build up your speed. It’s sort of like college applications where they don’t see the end of your senior year, they see your junior year and maybe the start of your senior year.” Photo by: Buck Balling
During his junior year, Peterson took the next step in his journey of commitment. He was flown out by interested schools and given full tours of the campus and facilities. 

Peterson said, “If you get offers, you can pick five [official visits]. That’s the limit and I shouldn’t have picked five. I picked five to go to and it was too much. I was missing a lot of school and the traveling was awful and they were all on the east coast so I did around forty hours of flying in three weeks. It was awful, it was fun but it was awful.”

After this experience, Peterson had his top three choices: Yale, Princeton and Brown Universities. All three schools are part of the Ivy League and are widely considered some of the most prestigious schools in the U.S. 

Peterson said, “After looking at my offers and thinking about where I would love to go, I had Yale, Princeton and Brown as my top choices, my dream colleges. Then from that I eliminated Princeton because after I went there it felt a little pretentious and I felt like I just didn’t fit in there so it came down to Yale and Brown. In my head, the name of Yale, is a game changing name like when you hear it everyone turns their head, it was really difficult for me to get past that and look more at where would I be happy, what’s my home for the next four years. Even talking to friends and parents, everyone’s like ‘Go to Yale, why would you not go to Yale?’ I sort of just had to look a little bit deeper. Both the rowing teams are incredible, the schools are both incredible, I think Yale has a little bit more money so the dining halls there were better, the architecture was better, but Brown was this place that was super collaborative, the students got along really well, I felt like my vibe fit a lot of the students there. I think the biggest thing for me was that at Yale I noticed that if you fall, the students aren’t there to pick you up because it’s super competitive and everyone’s sort of on their own. Brown was very much the opposite and that was a big determinant in my choice.”

Peterson is not certain about what he wants to major in, but he has some rough ideas. 

Peterson said, “Right now if I had to write something on paper I would try and double major in anthropology and maybe economics or statistics or some combination of both of those. Anthropology because there is that humanities side of analyzing texts, and I think looking at cultures and telling stories is an awesome thing so I think I’d enjoy it. The economics and statistics part comes from security, like if I need to have a job, I think I can use that right away. Post-grad hopefully law school is there, but honestly I expect the four years to change everything, so I’m not certain.”

Peterson is also uncertain about careers after college, but he has an aspiration in mind.

Peterson said, “I think right now I sort of see myself studying law. I enjoy reading texts and analyzing them and so I feel like that has good implications in law … I think I’d be happiest in some sort of public service eventually, but the downside of that in our country is that money is the name of the game. You sort of have to be someone or be rich before you get into it, or you don’t make enough. But I think maybe as I get older, money won’t mean as much to me, but right now, it does hold significance. I want to make enough.”

Brown University offers hundreds of extracurriculars, clubs and unique classes and programs. They have 500 plus student organizations, 60 public service groups and around 4,100 students participate in intramural sports. As someone actively involved in many things across campus and outside of school at VHS, Peterson plans to continue his habits in college. 

Peterson said, “I’ve recently gotten into conducting. At Brown, they do have an orchestra there, so I hope I can be a part of that. That would be awesome. But that’s another creative outlet I have. If I can’t cook, maybe I can play some music.”

Peterson (right) and Larson (left). Larson said, “Carson is a character, he’s hardworking, dependable, but he’s also a goofball. He thinks outside the box and is definitely a unique human being.” Photo by: Buck Balling

Peterson is currently the ASB Vice President and has been a part of ASB for all four years of high school. He is not sure what these kinds of leadership roles will look like for him at Brown University. 

Peterson said, “[As a person] I’d hope leadership would come to me and is not something I necessarily pursue or seek out or put my name down and hope someone votes for me. I hope it comes in ways that aren’t necessarily written. On the rowing team, I hope the group of guys can look to me as a leader or I can be a leader in a group of friends. Maybe not run for president of ASB or anything like that, but I think if you are a leadership person, it will come to you and just the way you move through life, you will find that leadership niche somewhere.”

ASB Advisor Ann Larson said, “Carson is a character, he’s hardworking, dependable, but he’s also a goofball. He thinks outside the box and is definitely a unique human being.”

Larson said, “I think Carson is a very focused person when he sets his mind to something. He will be successful at whatever he does because of that, whether it’s his culinary skills, his music skills, academics, or rowing. He’s a very focused young man, a kind of Renaissance man with so many things going on in his life.” 

Larson said, “I think [Carson’s wide variety of interests] definitely carries over to college. College doesn’t like people who just fit into a box; successful college people tend to be ones that are willing to go out and try different things, whether it’s a sport, a research project, [or] creating their own new major. I think he’s just going to flourish in college.” 

Read more about Carson’s rowing career here.