I am a 16-year-old woman. I rank No. 1 in my junior class, and my parents can afford to send me to just about any college. They and I are ambitious for me. Ever since I was little, the goal has been Harvard, Yale, MIT, Wellesley, etc.

Whenever people ask me where I intend to go, I tell them. The responses vary from "Are you sure you want to go there? Some people only go for the name" to "Do you think you can handle it, dear?"I have also heard "But don't you want to get married and have kids?"

I am beginning to think that those people who do not ask believe I am going to one of those colleges to find myself a rich, powerful man. I suspect these people of sexism and jealousy.

I used to hedge when queried thus abruptly and rudely, because I was uncomfortable with the replies. Now I am simply angry for myself and other young women who might be experiencing the same thing.

Please help me think of an appropriate retort that will remind people that they have no right to cast aspersions on other people's dreams.

GENTLE READER - Now just a minute here. Miss Manners agrees that you have been treated rudely and is ready to help you. But you are getting a bit too worked up when you start accusing people who don't say anything of harboring sexist and jealous thoughts. Miss Manners does not provide rude retorts even to counter rude comments, much less to punish silence.

The question of where one intends to go to college is a foolhardy one to ask or answer before even early admissions are made. Despite your credentials, you don't really know where you "intend" to go, and a fudged answer - "Oh, I'm looking in the Boston area" or "Somewhere where there's a good science program" - would have been wise.

When the choice is definite on both sides, it will be time enough to deal with those offensive comments. You may then practice the gentle art of drawing other people's awkwardness or unpleasantness to their own attention.

The answer to the accusation about a college's name should be something like: "Really? Don't you think their psycholinguistics department lives up to its reputation?"

The answer to whether you can handle the work is "Well, I'm going to try my best." If that is said sweetly rather than sarcastically, the shamed questioner can only retreat by mumbling, "I'm sure you'll be fine."

And the answer to whether you want to marry and have children is "Probably some day - I haven't really thought about it yet." This makes it clear that while you do not associate college with husband-hunting, your interlocutor obviously does.

DEAR MISS MANNERS - As an 18-year-old college student, I was wondering what the correct (and discouraging) response is after someone throws something down my shirt.

Do I fetch it out and throw it back, untuck my top and - if it falls out - ignore it, leave it where it is and pretend I didn't even notice, or leave it and make a rude comment to the guy?

This has happened to me on a few occasions, and I want to respond in the way that is most unsatisfying for the guy and discourages a repeat.

GENTLE READER - It would be interesting to run a poll here, asking college students:

1. What do you assume is the proper thing to do?

2. What would you actually do?

It is Miss Manners' guess that the answer to the first question would be "Ignore it" and the answer to the second "Throw it back with a rude comment."

(Write-in questions might be "Is the victim male or female?" and "What in the world was it - a fish?" Unfortunately, the ambiguous signature and delicate reticence of the Gentle Reader leave Miss Manners as much in the dark as anyone else on these points.)

However, propriety occasionally gets a thrill out of shocking people. Good manners do not actually require ignoring a physical insult. Yet you do not want to reward the offender with too exciting a response.

Miss Manners recommends fetching the thing out quickly, tossing it carelessly into the face of the attacker as if you merely wish to get rid of it and are not paying attention to where it lands, and walking off without a word.

Are you unsure about tipping? Miss Manners' pamphlet, "On Tipping," explains who should be tipped and how much. It is available for $1.50 from Miss Manners, in care of the Deseret News, P.O. Box 91428, Cleveland, OH 44101-3428.

Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions other than through this column.