Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

New York Teen Gets Accepted To All Ivy League Schools

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK, let's face it - this is the time of year when many high school seniors start coasting toward graduation day. They've gotten the grades and taken the tests.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

They've received outstanding letters of recommendation.

INSKEEP: Hopefully, and they've written riveting personal essays.

MONTAGNE: Of course, so what is left?

INSKEEP: Well, besides surviving senioritis...

MONTAGNE: They'll have to decide which college will be lucky enough to have them join the incoming class of 2019.

INSKEEP: Seventeen-year-old Harold Ekeh has a lot of choices because he managed a clean sweep. He applied to 13 schools and got accepted by each one, including all eight schools in the Ivy League.

MONTAGNE: And for Harold Ekeh, that astonishing success has meant overcoming the challenges of fitting in. His family moved from Nigeria to Long Island, N.Y., when he was 8 years old.

HAROLD EKEH: I remember trying to memorize the names of all the 50 states because they sounded so beautifully exotic, especially New York. I was like New York, now that's exotic. And I remember hearing stories about the mysterious white flurries that fall from the sky on a on a cold winter's day. That's what snow is. I mean, I just was really excited to see snow.

MONTAGNE: For the essay part of his college applications, Ekeh wrote about being uprooted and embracing a new culture. His parents gave up a comfortable life in Nigeria to move to the states. They believed their children would have better opportunities here, and Ekeh has taken advantage of that. At Elmont Memorial High School, he's a Model U.N. delegate, he directs a choir, he volunteers and early on, he developed a passion.

HAROLD: I've been really passionate about the sciences.

MONTAGNE: In particular, neurobiology.

HAROLD: My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. And so that's what inspired me to join my school's research program and begin doing research on these disorders. And I was able to work at a professional lab over the summer, you know, put together a research paper.

MONTAGNE: Which led to his entry into the prestigious Intel Science Fair competition, where he reached the semifinal. Ekeh has four younger brothers. His advice for them and his high school peers - follow your interests.

HAROLD: I wouldn't call myself a genius or a brainiac. I'd just say that I try to take advantage of everything my high school has to offer. I found what I was passionate about, and I pursued it.

MONTAGNE: Harold Ekeh says he was surprised to get into every school. He's still deciding where to go. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.