Scholarship: Another Easterner dazzles them all

Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna
Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna

Again, a US-based Nigerian fe­male student of Igbo descent has done the nation proud, securing admission into all the eight Ivy League American universities and a few others in one fell swoop!

Results of the admission appli­cations for the year, released on March 31, showed Harvard, Dart­mouth, Princeton, The University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Yale, Columbia and Brown saying yes, to Ms. Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, a senior at Elmont Memorial High School, Long Island.

In addition to the Ivies, she gained admission into John Hop­kins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Uwamanzu-Nna, 17, became the second student from her school to pull off the “exceedingly rare feat,” seen particularly as remark­able, given the increasingly fierce competition that has driven down acceptance rates at selective uni­versities over the years. Harvard, for example, now admits mere 5.2 per cent this year, down from 9.3 per cent in 2006.

Reports say only a few students pull off a sweep each year, with Nnwamanzu-Una’s feat coming barely a year after her compatriot, Harold Ekeh, drew national head­lines when he was accepted to 13 universities, including all the eight Ivies in 2015. Incidentally, Ekeh, now a freshman at Yale, is said to have been a close friend of Ms. Uwamanzu-Nna and had been an inspiration to other students.

The girl joins other young Ni­gerian students who have become the toast of international academic circuit for their exceptional intel­lectual prowess across the globe in recent times.

The high school student was overwhelmed with emotions and disbelief when she received the cheery news when she checked her phone on Wednesday. “It’s so surreal. It’s still hard to actu­ally believe that this has happened to me,” she was said to have en­thused. Ms. Uwamanzu-Nna said she was shocked she gained ad­mission into many colleges:

Saturday Sun learnt that she proposed the idea of applying to all eight universities to her coun­selor at the start of the school year. “I actually encouraged her,” the counselor, Sanju Liclican said, “because I knew she could do it.” But many admission advisers dis­courage the practice. Dean Skar­lis, president of the counseling service, College Advisor of New York, said that even exceptional students were better off applying to only a few Ivy League schools, along with several “probables” and a couple of safety schools. “Just because, with their accep­tance rates of between four and 12 per cent, if you put all those eggs in those baskets — most kids don’t get any if they apply,” he said. “It’s extremely competitive.”

Ms. Uwamanzu-Nna, however, had a lot going for her. Besides an excellent grade point average, made possible by taking the hard­est classes, and the distinctions of being both valedictorian of her class and a finalist in the presti­gious Intel Science Talent Search, her scientific pedigree most likely presented a crucial advantage since universities are seeking to get more women into the sciences, said Kat Cohen, the chief execu­tive of the admissions counseling service IvyWise. “She wasn’t only a very bright girl. She had real hands on science research,” Cohen said. “That definitely makes her stand out.”

Ms. Uwamanzu-Nna also pre­sented a compelling personal story. As the daughter of Nigerian emigrants, she shared something with many of the past Ivy League sweepers in recent years. They tend to have immigrant back­grounds.

American universities, espe­cially the Ivies, have been placing greater emphasis on diversifying their student population, note ad­missions counselors. “They are very concerned about racial and ethnic diversity,” Mr. Skarlis said. “They would rather have the La­tino kid from the Bronx who has overcome something significant in his life, rather than the upper-mid­dle-class or more affluent white student.”

However, if Ms. Uwamanzu-Nna, who has until May 1 to pick just one, favours any one in partic­ular among the enviable options, she is not telling just yet. She said she wanted to pursue biochemistry and environmental science, and planned to research the 12 uni­versities and visit their campuses soon.

It’s overwhelming, she said. “I have a really big decision to make.”

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