For the second year in a row, a teenager from Nigeria has accomplished what few U.S. high school students can — getting accepted into all eight Ivy League schools.
Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, whose parents came to the U.S. from Nigeria, has until May 1 to decide whether she’ll attend one of the prestigious U.S. universities.
Last year, Nigeria-born Harold Ekeh chose to attend Yale University after having his pick of all eight Ivy League schools.
Both students attended Elmont Memorial High School in a New York suburb.
Uwamanzu-Nna was also accepted to four additional schools to which she applied — Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
The quality she most stressed as critical to her success is her self-described tenacity, something she says is best encapsulated when looking at her approach to her scientific research.
She used a civil-engineering research project as a launching point to illustrate this quality, describing a project she started in high school with cement and concrete. Uwamanzu-Nna said that she wanted to learn about fluid mechanics by way of measuring the strength of samples. But her school did not have the proper high-tech apparatus for such work.
“I had to jury-rig this weird thing and use bench weights from my school’s weight room to measure the strength of samples,” she said.
She soon realized that if she wanted to be able to finish her research, then she would have to find a true lab in which to work. She applied for a position during the summer between her sophomore and junior years, where she hoped to work in a Columbia University research lab.
She was disappointed to be rejected from the role, but found a temporary solution with an internship at NYU’s engineering school. Columbia’s lab was still her first choice, though.
So, undeterred, she kept in touch with the researcher in Columbia’s lab and was eventually accepted to work there the following summer.
“The head researcher at Columbia was very impressed by my tenacity, by my persistence, and by the fact that I was 16 and doing cement and concrete research,” she said.
In fact, she was the youngest researcher in the lab that summer, working among PhD and master’s students.
She believes that her spirit of persistence was the driving force behind her college acceptances.
“As a high schooler, what really explains my recent accomplishment is finding something I am passionate about,” she said, “and not being afraid of stepping outside of my comfort zone.”
“I’ve struggled with numerous classes in the past,” she said. “But I guess what allowed me to be successful, ultimately, in those classes, at the end, is my persistence and my tenacity.”
The subject that most interests Augusta is science, and she was a finalist in an Intel competition for her research project on a cement that could prevent underwater oil rigs from rupturing.
She even received an invitation on Monday to attend the White House Science Fair.
“She knows that you have to work,” Augusta’s research adviser Michelle Flannory said. “Is she naturally talented? Yes, but she definitely pursues excellence.”
With just under a month until she has to make her final decision, Augusta says she’s still not sure which school she will attend.
“I’m still quite unsure what school I’m going to attend, but I know attending any of them will be such a great honor,” Augusta said. “But for now, it’s just so amazing. I really can’t believe it, still.”