High school senior Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna found out last week that she had been accepted into all eight Ivy League schools.
She doesn’t attribute her accomplishment solely to her high grades, though as valedictorian she certainly has top-ranking credentials.
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 she wanted to learn about fluid mechanics by way of measuring the strength of samples. However, 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 realised 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 the 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.”