Elmont Memorial High School senior Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna was not in a rush to open her Ivy League college admissions letters last Thursday.
She was participating in a badminton game at 5 p.m. (roughly when the Ivy League results officially went live) and planning to finish the competition before heading home for the big reveal.
But the guidance counselor at her Long Island public school called her, unable to contain her excited impatience, and encouraged her to open her results at once.
“One by one, I opened all the schools,” Uwamanzu-Nna told Business Insider. “I saw I was getting accepted into each one, and when I came to the last one, I started crying. I literally was just crying and running around.”
Perhaps some of the anticipation from Uwamanzu-Nna’s guidance counselor was due to the fact that the seemingly impossible — an acceptance into all eight Ivy League schools — was accomplished last year by another Elmont High School student, Harold Ekeh.
“The fact that this is happening twice in a year speaks volumes to the power of the Elmont community the support system,” she said.
In addition to all of the Ivies , she was accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and New York University.
Uwamanzu-Nna’s resume reads like you’d expect from a highly recruited Ivy League senior. She is her school’s valedictorian, has a GPA of 101.64, and will have taken 13 Advanced Placement courses by the time she graduates.
But 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 with her scientific research.
She used a civil engineering research project as a launching point to describe this quality, describing a project she started in high school with cement and concrete that began to take on a life of its own.
Uwamanzu-Nna explained 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 schools weight room to measure the strength of samples,” she said.
She soon realised if she wanted to be able to finish her research, she would have to find a true lab in which to work. She applied for a position 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 cerement and concrete research,” she said.
In fact, she was the youngest researcher in the lab that summer, working among Ph.D and master’s students.
She believes 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.”