Harold Ekeh of Long Island, New York, just accomplished the Ivy League sweep. He received acceptance letters from all eight schools.
Coming to New York from Nigeria at 8-years-old, Mr. Ekeh has become a prime example of what it takes to get into the Ivy League: passion.
Ekeh applied to the eight Ivy League schools – Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania – with the dream of becoming a neurosurgeon. His interest began when he was 11-years-old, when his grandmother experienced memory loss. Thus sparked a career pursuit that led to his success.
“When other kids would say, ‘I want to be a superhero or police officer,’ I would say, ‘I want to know what is on the inside of us,’” Ekeh told CNN Money.
Curious about what affected his grandmother, he began to conduct biochemistry experiments. He wants to find a solution for his grandmother’s condition. Earlier this year, he became a 2015 Intel Science Talent Search semifinalist for his research, which looked at the effect a specific chemical had on his grandmother's illness, CNN Money reported.
Ekeh is not just passionate about science, but also about people. Coming to the United States as an immigrant, he said that the transition from Nigeria was difficult. He detailed this journey in his admissions essay, according to the New York Post, which showed the colleges his determination and ability to adapt in the midst of difficult situations.
The Elmont Memorial High School student also gives back to his classmates. He has a GPA of 100.5 percent and an SAT score of 2270, yet he spends his spare time mentoring younger students at his school in the college mentorship program he founded. He plays the drums and directs in his church’s youth choir. [Editor's note: An earlier version misstated Ekeh's grade point average.]
“I am very humbled by this,” Ekeh told CNN Money. “It's not just for me, but for my school and community. We can accomplish great things here.”
Ekeh is not the only young person to achieve the Ivy League sweep. Last year, Kwasi Enin also got accepted into all eight schools. He was also a Long Island resident, and his parents immigrated to the US from Ghana. Mr. Enin is currently completing his freshman year at Yale University, and told Business Insider he made the right choice and is in a “happy state of being” as a biochemistry major.
Less than 15 percent of applicants to Ivy League schools get accepted, with some schools boasting even more exclusive rates. Forbes reported that of the 34,295 applicants for Harvard’s class of 2018, only 5.9 percent were accepted.
James Marshall Crotty, a contributor to Forbes, said that Ivy League schools look for applicants who are passionate.
Colleges, like marriage prospects, like future employers, want to see that you’re committed to your interest . . . Get involved in a project or activity that deeply engages you. If that’s football, or chess, or the math club, or theater, or social work of some kind, it’s all good. The main thing is passionate commitment. Remember: elite colleges are not asking you to be ‘well-rounded.’ They are looking to build well-rounded classes around a pool of world-class specialists.
Now, the decision is up to Ekeh. He said that a certain school in New Haven, Connecticut caught his eye, and he has already made friends and found mentors there that inspire him.
“I am leaning toward Yale,” he told CNNMoney. “I competed at Yale for Model UN, and I like the passion people at Yale had.”