Student withers 113 college offers down to 1
Spring is the season when many high school seniors fret, waiting anxiously to hear whether they have been accepted to college.
Jasmine E. Harrison, a 17-year-old senior at The Academy at Smith in Greensboro, North Carolina, was no different. And hear she did — more than 100 times.
Harrison was accepted to 113 colleges and universities out of the 115 to which she had applied. The scholarship offers she received totaled more than $4 million, according to Harrison and her mother, who kept track of the financial offers on an Excel spreadsheet.
“At first I could not believe it, but then I was like, ‘Wow.’ I felt honored,” Harrison said.
She is among the millions of high school students who use online college application tools that make it easy to apply to multiple institutions at once. Most use the tools, like the Common Application, to pitch their academic credentials to between four and 20 schools.
But Harrison, an exceptional student with a 4.0 grade-point average, said that once she started to get acceptance letters and financial offers, she grew more confident. So she kept applying to more colleges. “I felt if I can get into all of these,” she said, “what else can I get in?”
“It was overwhelming at first because there were so many options,” she said. “I could go anywhere, and discover who I am.”
She began to reach out to colleges farther from home — including ones in Florida, South Carolina, Maryland and Colorado.
Harrison also used the Common Black College Application, which put her academic record into the sights of 53 of the country’s historically Black colleges and universities. Other applications were done individually, helped by low fees during North Carolina’s free college application week.
For all the geography her applications covered, in the end Harrison decided to stay close to home. She chose Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina’s third-largest city, with a population of more than 250,000. Her sister attended the small historically Black college for women, and it offered Harrison a full scholarship covering the $28,000 annual cost to attend, said its president, Phyllis Worthy Dawkins.
“In the beginning, she said, ‘Let’s apply to all of them in Florida,’ ” said Bravena M. Armstrong, Harrison’s mother. “At the end, she wanted to stay nearby.”
Only two universities — the University of South Carolina and Seton Hall University — turned Harrison down.
She and her mother started the application process in September and worked through the end of the year, poring over templates, gathering recommendations and lining up transcripts. They worked late, sometimes against a backdrop of gospel music, until Armstrong would leave to work the night shift at the post office, she recalled.
Armstrong said Harrison notified admissions officers quickly when she turned down a spot so that it could be given to another student.
Most students give their final decision to a college by May 1. Harrison’s accomplishments were reported that day by WFMY, a local television station.
The Higher Education Research Institute says that 35 percent of first-time freshmen applied to seven or more colleges for the 2016 academic cycle. In 1990, just 9 percent of aspiring freshmen applied to that many.
David Hawkins, an executive director at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said that Harrison’s outreach was remarkable.
“She is certainly an outlier when it comes to what we typically see,” he said.
Counselors try to encourage students to focus on quality rather than quantity, he added.
“It is logical to try to hedge your bets to apply to as many institutions as possible,” he said. “Ultimately, you can only use one of them, and given the cost and the effort, it better be a good fit for you.”
Social media has amplified students who have been particularly successful at getting into college. Last month, a widely shared video showed Micheal Brown, 17, a senior at Lamar High School in Houston, opening his acceptance notifications. He got into all 20 highly selective colleges he applied to, and each offered him a full ride through a combination of merit- and financial-based scholarships and grants. He had a 4.68 GPA and high test scores.
Harrison said she wanted to major in biology and work as a neonatal intensive care unit nurse, inspired by the women who cared for one of her brothers, Zayden, in such a unit.
Terri Y. Fletcher, Harrison’s English teacher, said she had written multiple recommendations for her. She said that Harrison would often visit her office to read works by Ntozake Shange and Maya Angelou “just for fun.”
Harrison was a curious scholar and voracious reader, Fletcher said. “She does not put any limitations on anything.”
— (The New York Times)