Hazelwood West High School senior Gracemary Nganga is like many of her peers this time of year, as she weighs her options and chooses where to attend college.
What sets Nganga apart, though, is the fact her decision might be a little tougher.
How could it not be when you have 22 schools from which to choose?
Throughout the course of her senior year, Nganga has received acceptance letters from almost two dozen different schools.
“I just really wanted options when it came to school and to make sure I could compare things like aid, support, resources, and I applied to a variety of different schools,” she said.
The names of the schools are as impressive as the number itself, including: Stanford, Yale, Washington University, Notre Dame, Emory, Oxford College of Emory, USC, Duke, Spelman College, Xavier in Louisiana, Franklin and Marshall, Pomona, Claremont McKenna, Hamilton, Swarthmore, Bowdoin, Grinnell, Saint Louis University, UMKC, Mizzou, DePaul, and UMSL.
Keep in mind that list doesn’t include the schools for which Nganga was put on the wait list, among those were Dartmouth and Vanderbilt.
Nganga admits she has narrowed her list down to five schools - Stanford, Yale, Washington University, Notre Dame, and Emory. She will visit some of her top choices in April before making a final decision May 1.
“Obviously the academics at all of these schools are amazing,” said Nganga, who plans to pursue pre-med. “I’d be surrounded by brilliant students and professors who have done so much in their fields, so now it’s about finding where I belong.”
It seems Nganga would be a natural fit at any of the 22 schools, having excelled throughout her academic career in the Hazelwood School District since emigrating from Kenya with her family before the second grade.
She is the true definition of a student leader, having started the African American Cultural Association at West High School, along with two separate student clubs focused on social justice and awareness.
A tough decision, yes, but one that Nganga has worked hard to earn, and one she hopes will motivate other students at West High School.
“It was a lot to take in because it’s very surreal,” she said. “It’s something you dream about and just having that goal of being accepted into top universities, and for me to actually get there and be accepted and have them want me there, it’s a dream come true.”