Attending an Ivy League school has always been Ashley Adirika’s dream. So in the late fall, she took her chances and applied to all eight of them.
Ashley turned on her computer to check for acceptance letters on Ivy Day, the most-awaited day when the prestigious institutions announce their first-year admission decision.
And to the Florida teen’s surprise, she got into every universities: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale.
That day, the 17-year-old was surrounded by family members, including her four siblings, who joined her in squealing with joy with each new acceptance letter from the universities.
“I just decided to shoot my shot at all of them and see if it would land. And I had no idea that I would get accepted into all of them,” said Ashley, whose mother emigrated to the US from Nigeria 30 years ago. “On Ivy Day, I remember crying a lot and just being extremely surprised.”
Ashley graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School this month and joins an exclusive group. Her feat is even more impressive given that each Ivy League school has accepted less than 12% of its applicants since 2018.
The brilliant student also got accepted to seven other top-rated universities, including Vanderbilt, Emory, and Stanford.
Ashley ultimately chose Harvard, where she plans to major in government. She wants to learn how it works and how policies can help address economic disparities in communities.
Before the college application process, she was conflicted between Harvard and Yale. However, she ended up picking the former because it had a better program for what she wanted to do.
To those who know Ashley, this accomplishment isn’t unexpected, given that she was a force on the debate team and also served as student council president.
“She was very smart and articulate,” said Bess Rodriguez, the debate coach who recruited Ashley for the team when she was in eighth grade. “Some of the debate topics were so sophisticated, like should the US sell arms to Saudi Arabia. She dug into the material, she was always so well prepared.”
“The other students would say, ‘Oh no, we have to debate Ashley.’ College debaters and local attorneys would come up to me and say, ‘Wow, we can’t believe she’s in eighth grade. She should be an attorney,'” she added.
Ashley plans to join the debate team at Harvard and hopes to attend law school after completing her undergraduate studies.
“I am really passionate about policy and using policy to empower communities. And so in the short term, for me, that looks like becoming a lawyer,” she said. “But in the long term, I want to use that as a platform to do work in policy.”
The group currently works with girls and young women in Miami, but Ashley hopes to expand it nationwide.
Ashley has the women in her life, including her mother—a single mom to five children—to thank for her incredible work ethic.
“She has just instilled in me the value of education and working hard, as well as all of the strong women in my life, like my older sisters,” she said. “For me, it’s about making the most of the opportunities that I have at my fingertips and really just making sure that the sacrifices that have been made for me weren’t done in vain.”
Ashley loves playing flag football, writing in her journal, painting, and writing music during her free time.
She has kept all the acceptance letters and miniature flags she received from all the schools she got into in a keepsake box to help her remember that dreams do come true.
As for the sweatshirts and hats she got from all the Ivy League universities she’s not attending, she gave them to her nieces and nephews as a tangible reminder that they can do it, too.
Click on the video below to learn more about the formidable Ashley.
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