Sunday, August 12, 2012

15-year old Nigerian secures admission in Harvard

A neuroscientist in the making
Many parents dream of their children going to
Harvard one day. But a Muslim girl has
actualised the goal of getting into the
prestigious university at the age of 15!
Saheela Ibraheem, of Edison, was also accepted
to MIT and 13 other schools, including
Princeton and Columbia before settling for
Harvard after falling in love with the campus.
She skipped two grades and said the key to
success is figuring out what you love to learn as
early as possible, something she did at age 5. "If
you are passionate about what you do, and I am
passionate about most of these things,
especially with Math."
She is well on her way to fulfilling her dreams
of one day becoming a Neuroscientist. This fall,
the 15 year-old high school senior will be
heading to Harvard University. Harvard was
one of the 14 schools that Saheela applied to.
She was accepted into 13 of those schools:
Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania,
Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Williams College,
Stanford, University of Chicago, University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and Washington
University in St. Louis. After much debate, she
settled on Harvard because "she fell in love"
with the campus. She hopes to study
neurobiology or neuroscience while at the
prestigious university.
She serves as president of the school's
investment club, which teaches students about
the stock market by investing in virtual stocks.
Saheela wasn't sure any college would want to
admit a 15-year-old. So, she hedged her bets
and filled out applications to 14 schools from
New Jersey to California. In the end, 13 colleges
accepted her, including six of the eight Ivy
League schools.
After weeks of debate, Saheela settled on
Harvard. She will be among the youngest
members of the school's freshman class.
Nationwide, this year's college selection process
was among the most competitive in history as
most top colleges received a record number of
applications.
Saheela joins a growing number of New Jersey
students going to college before they are old
enough to drive. Last year, Kyle Loh of
Mendham graduated from Rutgers at 16. In
previous years, a 14-year-old from Cranbury
and two of his 15-year-old cousins also
graduated from Rutgers. For Saheela, her
unusual path to college began when she was a
sixth-grader at the Conackamack Middle School
in Piscataway. Eager to learn more about her
favorite subject, Math, the daughter of Nigerian
immigrants asked to move to a higher-level
class. The school let her skip sixth grade
entirely.
By high school, Saheela said, she was no longer
feeling challenged by her public school classes.
So, she moved to the Wardlaw- Hartridge
School, a 420-student private school, where she
skipped her freshman year and enrolled as a
10th-grader. Her three younger brothers, twins
now in the ninth grade and a younger brother
in second grade, all eventually joined her at the
school. School officials were impressed Saheela,
one of their top students, didn't spend all her
time studying. "She's learned and she's very
smart. But she keeps pushing herself," said
William Jenkins, the Wardlaw-Hartridge
School's director of development.
Saheela also excels outside the classroom. She
is a three-sport athlete, playing outfield for the
school's softball team, defender on the soccer
team, and swimming relays. Saheela began
applying to colleges last fall. Her applications
included her grade point average (between a 96
and 97 on a 100-point scale) and her 2,340 SAT
score (a perfect 800 on the math section, a 790
in writing and a 750 in reading). She was
delighted when she got her first acceptance in
December from California Institute of
Technology. "I was so excited. I got into
college!," Saheela said.
More acceptances followed from Harvard,
Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania,
Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Williams College,
Stanford, University of Chicago, University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and Washington
University in St. Louis. Saheela was torn
between going to MIT and Harvard. A visit to
both campuses last month made the choice
easy. "She went to Harvard and she fell in love
with the place," said Shakirat Ibraheem, her
mother.
She said she wants to major in either
neurobiology or neuroscience and plans to
become a research scientist who studies how
the brain works. She credits her parents with
teaching her to love learning and work hard.
Her father, Sarafa, an analyst and vice-
president at a New York financial firm, would
often study with her at night and home school
her in subjects not taught at school. "I try my
best in everything I do," Saheela said. "Anyone
who's motivated can work wonders.
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