Grads headed to Ivies, service academies
Goal is achievable, students say
— For some Cecil County Public Schools students, getting accepted to Ivy League universities or military academies can seem like a goal so unattainable it’s not even worth pursuing.
But three high school seniors who did just that want younger students to know that with hard work, that goal is not only within reach,
it’s very achievable.
This year, two North East High School seniors, Abraham Lee and Ibukun Ope, were accepted to a total of three Ivy League schools while Rising Sun High School senior Megan Keene received three military academy acceptances. And the three hope that next year, more students will follow in their footsteps.
“I think it’s important to try to not be perfect, actually. To just be yourself,” said Ope, who was accepted to Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania, but will attend University of Maryland College Park on a full scholarship instead. “If you want to go for an Ivy League, definitely do it, because you never know. I didn’t think I’d get in.”
As the they prepare to turn their tassels this week and move on to the next chapter of their lives, the three soonto-be graduates shared their experience preparing for life after high school.
Megan Keene In many ways, Keene is an unlikely candidate to pursue the Coast Guard Academy.
She has only limited experience on boats and she’ll be the first person in her family to serve in the military. But after participating in a Coast Guard summer program last year, Keene, who was also accepted to the U.S. Merchant Marine and U.S. Air Force academies, knew the Coast Guard was her first choice.
Although she has a lot of respect for the other military branches, Keene said she really identified with the Coast Guard’s mission of helping people.
“That’s their mission. All you’re doing is helping or keeping our country safe in a way that isn’t hurting people, it’s just preventing bad things from happening,” she said.
Although the Coast Guard was always her first choice, Keene said she was happy she applied to three different academies, even if it made the application process longer. For the Merchant Marines and Air Force, she needed to get congressional recommendations, which was like “an entire other col- lege application,” she said. But sending in three applications increased the chance that her goal of attending a military academy a reality, Keene added.
And it won’t take long for that dream to become a reality — Keene reports for duty at the academy on June 27. While at the academy, she plans to major in naval architecture and marine engineering and her dream is to someday be stationed and eventually live in Hawaii.
But regardless of how the future plans out, Keene said she knows that pursuing acceptance to a military academy was the best decision for her and she thinks it could be a good path for many other CCPS students too.
“I feel like so many people are uneducated about what they actually are and what they do, but they have so many opportunities and I wish that more people would research them and see all that they have to offer,” she said. “I know a lot of people who’d be a good fit for it, but they just don’t know what they are so they don’t apply.”
Abraham Lee Lee was sure the Harvard University acceptance letter was a joke.
“They notified me the day before April Fool’s Day, so I really thought it was a joke,” said Lee, who received a full scholarship. “So I was honestly waiting for a letter telling me I actually didn’t get in. I was really surprised because I kind of just applied to Harvard on a whim.”
But Lee, who was also accepted to New York University, Vanderbilt University, Boston College, University of Maryland, University of California San Diego and University of California Davis, said Harvard fit everything he was looking for in a college. Lee said he wanted to go out of state to a school with a good academic reputation and he wanted a school in an area where there’s lots of different things to do.
When applying for college, Lee, who plans to major in computer science and also take pre-med classes, said he thinks being well-rounded is important when applying for college. In high school, he participated in soccer, tennis and track and field, took Advanced Placement courses, was president of the National Honor Society, and was also in STEM Academy.
For students who may be thinking about applying to Ivy League schools, Lee said they shouldn’t be discouraged by the potential cost or by their perception of what it takes to get into an Ivy League school.
“You don’t have to be the perfect student that they depict in movies to apply to Ivy Leagues and you don’t have to have a 2400 (SAT score) either,” Lee said. “You can apply with whatever score you have as long as you’re confident. It really doesn’t matter what your rank is or what your GPA is.”
Lee also encouraged younger students to work hard starting their freshman year of high school and not wait until they’re older to focus on school.
“Don’t say, ‘If I had tried, I would have gotten better grades,’” he said. “Actually try.”
Ibukun Ope Even before she started applying to colleges, Ope had a feeling she would end up at the University of Maryland College Park. Her older sister already goes there and, on her visits to campus, the school just felt like a good fit.
“I love the environment there,” she said. “I’ve been there before for other things and it already feels like my college.”
Although she did end up choosing UMD, Ope didn’t lack for choice when it came time to make her college decision. Ope was also accepted to Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The two Ivy League acceptances came as a particular surprise to Ope and, like Lee, at first thought it was some kind of mistake.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
But while she had choices, UMD had everything she was looking for in a school and the full scholarship she got means she won’t have student loans, an important factor in her decision. Outside of the financials, Ope said she wanted a big college that was relatively close to home and was in a “lively area.”
At UMD, Ope plans to major in psychology and neuro- science and eventually go to medical school and become a psychiatrist. To prepare for that career path, she took many AP science classes and participated in STEM Academy but also was involved in other ways such as participating in theater, marching band and Destination Imagination and serving as vice president of the National Honor Society.
But while Ope was able to participate in many different activities during high school, she’s also looking forward to starting college and all the new opportunities that will bring.
“I’m very excited. It’s been a very long year and I’m excited for it to be over,” she said. “I feel like it becomes monotonous. Every single day is the same thing and I’m so ready for change.”
Abraham Lee and Ibukun Ope, both North East High School seniors, were accepted to Ivy League schools. Next year, Lee will attend Harvard University and Ope will attend the University of Maryland College Park.
Rising Sun High School senior Megan Keene was accepted to three military service academies and will head to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy later this month.