Saheela Ibraheem wasn't sure any college would want to admit a 15-year-old. So the Piscataway teen hedged her bets and filled out applications to 14 schools from New Jersey to California.
“It's the age thing. I wanted to make sure I had options,” said Saheela, a senior at the Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison.
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.
“I'll be one of the youngest. But I won't be the youngest,” the soon-to-be 16-year-old said.
Saheela is among the millions of high school seniors who had to finalize their college decisions by Monday, the deadline for incoming freshman to send deposits to the school of their choice. 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.
Read more here.