Sitting at his computer and waiting to learn the outcome of arguably one of the most decisive events of his life, Stephan Mitchell is visibly nervous. With his heart racing and adrenaline pumping, he slowly hovers his cursor over the button that could determine his fate.
After 10 minutes of sitting still as a statue, he finally clicks the button, and a celebratory song begins to play. Mitchell has just been accepted into Yale University. Resting in unbelief, he finally releases a cheerful shout.
Closely following this scene, one after another, Mitchell is accepted into six more Ivy League institutions. Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania where the acceptance rate ranges from 6–16 percent.
This 17-year-old Pike High School senior has overcome the odds and been accepted into seven of the eight Ivy League institutions. He is currently waitlisted for Princeton University.
This International Baculaeture (IB) student comes from a family of engineers and physicians, which has helped inspire his goal to become a neuroscientist. Biology with a focus on neuroscience is Mitchell’s desired program, with the ultimate aim of performing neurosurgery and conducting clinical neuroscience research on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
“Initially I knew I wanted to go to college outside of Indiana because I wanted to gain new experiences and expand my horizons as far as meeting new people and getting a greater sense of the real world,” said Mitchell. “What attracted me (to the schools) was the diversity of the students. Those are places where not only I can learn from world-class professors, but on a 24 hour basis I can continue to learn from other students and get new perspectives.”
Despite the backlash Ivy League schools receive for a lack of diversity in their students, Dartmouth’s class of 2015 has 44 percent students of color and Brown’s 2015 class come from 79 nations and over 51 percent are women.
Being a very humble young man, Mitchell didn’t see the need to share his news with everyone. Troy Inman, Pike High School principal said he found out the news via social media and immediately contacted the superintendent and the school’s guidance counselor, Alise Berty.
“Stephan is very reserved, and he’s not going to say anything. If it were me, I would’ve shouted from the mountain tops,” laughed Inman. “I had to ask him if he would mind if we publicized this and get the word out.”
He adds that although Pike has sent a few students off to Ivy League schools, in his eight years as principal, the school has never had a student in Mitchell’s situation.
Mitchell said he began his college journey early, even before high school. He knew from his freshman year that applying to the Ivy League schools was a top priority. When it came to the application process many high school seniors dread, Mitchell was able to use the Common Application to apply to all of the Ivy League institutions. In addition, he also applied to a few Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as Xavier, Fisk and Tennessee State. Applications were also submitted to Duke and Johns Hopkins Universities.
Of them all, Mitchell said he is most interested in Yale or Harvard due to their highly accredited academic programs and the ability to work in the science laboratories as a freshman.
He credits his family for great support in soothing his nerves when experiencing the application process. He said at the beginning he was instilled with confidence.
“When the day came to find out the decision, it was more of an expectation for my dad. He kept saying ‘I don’t know why you’re so nervous, you’re going to get into all of them,’” stated Mitchell. “I received an outpouring of congratulations from not only my family, but everyone at Pike and my church.”
Berty said she found it quite funny when she would log into the school’s web based tool for tracking student’s college applications on weekends and see Mitchell had submitted a new application.
“For many other kids, we have to constantly remind them, but Stephan just ran with it,” said Berty. “Kids typically don’t apply to all eight and the kids that tend to apply to Ivy League institutions, most of those are in our IB program. They tend to be the most attractive to Ivy Leagues because of the depth of the curriculum. The Ivy Leagues know if students can complete the IB program, college will be a breeze for them.”
While being flown out at the school’s expense for college tours, Mitchell said he has no worries about college debt, as most students his age may. He believes the Ivy League schools are among the most generous when it comes to financial aid. When it came to money, he received about the same from all seven institutions.
“Many Ivy League’s goals are to graduate their students debt free, so they work out grants and opportunities on campus,” mentioned Berty.
It is reported that Princeton University makes the list of low-debt schools because, in spite of the total annual cost of $50,000+, the average student loan debt held is just over $5,000.
When asked how he feels about being an African-American male and achieving an elite status many others do not, Mitchell said it provides him with a great sense of accomplishment and ultimately, he wants to serve as a role model.
“The perception of Black males in society today can be very negative, as far as the media. This shows there is success for Black males and we can contribute to society without conforming to everyone else’s standards,” he explained.
Although he has taken on about 11 Advanced Placement courses over the past four years, and several IB courses, Mitchell said it is all worth it.