Even at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a top-ranked magnet school, senior Pooja Chandrashekar stands out among her brainiac peers.
She’s got a 4.57 grade-point average, scored a 2390 (out of 2400) on the SAT, and aced all 13 of her Advanced Placement exams. She also founded a national non-profit that encourages middle-school girls to participate in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.
She’s also developed a mobile app that analyzes speech patterns and predicts with 96 percent accuracy if a person has Parkinson’s disease.
Oh, and she’s 17.
College admissions offices took notice. She can now add another bullet to her résumé: Pooja earned admission to all eight Ivy League schools. She also was accepted at Stanford, MIT, Duke, the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan and Georgia Tech, going 14 for 14.
Earning an acceptance letter from one Ivy League school is a rare achievement for most high school students. It is extremely rare for a student to gain admission to all eight, though a few each year manage to do so. This year, Long Island student Harold Ekeh announced he, too, had been accepted to all the Ivies.
Pooja’s guidance counselor, Kerry Hamblin, said that the senior is dedicated to pushing herself in the classroom, which helped her to stand out. “She’s taking the hardest courses, the most challenging that we offer, and has exceeded anyone’s expectations in all of them,” Hamblin said.
Hamblin added that it is “very atypical to get into all eight ivies,” though some of the elite magnet school’s students each year try.
“It’s not typically what we advise,” since each school has its own personality, strengths and weaknesses, Hamblin said. “They share a football league in common, and that’s about it.”
Born in Potomac Falls, Pooja is the only child of two engineers who immigrated to the United States from Bangalore, India.
Pooja spent her summers attending programs in robotics. She tinkered in Web design and game programming. In middle school, she built a windmill to explore the prospects of renewable energy.
She attended the private Nysmith School in Herndon before enrolling at TJ, where she has taken classes in computing, artificial intelligence, and DNA science. She hopes one day to pursue a career in medicine and bio-engineering.
“She really stands out as a TJ kid who has taken the mission of the school as far as it can go,” said principal Evan Glazer. “She’s a STEM superwoman who humbly approached her interests in curious ways.”