Most high school seniors hope to be accepted by their top two or three choices for college.
Craig McFarland, 18, of Jacksonville, Florida, aimed particularly high and wide, and was accepted by all eight Ivy League schools.
First came his acceptance to Yale University in December.
“I was just yelling in shock when I heard the Yale acceptance video,” McFarland said, recalling that, earlier that day, he’d had a disappointing track practice, gotten into an argument with a friend and had car trouble.
After that, the other acceptances trickled in: Princeton University, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Dartmouth College, Cornell University and Harvard University. He opened them all in a single sitting.
“I was alone with my sister in my room and opened all the Ivy League schools one by one,” he said, adding that he yelled a little louder with each acceptance. “When I opened Harvard as the last one, my sister and I ran to my dog and danced around.”
McFarland will graduate as the valedictorian of his class at Stanton College Preparatory School, a public school with about 1,500 students in Jacksonville, at a rescheduled ceremony now tentatively set for July. An exceptional student who enjoys writing, he has a weighted 4.98 GPA. Because of his interest in languages, his course load his senior year included classes in French, Spanish and Arabic.
“I’m very much self-motivated and driven,” he said, noting that he lived with his mother, Donabel Santiago, who is originally from the Philippines, and his sister, 15, and brother, 21. “I never wanted to add any additional stress to her life as she’s already had to sacrifice so much, so I learned to be really independent at a young age.”
The Duval County Public Schools announced McFarland’s Ivy acceptances on Twitter last week with an all-caps message: “CONGRATULATIONS!”
The district added that McFarland was “the newest member of a very exclusive club: The ‘I Was Accepted into Every Ivy League University In The Country Club.’ ” The post was accompanied by a photo of a smiling McFarland holding a small Yale pennant and a “Welcome to Yale” brochure.
His acceptance letters were not limited to the Ivy League. In all, McFarland was accepted at 17 colleges and universities. They include Duke University, Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, according to the Duval County Public Schools. He also landed several full scholarships, including to Florida State University and the University of Florida.
“When he called me yelling, I just became so happy, cried, and was so very proud,” Santiago, a cardiac sonographer, recalled.
“I never doubted Craig would be accepted into all these schools,” she said, adding, “I was so very proud and happy.”
Visits to college campuses have been limited because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving McFarland, like other high school seniors, to rely on virtual online tours.
“The only metrics I’ve really had to narrow my college list are these virtual campus tours and getting in touch with current students,” he said.
“The biggest challenge to me,” he added, “is just all the unknown and uncertainty of the regions that all these really good schools are in. I have never been anywhere in the United States outside of Florida, so I have no clue how the weather, people and environment are in New England and California.”
So which Class of 2024 class will he join? Most students make a final selection by May 1.
McFarland has not made a decision, but he has narrowed his list to four: Florida State University, Harvard, Stanford University and Yale. He said he planned to study biochemistry and linguistics, but was not sure whether he wanted to go into law or medicine, perhaps working with Doctors Without Borders.
“I know for a fact that wherever I go,” he said, “I do hope to do the most good.”