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Many high school students would dream of receiving even a handful of college acceptance letters, but incoming Wharton freshman Arianna Alexander had to turn down 25 other offers of admission when she chose to attend Penn.

Alexander, who recently graduated from Kenwood Academy High School in Chicago, was accepted to 26 colleges, including six Ivy League schools, this year. In addition, she received over $3 million in scholarship offers and won a Gates Millennium Scholarship, an annual award given to 1,000 high-achieving minority students across the world.

Alexander’s story gained some significant media attention earlier this month, when it rose to the top of the “trending” feature on Facebook. It also garnered media coverage from outlets ranging from local Chicago ABC and CBS stations to British newspapers such as The Independent and the Daily Mail.

Alexander originally applied to 29 schools; although she had some guidance from school counselors, completing so many applications took her a significant amount of time and effort.

“It was a very long process. I started early, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been; it wasn’t stress-free, but it wasn’t as stressful as it would have been if I had started in October or November like a lot of people do,” she said. “I just stayed focused, worked hard and was organized.”

When she heard back and found out that so many colleges had accepted her, Alexander said that she was glad that the effort she had put into the applications had been rewarded.

“It was a lot of excitement. It was surprising, but at the same time I did work really hard and a lot of people supported me, so I was happy that all of the hard work paid off,” Alexander said.

There was one acceptance letter that she was most excited to receive, however — the one from Penn, a school that she said she had wanted to attend since one of her freshman year teachers told her about Wharton.

“He made me research it as a homework assignment, and from there, I fell in love with Penn, so there was no other school for me to really even think about — it wasn’t much of a choice,” she said.

Alexander hopes to eventually open four restaurants, and she said that Wharton’s strong entrepreneurship program attracted her to the school. She also found the ability to pursue a double concentration to be very appealing. In addition, Alexander enjoyed how intimate Penn’s campus and community felt despite their size when she attended Quaker Days this spring.

Alexander said that she is excited to meet and get to know peers with interests and ambitions similar to hers at Penn.

“I’m looking forward to the new environment, because I have been in Chicago for 18 years of my life and [have] really known the same people for 10 years, so just going into a new environment in a place where I have more similarities with the people I’ll be meeting [is exciting],” she said. “Just making those connections, I feel like, will be just as important as getting a degree in entrepreneurship,” she said.

She added that she hopes that the news coverage her achievement received will help brighten the public’s view of her home city and that it motivates others to try to accomplish what she did.

Her list of acceptances should hopefully bring greater awareness to hard-working students in Chicago, Alexander said.

“If I can do it, somebody else can, so it might be big news now, but who knows, next year around this time you could hear a similar story from someone else maybe from Atlanta or New York,” she added.

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