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Chibuike Uwakwe has some decisions to make.
The Fike High School senior has so many acceptance letters from prestigious universities around the country that he is having to choose which of the nation’s top universities he will attend in the fall.
“I am surprised that so many schools would accept me,” said Chibuike, called Chibby by his friends and family. “I applied to 12 schools not realizing that I would get into all of them, so I think that surprises me.”
These aren’t run-of-the-mill halls of higher learning.
“The tops I am looking at are Yale, Harvard and Princeton,” Chibby said. “But in terms of scholarships, N.C. State is still in the mix because of the Park Scholarship. I still might go to State.”
Chibby will make his decision in part based on the scholarships and financial aid the universities are offering.
Already, he has been offered full rides at N.C. State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UNC-Charlotte and substantial scholarships at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago and Columbia University in New York City.
The 18-year-old knows he wants to work in the medical field as a surgeon.
‘OFF THE CHARTS’
In terms of the number of invitations from prestigious universities, Fike High School counselor Debra Rogers said Chibby is “off the charts.”
“I think what it says about him is that he has really taken advantage of every opportunity that is available to him both in our community and outside the community across the state,” Rogers said. “He is dual-enrolled in the Fike International Baccalaureate program and with the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.”
He was named a Conrad Innovator with the National Entrepreneurship Competition through the science and math school.
Chibby got connected to Duke University as a research intern and from that, he coordinated the co-founding of a Type 2 diabetes prevention program at Fike.
“He sort of maxed out everything he could do here in Wilson County and then reached beyond Wilson County,” Rogers said. “He really has just applied himself in every possible realm to challenge himself and feed his intellect.”
In the IB program, the National Merit Commended Scholar has been with a group of the same students three-quarters of the day for two years.
“They are close,” Rogers said. “I think they are all supportive of each other, and I think they are all good at supporting each other at the things they are trying to achieve. I think he is both very bright and really motivated. He works hard and strives to apply himself in a variety of areas. He is very, very hardworking. He’s up there. He is very, very strong. He does music. He does athletics. He does all these academic things.”
So what’s Chibby’s secret sauce?
“I think one of the main things is just being very intellectually curious,” Chibby said. “In all my courses and all of the things I do in school, I am always seeking an intellectual opportunity, so that might be through science and math, or just doing the IB program, taking courses in things that I know I am interested in and things that I know will increase my intellectual curiosity.”
Chibby said he just wants to realize his full potential as a person.
‘FIND YOUR PASSIONS’
Chibby’s parents, Ijeoma and Evan Uwakwe, came from Nigeria.
“I am the first generation in the United States,” Chibby said. “Being successful means being able to realize my full potential.”
Chibby said it’s important to be well-rounded.
“Having the full package, I think that allows someone to contribute the best through the college community,” Chibby said. “I also think it is important to have certain places that you are very strong in so that you are not just a jack-of-all-trades. It is important to have strong areas, but it is good to have a little dabble in everything.”
Chibby said it’s vital to have a good command of the English language for success when applying for college.
“That is a huge chunk of your test scores,” Chibby said. “And then in terms of writing and speaking, writing is a huge part of your essays, and you should be able to show yourself through the essays because that’s usually the only way the admissions committee will be able to see you or be able to understand who you are.”
Chibby said many human endeavors and his own endeavors are aligned.
“Pursuing growth and also development and always working to develop myself and contributing to a greater goal in the community, those are aligned as well,” Chibby said.
Chibby said it’s important to use his talent and privilege to help others.
“I think that goes down to morals and ethics and just what you believe is the purpose in life,” said Chibby, a recipient of the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award. “That’s what I believe the purpose in life is, helping others.”
Chibby’s advice to other students is to find their passion in what they really like to do.
“When you find your passions, you can take it to the next level and do things that are not the norm,” Chibby said.
Chibby said one of his passions is music, which he calls a universal language.
Chibby’s talents were on display April 6 when he performed the Warsaw Concerto by Richard Addinsell at a dinner recital at the ProMusic Conservatory in Wilson. Two days earlier he had joined the Fike chorus in an Atlanta competition where he won top honors as the group’s accompanist.
It amazes Rogers that Chibby has juggled all the applications, interviews, classes and extracurricular activities.
“I think that speaks not just to intellect, which clearly is there, but to sheer perseverance and fortitude. That is a pretty big part of why he is where he is right now,” Rogers said. “I’m sure he does get overwhelmed and exhausted at times, but he manages to keep his wits about him and manages it all with a grace beyond his years.”