With no expectations, New York teenager Harold Ekeh applied to 13 colleges, hoping to "maybe" get into Stony Brook University, about an hour east of his home in Elmont, Long Island.
Then, in recent weeks, the cascade of reply letters came pouring in: Harvard. Yes. Yale. Yes. Princeton. Yes. Not only did he get accepted to all of the schools he applied to, those include all eight Ivy League institutions.
"It’s very, like, stunning — it’s like getting hit with a brick, honestly," Ekeh, a 17-year-old senior at Elmont Memorial High School, told NBC News. "When you see congratulations, you’re like, wow your hard work has paid off, definitely."
The straight-A student has accomplished the rare feat of getting into all of the nation's Ivies — crediting his parents' work ethic for setting an example and a desire to strive in his adopted homeland after emigrating from Nigeria 10 years ago.
"I find that I’m very over-involved," said Ekeh, counting advanced placement classes and extracurricular activities, such as science research, school plays and being editor-in-chief of his school newspaper, as filling up his time.
"I do have conflicts that maybe I’ll have this program at the same time as I have another program," he said, "and so it’s hard to choose which one to be involved in."
Whittling down his college prospects was equally difficult.
"I expected to maybe get into Stony Brook, a couple of other safeties, just based upon the SAT and the GPA, but I was still never certain of anything," said Ekeh, who scored a 2270 out of 2400 on his SATs. "There are so many variables taken into consideration in college admissions, so I was never certain of anything at any point."
Ekeh joins another Long Island teenager — Kwasi Enin, the first-generation son of Ghanian immigrants — who also was accepted to all eight Ivies last year. Enin chose Yale.
Ekeh, one of five brothers, said that he wants to study biochemistry and become a neurosurgeon. He's inspired by his grandmother, who began showing symptoms of Alzheimer's when he was 11. He wants to find a cure.
"There’s so many researchers working for Alzheimer's disease right now and many neurogenic disorders that definitely a cure can be found soon," he said.
As for where he's going to college, he isn't quite sure, but would like to stay close to family.
"I’m leaning towards Columbia right now because I’d like to stay in New York City for I guess the rest of my career and work at Mt. Sinai," Ekeh said, adding that America has given his family a life they might never have had in Nigeria.
"Like in America, the opportunities are truly limitless ... so I think that’s what surprised me the most, how amazing the opportunities really are."