Darrin Francois has a big decision to make.
The senior at International High School of New Orleans (IHSNO) has been accepted by over 80 colleges — so far. He tells CNBC Make It that he applied to approximately 100 schools and has been offered a total of $2,614,468 in scholarships so far.
"I just applied, applied, applied. I didn't know how many it was, so once they started to come through the mail, I was like oh my gosh, this many? Then, they started coming more more and more. Now, today, I have 83," Francois told local station WGNO ABC.
Sean Wilson, Head of School at IHSNO, says that Francois began 9th grade as a timid boy but has grown into a humble and hardworking student. The senior earned a 4.24 grade point average, was his school's National Honor Society president and has already taken several college courses.
Now, Francois is spending his free time visiting colleges and has until May to decide where he wants to matriculate. The 17-year-old says he's looking for a school with a diverse student body and a strong criminal justice program. One day, he hopes to be a judge.
"Eighty-three colleges? That is wonderful, that is a blessing from God. I'm very proud, a proud mother to see my son go forward into his success and go forward into his goals," Francois' mother Bridget tells WGNO.
"My mom did not get a chance to actually attend the university of her choice, so I'm doing this for the both of us," Francois adds.
The teen says that says the secret to his success has been perseverance and believing in himself. "Just stay true to yourself, if you know you're going to get in, you're going to get in," he recommends to fellow students.
Many of Francois' peers at IHSNO seem to have taken his advice to heart. According to IHSNO, about a dozen of students in the class of 2018 have each received 20 or more college acceptance letters.
"The kudos really goes out to our teachers who work with our students as well as the counselors who ensure that students are being pestered and hounded to make sure students are making applications to more than one institution," says Wilson. "The mere number is nothing to fret over, it is just part of the process.
IHSNO is an open-enrollment charter school with 565 students and claims to be the only high school in New Orleans to offer the rigorous International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP), which requires students learn a foreign language. IHSNO offers several foreign language courses including Arabic, Chinese-Mandarin, French, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Wilson says that IHSNO and Francois' success exemplifies the fact that high schools do not need to be selective in order to show great student outcomes.
"As an open admission high school, students come to us from various schools throughout the metro New Orleans area and we don't necessarily know the academic acumen of students coming through the building," he says. "It is a bit more work from teachers, administrators and community, but with collaboration between those respective groups we are able to provide students an opportunity to experience the rigor of what traditionally would be a selective environment."
Hard work, says the pincipal, can help any student meet their fullest potential. "You have to apply yourself, and you have to apply to those universities and colleges to cast that net large and wide in order to get the success that Darrin has had," says Wilson.
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