Three sophomores admitted to NCSSM, but doubts remain


Most Northwest students have high hopes for their future. Some take AP classes, and some participate in multiple clubs–all with hopes of getting into a great college. This year, three sophomores–Evan Deng, Matthew Oh and Serenity Phillips–have taken those goals one step further by applying and being accepted by the North Carolina School of Science and Math (NCSSM), a two-year, public residential high school in Durham. NCSSM has a heavy focus on STEM education and serves highly talented high school juniors and seniors.

I’m really going to miss my friends and all my clubs I participate in.”

— Serenity Phillips

“My older friend did NCSSM and I wanted to try it out,” Phillips said. “I applied and I really didn’t expect to get in, but I did.”

The application process took place over winter break and involved taking the SAT or ACT, writing essays and getting teacher and counselor recommendations. Admission is highly competitive and is akin to the process of admission to elite colleges.

“I got 1540 on my SAT,” Oh said. “Also, there were not a lot of people who applied from my district, so my application was like God-tier to them.”

Deng also scored extremely high on a standardized test, and he thinks that helped with his application.

“I got a 34 on the ACT,” Deng said. “I retook the ACT and SAT a lot of times before I got the 34–I took both the SAT and ACT twice.”

Deng reflected on why he chose to retake the tests so many times.

“I didn’t think my scores were good enough, because my brother applied when he was a sophomore and he was rejected,” Deng said. “And most of my credentials were worse than my brother’s, so I figured the only way I could stand out was through standardized testing.”

NCSSM is residential, so the students will no longer attend Northwest should they choose to go.

The applicants applied in January and anxiously waited for their decision on April 1.

“At first I thought it was an April Fool’s prank,” Oh said. “I thought I would get an email on April 2nd saying, ‘Yeet, you’re not really in!’ But it was actually an acceptance email.”

The students who were accepted were understandably excited about having been accepted, but a question lingered: Do I leave my home to go to a boarding school?

Oh’s doubts seem to have kept him from choosing to attend.

“I’m not going for multiple reasons,” Oh said. “I heard rumors about drug use in the dorms, and I’m not about that life. Also, I would have to take a sport or P.E. again–and again, not about that (life). Also, I’ve already finished my (foreign) language, and they’d make me take another.”

In contrast, other students have decided that their admission is an opportunity too good to pass up, despite having to leave friends and family behind.

“I’m going because my mom really wants me to,” Phillips said. “I’m really going to miss my friends and all my clubs I participate in, but I want to get into Duke and this is a great way to make me more competitive.”

But no matter whether they decide to attend, one thing will remain true: the opportunity is truly an honor, and they have made Northwest proud.