Grant Avalon won the college admissions lottery.
The 2013 Mark Morris High School graduate was accepted into some of the nation’s most prestigious schools: Stanford, Yale, Duke, Vanderbilt and Rice universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Virginia, Harvey Mudd College and Claremont McKenna College.
Grant, son of Karl and Angie Avalon of Longview, said he narrowed his choices to Yale, MIT and Stanford, then chose Stanford because its academic programs are among the best in the country — especially for his major interests, physics and economics.
The social character of the California university also fit his temperament — “I’m a West Coast guy,” he said.
“I’m definitely nervous,” said Grant, 18, who leaves for orientation next week. “It’s pretty exciting.”
His first year will be fully paid by several scholarships, and his costs for the ensuing years are “in the same ballpark as if I were going to LCC,” he said. “It wasn’t the best deal I was offered, but it was pretty close — too close to pass up on.”
He hasn’t settled on a major.
“I’ve always been interested in physics,” particularly in astrophysics, he said, and after taking a series of economics classes at Lower Columbia College he realized “I think like an economist.”
A saxophone player, he also wants to play in the Stanford band. “They have a reputation for being wacky.”
How does a small-town boy with a 3.99 GPA get accepted into universities with the some of highest admissions standards in the nation? (According to the Washington Post, Stanford is the toughest, accepting only 5.69 percent of its 38,828 applicants; Yale is No. 3 and MIT is No. 6.)
A big factor in Grant’s success is his natural curiosity, said Steve Kloke, Mark Morris history teacher.
“He’s always asking questions,” Kloke said. “In education, that’s what you want: Learning for the sake of learning. That’s really what kind of stood out. ... He’s constantly seeking a challenge.”
And “his critical thinking skills are through the roof,” Kloke said.
Craig Peterson, who taught Grant in fourth and fifth grade at Northlake Elementary and oversaw online courses he took during high school, said Grant’s love of learning stood out early. “He was always the one who wanted to be challenged.”
But he’s also well-rounded, loves sports and “values his recess as much as his education,” Peterson said.
Grant, who mentors younger kids, has this advice for students:
• Take challenging courses instead of going for the easy A.
“The only way you can learn about yourself is to take the toughest courses you can.”
• Take every opportunity to expand your learning.
“If you max out your school’s curriculum, find the courses somewhere else and keep learning,” he said. “Regardless of where you go to college, it will keep helping you in your future.”
He combed the web for advance-placement courses and research programs, some of which he took for credit, others to learn the material, and some just to test his knowledge. He also spent his summers in academic research programs.
• Don’t limit yourself to in-state colleges.
“If you’re looking for scholarships, a lot of the best financial deals will be out-of-state,” he said. “A lot of people get locked into few schools, but they could get a better education, a better bargain and more personalized attention elsewhere.”
Kloke said another factor in Grant’s success is his reputation for humility.
“He doesn’t come across as an arrogant kid,” he said. “He’s had some good parenting, too, that has helped him be a good person.”