Next stop for Snohomish grad: Harvard

  • Sat Jun 9th, 2012 9:06pm
  • News

By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist

Her high school grade point average isn’t perfect.

She considers herself “slightly addicted” to Facebook.

Ask her about third-year French, she’ll tell you it’s “really hard.”

“My favorite thing to do, I really like hanging out with friends — getting into shenanigans,” Gabrielle Wilson said.

That she sounds like a typical student just might come as encouragement to other teens.

Wilson, who will graduate from Snohomish High School on Thursday, had quite a choice when it came time to pick a college.

Late one night at the end of March, she received an email from Harvard College, the undergraduate school at Harvard University. Yep, she got in.

“It was kind of a hard choice,” said Wilson, 18. “Earlier that day, I found out I got into Princeton. And I was ecstatic about Princeton.”

The choice wasn’t that hard.

“One of my mom’s friends said, ‘If you say no to Harvard, everyone will ask you for the rest of your life why you didn’t go to Harvard.’ It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Wilson said.

The daughter of architect Joan Robinett Wilson and Craig Wilson, a lieutenant with the University of Washington Police Department, Gabrielle Wilson believes her college application essay helped her stand out.

“I wrote about diversity, how that’s an influence in your life. I grew up in Snohomish in a multicultural family,” she said.

Her mother’s ancestors immigrated from Europe, and her maternal grandfather moved all over the country while serving in the Marine Corps.

“My dad is black, his family is from the South. Diversity is more than race. My parents were shaped by the places they lived,” she said.

Wilson’s parents both attended the University of Washington. Before Harvard beckoned, she said her father hoped she would be a Husky, too. “He just wanted me to stay close,” Wilson said.

Harvard College, in a statement announcing Wilson’s acceptance, said she was chosen to join 1,600 others in the class of 2016 out of more than 34,000 applicants, and that 21 percent of admitted students are coming from the western and mountain states.

Wilson visited Harvard, which was chartered in 1650, staying on the campus prized for academic excellence and stunning architecture. She wasn’t interviewed by admissions officials there, but did have a meeting with a young Harvard graduate in Seattle.

Before Snohomish High, Wilson attended Riverview Elementary School and Centennial Middle School. In high school, her favorite class was AP biology. Wilson hopes to became a medical doctor, possibly specializing in pediatrics or obstetrics. She has her sights set on the UW School of Medicine.

Her grade point average? “I have a 3.88,” she said. She had a B in French and one semester got a B in AP chemistry.

Wilson said she isn’t eligible for free tuition, room and board. Her grandparents saved for her education by investing in stocks, she said.

A tennis player all four years at Snohomish High, Wilson hopes to continue playing the game, but not on the Harvard team. Academics will be her focus.

Her advice to high school students is simple: Work hard. “Certain classes get boring, but it’s worth it,” she said.

She also studied for the SAT exam using practice books. She took the college-entrance exam three times to improve her score — her best one totaled 2,100.

When she moves to Cambridge, Mass., in August, she’ll miss her parents, her 14-year-old brother Drake, her 6-year-old sister Collette, and the community of Snohomish. She has lived there all her life.

She credits her mother, who attended Georgetown University for a year before finishing at UW, with coaxing her to look at prestigious East Coast schools. She applied to 15 schools, mostly small, liberal arts colleges.

“The Ivy League was a reach-for-the-stars thing,” Wilson said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460,