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From TCC to the Ivy League in just two semesters

Lauren Harrell

Lauren Harrell dreamed of attending an Ivy League school.

When the rejections poured in for the Granby High School graduate with a 4.86 GPA, she wasn’t daunted. She was determined.

Now that dream is realized after just one year at Tidewater Community College. The 19-year-old earned an associate degree through TCC’s Accelerated Degree Program and will attend Cornell University this fall.

“When I saw the congratulations notice on my admissions portal, I was shocked!” she said. “I ran downstairs to tell my dad, who was working from home because of COVID. We both ran to get my mom, who was on a call. Together we jumped around the kitchen for a long time.”

College was always a priority in the Harrell home. Granby’s International Baccalaureate program, which Harrell attended, offers high achievers in-depth scholastic preparation for college. Yet when Harrell applied to 16 schools, she was rejected by eight.

“I was hoping for Duke or Brown, and that didn’t pan out even with my high GPA,” she said.

Lauren Harrell at her home in Norfolk.

A postcard from TCC about the Accelerated Degree Program (ADP) piqued her interest. Under this option, students can complete the degree in one year — typically mapped out over three semesters. Most of the classes are broken into eight-week sessions.

Last summer, Harrell enrolled.

“Coming to TCC for a year just made sense to me,” she said. “I could live at home, save money on tuition and housing and gain a bit more independence.

 “I was also nervous about the cost of higher education, so saving money on my gen eds was also a benefit.”

Harrell graduated with an Associate of Science in General Studies.  She managed a heavy course load with 26 credits the first semester and 23 the second.

“Taking that course load showed that I could perform well in school and really opened doors for me,” said Harrell, boosted by 12 credits of Advanced Placement courses from high school.

Completing the Accelerated Degree made her an attractive candidate to some of the nation’s top colleges. Cornell ranks 17th nationally in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent rankings of nearly 1,400 schools. Harrell also earned acceptances from University of Virginia, Vanderbilt and William and Mary.

 “The ADP gave me a sense of what it takes to get college done,” Harrell said. “You don’t have anyone holding your hand, and you have to stay on top of your work and be accountable for what you are doing.”

Harrell plans to major in government and international relations at Cornell. She is considering a law career but is also interested in working in public policy at the highest levels.

 “This is probably the most excited I’ve been for school to start,” she said. “I’ve researched classes 50 times. I’m so ready to go.”

Harrell credits Emanuel Chestnut, dean of students on the Norfolk Campus, with helping smooth some bumps along the way.

“The people at the college are what make it special,” she said. “I’ve stressed over plenty of decisions, but I’m confident that I made the right choice starting at TCC.”

The application deadline for the next cohort for the Accelerated Degree is July 31, 2020. Visit here for more information about program. You can also email Meredith Pollard on Norfolk Campus at or Joyce Flowers at the Portsmouth Campus at