Trey Sexton was one of the fortunate ones, and he knows it.
After all, being a brilliant student is not the only thing it takes to get into Harvard.
Sexton received multiple scholarships and grants through Glen Rose High School’s Senior Recognition program as the 2015 valedictorian.
He made the decision to attend Harvard University — a destination few students realistically consider. The only other school he seriously took into consideration was the University of Texas.
UT accepted him in October 2014. His acceptance notification from Harvard didn’t come until March 2015 — after he had already picked out his housing in Austin.
“I didn’t start looking at colleges like Harvard until the second semester of my junior year,” said Sexton, who will be entering his junior year at Harvard this fall. “Once I had been accepted to Harvard, the decision was not really stressful. Up until the acceptance — that was stressful. I still think I would have loved being at UT.”
Sexton said that Harvard only accepts about 1,000 out of every 31,000 applicants.
When he opened his acceptance letter from Harvard, he was speaking with a GRHS math teacher, Shayla Hoffman.
“I asked her, ‘What do I do now?’ It was surrealistic to have that opportunity. It was really a cool feeling,” Sexton recalled. “All of us (at Harvard) have to stop and remember how badly we wanted to be here.”
Sexton said Harvard’s tuition is approximately $35,000 per academic year.
“I received a faculty grant to get to where it’s affordable,” said Sexton, who is concentrating on economic studies with a secondary in government. “It’s all done based on the financial situation of your family. The average student gets $25,000 off. It’s very competitive with a state school.”
Despite the radically different culture and weather in New England, Sexton the Texan seems to have made a smooth adjustment — something his friend, former GRHS Band mate and 2017 valedictorian Cassi Niedziela, will be dealing with when she moves to Manhattan to attend New York University this fall.
“She was always one of the friendliest people you would encounter,” Sexton said of Niedziela. “She was always sweet and smiling, and humble and friendly.”
While still attending GRHS, he was also friends with this year’s salutatorian Matt Willis, who excelled in football, track and field and powerlifting in addition to his classroom achievements.
“That is so demanding to be in athletics and also to remain competitive enough to be in the top of your class,” Sexton said of Willis.
The natives of Massachusetts presented a different type of cultural landscape than what Sexton was used to as fourth-generation Somervell County resident.
“My first year was challenging academically and culturally,” said Sexton, who lives on the Harvard campus in Cambridge. “Everyone’s a type A personality. It’s exhausting.”
Then there’s the weather that all residents of Massachusetts have to face.
“If it’s not snowing, it’s raining,” Sexton joked.
But, he added, “I have gotten really acclimated to the climate and the culture here, and I’m starting to really enjoy it. I’m starting to figure out the neighborhood.”
After having been accustomed to being the top student in his class at GRHS for several years, Sexton also had to adjust to a new reality in his Harvard classrooms.
He said he realized, “I’m not going to be the top one in most classes.”
Although he is blending in with the New England culture, he also said, “I lived in Somervell County my whole life. I’m still very attached to Glen Rose.”
When he starts searching for the right occupational fit after leaving Harvard, he is already thinking about a possible return to Texas.
It’s where his parents, Tricia and Brent Sexton, still reside. He has a brother who works in Dallas, and he also has cousins in that area.
Texas is calling his name.
“Right now, I’m pretty set on returning to Texas. Probably the Dallas area,” Sexton said. “Where I see myself is in business management, or finance — the movement of money.”
Sexton’s advice to young students is to start planning for college as soon as possible.
“It’s crucial — as soon as you start thinking about that — the race starts then,” said Sexton, who is headed for a 2019 graduation date. “Your grades have to be on your mind. You have to pursue things you’re passionate about.
“You have to figure out which (college) you will be happy at, and which one best prepares you.”