Tough Call: St. Mary’s Senior Hannah McCormack to Choose Between Harvard and MIT

Hannah McCormack


Coke or Pepsi? McDonald’s or Burger King? Red or white?

Decisions, decisions. We all have to make them and some are more difficult and have a greater impact than others.

Hannah McCormack finds herself faced with an almost incomprehensible decision, one of which the vast majority of high school students could only dream.

Harvard or MIT?

McCormack, the No. 1-ranked student in the senior class at St. Mary’s, has been accepted to both of those prestigious academic institutions – along with many other outstanding colleges, including Cornell, Johns Hopkins and Amherst.

“I’m really grateful to have this opportunity,” said McCormack, a Gloucester resident who transferred to St. Mary’s after spending her freshman year at Bishop Fenwick. “It’s going to be hard to say no to one of them, but I know I will get to go to a really great school.”

While McCormack is keeping all of her options open – she also got into WPI, Wentworth and Georgia Tech – she has pretty much narrowed it down to Harvard and MIT, located only 1 ½ miles apart in Cambridge. She will spend a weekend on both campuses before making her final decision by May 1.

To put her accomplishment in perspective:  Harvard received 34,295 applications this year and accepted 2,023, or 5.9 percent. MIT received 18,357 applications and accepted 1,419, or 7.7 percent.

“We are extremely proud of Hannah and all that she has accomplished,” said St. Mary’s Principal Dr. Mark DiFabio. “The options she has are testament to her innate ability and willingness to challenge herself throughout her time at St. Mary’s. We know she will continue to excel at whichever college she chooses.”

Since McCormack has long been interested in studying engineering, that would seem to give MIT the inside track, but she said the idea of a more liberal-arts-based curriculum appeals to her as well.

“I enjoy studying all subjects – history, English, science, math,” she said. “I haven’t found one I don’t like. Being able to go to Harvard and take liberal arts is also attractive.” And, she added, Harvard is in the process of upgrading its engineering program.

As for MIT, she attended a summer engineering program there last year, so she is already somewhat familiar with the school. It is arguably the best school in the world for what she wants to study.

McCormack is the captain of the Science League and Senior Bowl teams at St. Mary’s, as well as a two-sport track athlete (hurdles). This year, she participated in the school’s first robotics team, a joint venture with Lynn Tech, attending competitions at UNH and Northeastern.

“I’ve always been interested in robotics,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d get the chance to do it in high school, so this year was like a dream. I loved it. I’m so glad St. Mary’s added that as an option.”

McCormack was last year’s student winner of the William F. Connell Service Award. Named for a 1955 graduate who became the school’s biggest benefactor, the award is presented in his memory annually to an alumnus, faculty/staff and student in recognition of consistent and exemplary service.

“Hannah embodies the spirit of Bill Connell with her work ethic, humility and commitment to her family and faith,” said St. Mary’s Head of School Grace Cotter Regan. “We are proud of Hannah’s success, but equally impressed by her as a young woman for others.”

McCormack is the second-youngest of Michael and Dee McCormack’s six children. Her older siblings went to Georgetown, Syracuse, RPI and MassArt. Her younger sister, Aislinn, is a sophomore at St. Mary’s.

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