During his senior year of high school. Taran Richardson was accepted to 65 colleges and was offered more than $1 million in scholarship money. Now, the 18-year-old is preparing to start his first semester of college from his mom's house in Indianapolis.
Richardson enrolled at Howard University, a Historically Black College in Washington D.C., but instead of moving out and into the dorms, he'll be joining his classmates for virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's not anything I can’t handle," Richardson told TODAY. "I’d prefer in person, but you have to deal with the cards you're dealt. We are all trying to make the best out of the situation the majority of us are going through."
Richardson said attending Howard has been a dream since he was in elementary school. At first, he was attracted to the fact blue, his favorite color, is one of the school's colors. As he got older, he learned about historically Black colleges and universities and set his sights on Howard.
“After I went to campus this past fall, it sealed the deal for me, them being my No. 1 choice," he said.
Richardson worked hard throughout his high school years, but also made sure to balance his stellar academic record with sports and extracurricular activities.
He played basketball and soccer, ran track and cross country. He was in the National Honor Society, choir, class president, an Eagle Scout and a member of Stop the Violence Indianapolis, among a long list of other activities that made him into the type of well-rounded applicant that 65 colleges wanted on their campuses.
"My mom put me in a lot of immersive programs and sports at an early age and I developed a broad sense of interests from music to sports to community service," he said.
Richardson graduated as salutatorian of his class at Charles A. Tindley Accelerated High School in Indianapolis. Morgan Arthur, who had Richardson as a freshman student and was his senior capstone teacher and school counselor, said he was the type of student who was always eager to learn and grow as a person.
"He has always been the scholar who wants to go above and beyond," she told TODAY. "He'll do some work and check it with you for feedback before it’s due. It’s not so he can get a good grade. It’s so he can do better and be better and that is part of what is."
Richardson plans to study physics and astronomy at Howard. He said he'd love to work for NASA for five to ten years before starting his own astrophysics company.
He's also well aware of the leaders the school has produced, ranging from former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to Sean Combs (P. Diddy) and Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris.
"It’s not foretelling, or it can be, but it’s up to you to make it true. They are pouring out these current leaders now, half decade or decade from now it could be me filling that leadership role," he said. "But it's up to me to uphold that."