The call went out about 2 p.m. yesterday: Ryan Harrison, Jasmine Jones, Kim Smith, please come to the principal's office.
"You're in trouble now," said Michael Frederick, assistant principal at Polytechnic Institute. Then the three students got the good news: All have been accepted by the Johns Hopkins University as part of its new Baltimore Scholars program, which waives tuition for city high school graduates.
"Congratulations," Principal Barney J. Wilson said. "We're very proud."
Hopkins also accepted a fourth Poly senior, Tam Nguyen, who was absent yesterday and received the news by phone.
The university started the Baltimore Scholars program this year because it wants more public school students and more lower-income and minority students. Applicants must have attended city schools and lived in the city for at least three years.
Tuition is $30,140
The scholarship covers tuition -- $30,140 a year -- but does not include room and board.
Last year, Hopkins did not offer early admission to any Baltimore public school students, university officials said. During the regular admissions process, the university accepted five city students.
Poly is one of four high schools nationwide -- including Centennial High School in Howard County -- with four students who were offered early admission to Hopkins this week.
Nearly 720 students applied early to Hopkins, the most ever at the university, said John Latting, director of undergraduate admissions. Three hundred and seventy-nine were accepted.
The four Baltimore students are all honors students and scored more than 1,100 on their SATs.
"They were competing with the best kids from all over the world," Latting said.
After taking some deep breaths and wiping away a few tears yesterday afternoon, the three Poly students said they were relieved. Hopkins had promised to reply to early applicants by yesterday, and "my friends were sick of me worrying about it," said Jones, an Ashburton resident who wants to major in electrical engineering and child psychology.
Although all of the students grew up in Baltimore, none seriously considered Hopkins until recently. They said they were intimidated by the cost and the school's prestige.
"Nobody thinks they can go there," Smith said. "It seems so far away." Smith, a Hampden resident, is a published poet and wants to major in evolutionary biology and philosophy.
'It's a great deal'
The students said the scholarship program encouraged them to apply. "It's a great deal," Jones said.
As they slowly absorbed the news, the three also realized that they would have the benefit of living close to home.
"Free laundry every other week," said Harrison, a Hamilton resident who plans to major in biomedical engineering. Harrison has also been accepted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology but said, "I'm going to Hopkins."
Hopkins officials say there is no limit to the number of "Baltimore Scholars" and that they hope to accept more for next year's freshman class and subsequent classes. "The current class will help us recruit successors," Latting said. "We hope this starts a pipeline."
Poly administrators took turns congratulating and hugging the students. They also had a request. "You need to call your parents," Frederick said.