Tanishq Abraham has discovered a supernova, is a member of Mensa, has had essays published by NASA, and his IQ ranks in the 99.9th percentile. Ironically, he’s dealing with college rejections.
The reason? Tanishq is a child prodigy. At just nine years old, most community colleges near his home in Sacramento, Calif., won’t enroll him as a full-time student because he is too young. Going to college is Tanishq’s most pressing desire, and currently, the battle his parents are constantly fighting.
That dilemma is what prompted the Abrahams to partake in a new YouTube series called “Prodigies,” which sheds light on the life of exceptional young minds. The series was created by a startup called THNKR, which launched its channel July 2.
“This is a child who really loves learning and really wants to be there and this education system is telling him he can’t (learn),” his mother Dr. Taji Abraham, who began homeschooling her son last year, told India-West.
Together with his parents Taji and Bijou, Tanishq has applied to junior and four-year colleges in the Bay Area, including UC Davis and UC Berkeley, over the last year and a half. So far, the young Indian American boy has only been able to take a few classes at the local American River College and online at other universities, and is given last priority for enrollment. In all the classes he has taken – which range from astronomy to nutrition – Tanishq has gotten A’s.
“It’s a waiting game, it’s a suspense game, every semester,” Taji said. “Will Tanishq get into this class? Can he take this course?”
The four-year universities his parents approached require an associate’s degree before they can accept him, which means going to community college first.
“It’s a first situation for everyone, so they’re always careful and cautious to break norms,” she explained. “They say, ‘we don’t want to go against our student admission policies.’”
“‘Why can’t I just be in college, what’s wrong with me?’” she said her son asks her. “Sometimes, when he says that, he’s very intense. He’s tearing up — you can see the anger and sadness coming up on his face, and as a parent you just feel so helpless. This isn’t like ‘why didn’t I get an Xbox,’ this is ‘why didn’t I get admission into a college.’”
To say that he has impressed his professors at American River College is an understatement. “Tanishq retains difficult concepts better than any other student that I’ve actually ever had,” said Steve Sterling, Tanishq’s geology professor at American River College, in the YouTube video.
Dr. Paulo Alfonso, another professor in the video, taught Tanishq astronomy. “He ended up in the class being the student with the highest grade,” he said. “How many people at the age of seven or eight can discuss the expansion of the universe? He is different in a positive way.”
Besides being super intelligent, Taji says Tanishq is a happy and loving kid with the same emotions as any 8-year-old, albeit with a few quirks.
“He doesn’t like Indian food much because of the spices,” the 44-year-old mother told India-West. “He is very sensitive to taste,” noting that child geniuses tend to be hypersensitive in other aspects of their lives. He also hates sleeping, and starts asking his parents all kinds of intellectual questions to delay going to bed.
Tanishq isn’t the only special one in his family. His sister, six-year-old Tiara, is also in Mensa, reads fourth-grade books, and is very athletic. “We think we also have a sports star in the house,” Taji said with a laugh. She’s one of Tanishq’s biggest fans, patiently going with him to his choir rehearsals and weekend conferences.
Taji added that her husband, Bijou, probably also would have been identified as a child prodigy. He grew up in New York and attended the Bronx High School of Science, a prestigious magnet school, and was a teaching assistant at Ohio State University by age 15. Taji herself is a veterinarian who was working on her Ph.D. at UC Davis when she had Tanishq. Her mother, who lives in New Jersey, was one of the first female veterinarians in India to get a Ph.D.
Tanishq and Tiara haven’t been to India yet, but they do know Malayalam.
“One time we were sitting in the car, and I asked Bijou something in Malayalam, but I didn’t want Tanishq to hear about it, and he replies back,” she said. “That completely shocked us.”
India-West asked Tanishq a few questions, excerpts of which follow:
Q: What is your favorite thing to do?
Q: What is the hardest part of school?
A: I think there’s not that much that’s hard. I don’t have anything that’s hard.
Q: What is your biggest dream?
A: To become a famous scientist, and discover and invent many things
Q: How do you feel when you discover something new?
A: Excited and really happy.
Q: How do you feel when people ask you for your autograph?
A: Happy (giggle).