Most families find it tough to get one kid off to college, whether it’s slogging through the selection process, figuring out finances or navigating the emotions of a major life transition.
Now, imagine all that times five.
That was reality for the Powell family of Jeffersontown, Kentucky, whose 18-year-old quintuplets—Jackson, Jacob, Chloe, Ella and Samuel—all began their first year at Bellarmine
If that makes your head spin, here’s another kicker: They made it look easy.
All five came to Bellarmine with hefty financial-aid packages they earned from being excellent students. Most of them brought in college credits that they earned online. They all work—full time in
the summer—and bought and pay for their own cars.
The quints, who graduated high school from the Christian Educational Consortium, say that being from such a large family worked to their advantage. They push each other to achieve.
“Having five siblings made us super competitive, but in a good way, with grades, ACT scores and sports and stuff,” Ella said.
Their mother, Stephanie Powell, said that she and their father, Stephen Powell, also helped to set the stage for college success with high expectations and constant encouragement.
“We set expectations early: We can’t afford to send five to college,” Stephanie said. “We knew they’d all thrive in college. So we encouraged it, we definitely gave them a good education
to help them. For years, we prepped them. ‘You’ve got to work hard; you’ve got to get the scholarships. We’ll do what we can to help you, but you’ve got to bear the brunt of it.’ We put the responsibility
on them enough to make them work harder.”
Bellarmine Bound, and Bound, and Bound, and …
The quints didn’t originally plan to go to the same college. Each weighed options both local and regional, public and private. In the end, Bellarmine made the most sense for each of them,
“We needed somewhere affordable since there are five of us,” Chloe said. “It ended up that Bellarmine gives really good scholarships.”
They each earned a combination of Bellarmine’s many financial-aid offerings, with Chloe earning the largest package: $45,755 from seven different scholarships and grants.
“We really liked Bellarmine on our tour. It just felt like we weren’t a number.”
They also earned scholarships from their employers--Chick-fil-A for Ella, Chloe and Samuel, and Culver’s Restaurant for Jacob and Jackson.
“Bellarmine was cheaper than other places, so it was a no-brainer,” Ella said. “They have a really good nursing program for me. It fit everyone’s major.”
Jackson will join Ella in studying nursing. Jacob is going into computer engineering, while Samuel and Chloe plan to pursue business administration and roll into the early entry MBA program, which will
allow them to earn a bachelor’s degree and an MBA in 5 years.
The family agreed that campus life felt like the right fit, too.
“We wanted smaller classrooms,” Choe said. “We really liked Bellarmine on our tour. It just felt like we weren’t a number.”
Chloe is interested in Bellarmine’s study abroad program. Samuel likes Bellarmine’s internship guarantee.
“Business administration is a broad major, so an internship can help me narrow down what I want to do in my career,” he said.
Stephanie said she didn’t push the quints toward any college in particular, but she is pleased with their choice. “I think it’s pretty awesome,” she said. “I
did not think they would all go to Bellarmine. But there’s the small classes, easier campus and all kinds of things Bellarmine offers. We are very happy.”
The Powells are the first surviving set of quintuplets born in Kentucky. Quints are extremely rare; fewer than 20 sets are born in the U.S. each year. Jacob and Jackson are identical
twins, while the others are fraternal.
“The joke used to be, people would say, ‘We haven’t seen quintuplets,’ and we’d say, ‘Well, we hadn’t either,’” Stephanie said.
But when asked how they feel about being so special, the quints shrug it off as normal life for them.
“The only impressive thing to me was our mom being pregnant with five; that must have been so hard,” Samuel said.
Stephanie said there were trying times, like navigating the terrible twos and easing into the teenage years. But their family and their church family at Southeast Christian helped immensely, she said. Stephen worked
as a photographer, currently at their church’s newspaper. Stephanie stayed home with the kids and homeschooled them but now works as a nurse. The quints also have a 9-year-old brother, Henry.
"One challenge in a big family is spending quality time with each child,” Stephanie said. “We have always had a lot of fun as a family, but Steve and I have also tried to be intentional with connecting with each of
our children individually. They are all very unique and so parenthood looks different for each child. Staying busy with good activities like church and sports has also been super helpful.”
The quints look back at growing up as a daily party, with never a dull moment.
“We were always together in the basement, playing dodgeball, making up all these games,” Chloe said. “We’d slide down chairs in life jackets. We just had a ball.”
The family’s nadir came when Jacob was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a type of blood cancer, when the quints were 12. He endured five months of chemo.
It was scary, and the family, who were accustomed to always being together, found it hard to be apart with Jacob in the hospital.
“I try not to think about it,” Chloe said.
The treatments were successful, and Jacob has been cancer-free for four years.
The experience made Jackson and Ella want to go into nursing. “It made me NOT want to do that,” Jacob joked.
Ultimately, the quints say they’re ready for life at Bellarmine and working toward their future careers.
“I just want to get started,” Chloe said.