When Andrianna Ayiotis begins classes as a 16-year-old freshman at the University of Southern California next fall, the Fairfax County schools student won’t yet have her driver’s license.

A junior at George C. Marshall High School, she was one of only 40 students accepted into a program offered at USC for mature and academically advanced rising seniors who are ready to start college early. In addition, the majority of her tuition will be covered through scholarships and grants.

Tina Ayiotis, 49, attributes her daughter’s success to Fairfax County schools and teachers in the gifted and talented program.

“As a single mother, I could not have asked for a better educational experience for my child,” Tina Ayiotis said.

Andrianna Ayiotis said her success can be traced to her biggest failure: not getting into the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

Andrianna Ayiotis poses for a portrait while volunteering at the AFCEA NOVA's Valentine's Ball on February 9, 2013. (Family Photo)

“I cried for three hours,” Andrianna said of the day she was denied admission to the elite magnet school.

Tina Ayiotis described it as one of her worst days of parenting.

“I held her as she collapsed, sobbing on the floor,” Tina Ayiotis said. “But I’m really happy she didn’t get in. It’s one of those things you are devastated by, when you think you want something and you don’t get it. But now she’s thrilled to be going to USC.”

Andrianna Ayiotis said going to Marshall helped her discover new interests. She plays double bass in the jazz band and philharmonic orchestra. She learned Chinese. She acted in school plays. Along the way, she achieved straight A’s in the International Baccalaureate program and earned a perfect score on the math section of the SAT. Overall, she ranks in the 99th percentile of her peers on the SAT.

At Thomas Jefferson, Andrianna said, she would have been “just another fish in the pond. . . . At another high school like Marshall, I stand out better.”

Colleges took notice. Her sophomore year, she was offered admission to Bard College at Simon’s Rock, a college for young scholars in Great Barrington, Mass. Then USC wrote her a letter, encouraging her to apply.

Now Andrianna is getting ready to move across the country and begin her adult life.

She talks about pursuing a doctorate degree in biomedical engineering, researching how to make tiny chips to fit inside the human brain to monitor for neurological disorders and strokes. After that, maybe she’ll go to medical school.