Kim and Darrin Wade always wanted their four sons to get a good education, but they never imagined their children would make headlines. That’s exactly what happened when quadruplets Aaron, Nick, Nigel, and Zach all received offers from Harvard and Yale, plus dozens of other colleges. The “Wade Quads” were suddenly national news, and when they all picked Yale the media frenzy grew. For Kim and Darrin, what mattered most was their sons’ education.
The couple had spent 18 years helping their boys strive for excellence, and when the quadruplets graduated from Yale in 2021 with degrees ranging from computer science and psychology to chemical engineering and economics, it was a joyful milestone for the entire family.
Earlier this year, as part of our commitment to family partnership and sharing strategies to nurture excellence, Kim and Darrin Wade joined us for a conversation about their parenting journey – the successes, the challenges, and the lessons learned.
Get an Early Start
The Wades are big believers in parents taking the educational reins early, introducing their sons to spatial relationships, colors, and music soon after they were born. “We started from the day they came home from the hospital,” says Darrin. “As they got older, we moved on to flashcards, spelling, and counting,” he says. “We always had something for them to do that was academic, and we tried to make sure it held their interest.”
The couple consistently exposed their sons to music, educational videos, and different languages as they grew. They even gave caregivers a curriculum to follow. “Kids are never too little to be exposed to those things,” says Kim.
The impact of their methods was evident once the boys entered school. Instilling a love of learning early and often primed their sons to push themselves in class and embrace challenges. “I never heard any of my guys say, ‘I can’t do that,’” says Darrin. “We never had to pressure them to do their homework. I think everything Kim and I did played a role in that.”
Structure and Expectations
Summertime was always jam-packed with activities – both indoors and out. When they weren’t playing football and soccer or running track, the boys were attending “Wade Academy,” their parents’ personal version of summer school. “Darrin and I set expectations, and we were consistent,” says Kim. “We never wavered on what we wanted our sons to do.” For instance, during the summer, the siblings had to read a book from the library and do a book report for their mom and dad. “They wanted to go back to school in August,” says Kim with a laugh. “They said that school was easier than Wade Academy.”
The structure of academic engagement and athletics at home soon became second nature. “By
the time our boys got to first grade, they knew the routine that we had as a family,” says Darrin.
“Don’t let children sit idle. Keep them engaged. Make sure they do things to enrich themselves.”
Kim couldn’t agree more: “We knew that we had to have structure because we’re working parents with four children of the same age.” Even something as simple as taking the kids to the store required a game plan. “When they were small, they’d have to be in a line, like little ducks in a row,” she recalls. “We had to do those things in order to function. It helped the boys learn structure, self-management, and how to work together as a family.”
Take a Holistic Approach
Creating balance was an important part of how the Wades fostered excellence in their sons, and their expectations for their children extended beyond school to the wider community. “Young people have to be well-rounded,” says Kim. “It can’t just be about academics. Whatever a child’s interest – dance, drawing, or something else – get them involved in those extracurriculars.”
If a child is into video games, for instance, Kim advises parents to use it as a teachable moment.
“Turn it into an educational experience. Say, ‘Let’s research how this game works or how it was put together.’”
Volunteerism and club participation are just as critical, say the Wades. “It allows kids to have a
voice, to help others, and to be leaders,” explains Kim. “That’s going to be very important down the road.” The Wades knew that colleges would be considering much more than academics – and they wanted to make sure their sons stood out. “A child with straight As might get overlooked by a college if they didn’t volunteer while in high school or take part in clubs,” says Kim. “Colleges are looking for students who can do multiple things and still make good grades.”
Making Their Mark on the World
Clearly, the Wades were on to something. Their combination of high expectations, structure, and consistency resulted in four young men whose talents, determination, and hard work garnered acceptances from nearly 60 colleges.
Today, the 24-year-old quadruplets are pursuing careers that fuel their passions. Aaron, who doubled majored in computer science and psychology, works as a creative technologist at Google. Nick received his degree in political science and is now an investment analyst with the Mellon Foundation. Nigel has put his biology degree to work researching Parkinson’s disease at Yale and plans to attend medical school. Zach is currently an investment banker at Goldman Sachs after double majoring in chemical engineering and economics.
But the brothers haven’t let their busy lives stop them from giving back: all four of them volunteer at Harlem Academy in various roles, including as mentors to our students.