The day Princeton University gave its responses to early decision applicants, Dieruff High seniors Sinar and Yanar Bitar rushed home from school.
The 17-year-old twins had spent months watching YouTube videos of high school seniors' reactions to being accepted into Ivy League schools.
On Dec. 13, it was the fraternal twins' turn to record their reactions.
Yanar, who set her eyes on Princeton before Sinar did, checked her notification first, while Sinar hit "Record" on her phone.
In the video, Yanar sits on her sister's bed in her east Allentown home, fidgeting with her fingers and nervously touching her face as she punches her identification into her phone.
"Did you log in?" Sinar asks.
Yanar quickly reads the message then bolts ups with a loud shriek. The video stops.
"It said, 'Dear Yanar, congratulations,' and I just jumped off the bed," Yanar said.
"She freaked out," Sinar said.
In the excitement of Yanar's acceptance, Sinar stopped recording. She logged into her Princeton application, and also saw the word "congratulations."
"I literally just sat there after a couple of minutes and couldn't believe it," Sinar said.
In a rare moment, the twins — who are the youngest of five girls — were home alone. They both started calling their three sisters and parents to tell them the news.
After being inseparable for 17 years, Yanar and Sinar did not plan on attending the same college. They've had the same classes, worked the same after-school job at the Giant grocery store and were involved in track and National Honor Society.
The sisters, daughters of Syrian immigrants, have even shared a bedroom their entire lives.
"We had our mind set on not going to the same college," Yanar said.
Sinar, who is in the running to be Dieruff's valedictorian, dreamed of attending Harvard University. But after visiting both Princeton and Harvard last year, she liked the New Jersey university's campus better.
A few days before early decision applications were due in the fall, Sinar decided to apply to Princeton, too.
"She followed me," Yanar, the older twin by 30 minutes, jokingly said.
Sinar also applied to Harvard, Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania and Lehigh University. Harvard and Yale rejected her, the University of Pennsylvania wait-listed her and Lehigh accepted her.
Yanar only applied to Princeton.
The chance of getting into any Ivy League school is slim — Princeton University had a 5.5 percent admission rate for the Class of 2022.
But the Bitars aren't the only Huskies heading to Princeton in the fall. Fellow Dieruff High senior Claudia Rabih will join them.
For the Allentown School District, where three-quarters of the 17,000 students are labeled economically disadvantaged, it's the stuff of legends to have three students from the same high school in one year accepted to an Ivy League school like Princeton.
"It's never heard of," Dieruff guidance counselor Janet Schnalzer said.
‘Education is first’
Academics was always strongly pushed in the Bitar house.
In Syria, before they left in 1993, Lina and Georges Bitar were teachers.
In Allentown, Georges works as a custodian at Mosser Elementary, while Lina has a sewing job.
The Bitars wanted their daughters to succeed in America, and knew that a good education was key.
Sinar and Yanar have three older sisters — Gehar, Hazar and Ghamar. All three did well academically at Dieruff High.
Gehar is a sophomore at Lehigh University. Hazar graduated from Moravian College in 2011, while Ghamar graduated from Lehigh in 2013 and is doing her residency in Delaware to become an OB/GYN doctor.
All the Bitar sisters studied the sciences in college.
"I always told them that education is first," Lina Bitar said. "After that, you'll have no problem doing what you want to do."
The Bitar twins credit their parents for pushing them to do well academically.
"They would always ask if we got an A," Yanar said. "When I got my first B, they were like 'Why did you get the B?' They got upset, but they just want the best for us."
When most children were learning to count to 10, Lina and Georges Bitar challenged their daughters.
"In kindergarten, my dad was teaching me long division," Sinar said. "He would spend hours with us."
Lina and Georges Bitar provided support in other ways, too. Lina always made sure the girls had a traditional Syrian meal while studying, and they always had a ride to their athletics, after-school jobs and other activities.
Their parents taught them a work ethic in other ways, too. In the summers, Sinar and Yanar work with their father at Mosser, cleaning desks and clearing classrooms. During the school year, they work at the Giant.
Princeton, which cost $63,600 this school year, offered the Bitars a large financial aid package that means they will not have to take out loans.
The Ivy League school offers such assistance for students who need it. The average grant for a freshman this year was $50,600, according to its website.
"It helps us because we're not the richest family," Sinar said.
Schnalzer, their guidance counselor, said she often heard Yanar and Sinar say their older sisters were helping them apply to colleges.
"Their sisters are their mentors," she said. "The family is an incredible influence. They're really a unit."
Lina Bitar did not think the girls would end up at the same college. She and her husband also encouraged the girls to attend a Lehigh Valley college, like their sisters did.
As graduation approaches, Lina Bitar has been getting emotional, sometimes even crying when she drops the girls off at Dieruff in the morning and thinks of the 65 miles away from her they'll be next year.
"I'm sad a little because it's far to me, and I'm here," Lina Bitar said. "They're the last kids. But I'm happy. It's a good college for them."
The Bitar twins both have high GPAs. Sinar has a 5.2, while Yanar has a 5.1.
Sinar thinks their applications also might have stood out because of everything they do. They're both in the National Honor Society and on the Scholastic Scrimmage team and student government. Yanar is on the volleyball team, while Sinar runs cross-country.
AP Physics teacher Tyson Sprayberry has the girls in class and wasn't surprised they were accepted to Princeton. Both Yanar and Sinar are self-driven and motivated, he said.
But Sinar especially has taken to physics, which is what she plans to study at Princeton.
"She literally has a big fat smile on when she's doing problems and getting them right," Sprayberry said. "She derives joy from doing the very difficult math and science."
While Yanar said they aren't exactly academic rivals — "I don't compete with her, she always competed with me," she said — they did have a friendly competition in physics.
Yanar struggled in physics this year, she said, but was determined to receive a top score every exam.
"I would come home and study and Sinar would be like, 'Why are you stressing?' " Yanar said. "And I'd say 'Just wait. I'm going to get the best score.' And she said, 'No, I'm going to get a better score.' "
Yanar, who wants to be a chemical engineer, did get the better score on the first physics test. And after the first one, every exam became a competition.
"Who won the last one?" Sinar asked Yanar last week in a knowing tone.
"You won one," Yanar said in a dismissive tone.
All sisterly competition — and banter — aside, Yanar said she's always admired her sister's dedication to academics.
"I don't tell her often, but I'm very proud of her," Yanar said. "She's really smart."
At Princeton University, the girls will likely see less of each other than they do now.
Princeton has a policy that does not allow siblings to room together or live in the same building, they said. So for the first time in their lives, they won't share a bedroom.
Princeton does not keep track of how many twins it admits, a spokesperson said. But stories in the student newspaper, the Daily Princetonian, show that previous sets of twins have attended.
The twins had to mark on their application that another sibling was applying, but Princeton judges each application separately.
While they're ready for college, it can sometimes seem daunting. When she hears of other incoming Princeton students with accomplishments like creating apps, Yanar said she feels a bit intimidated.
"It's nerve-wracking," Yanar said. "We're the top of this school, but when you go to a high-level school like Princeton, it's like you're below everyone else. It's very overwhelming."
An Allentown education from the beginning
Like Yanar and Sinar, Claudia heard back the same day as the Bitar twins.
The 17-year-old, who plans to study molecular biology and intends to go to medical school, remembers driving home from school with her mother and trying to get home as quickly as possible that day. When they got home, she had her mom and sister find out the news before she did.
"My sister and my mom opened it for me and they were quiet," she said. "Then they both started screaming 'You got in, you got in.' "
Dieruff is on Princeton's radar. Two years ago, the school sent two students to Princeton, so next fall, there will be five Dieruff graduates there.
Allen High, Dieruff's crosstown rival, has also had success in students' being accepted to Ivy League schools. Two years ago, Nathaniel Stuart was accepted into seven Ivy League schools, although he turned them all down for Stanford University.
Claudia, like the twins, has attended Allentown schools since kindergarten and credits the district for her education.
When the Bitar twins graduate next month, Dieruff will be saying goodbye not only to them, but to a family.
"I can't imagine Dieruff without the Bitar girls," Schnalzer said.
Dieruff Principal Sue Bocian echoed those thoughts.
"They're our staples," Bocian said of the family.