According to Collingwood’s University Guidance Department, getting into some of the top US schools today is as difficult as winning the lottery.
“When so many students who apply are academically qualified, the admission decision can come down to things the applicant has no control over, like demographics,” says University Guidance Counsellor Rachel Pezim. “They also place a heavy emphasis on achievement beyond grades to see who the student is as a person, what their interests are, and what else they’ve accomplished. This is where someone like Jerry really shines.”
That’s why Jerry’s acceptance to the University of Southern California (USC) felt like winning the jackpot – and in many ways, he did.
The 2023 Collingwood grad is known among his peers as someone who can accomplish a lot. In Grade 9, he completed AP Computer Science Principles and earned a 5/5 on his exam. The following year, he aced four more high-level APs in physics, microeconomics, macroeconomics, and calculus. Jerry’s transcript includes the most challenging courses available at Collingwood – in fact, he completed most of them by the end of Grade 10. That led him to seek out even more.
After accelerating through the traditional and AP mathematics curriculum by Grade 11, Jerry signed up for Advanced Topics in Math–a unique course offering at Collingwood– to study machine learning and linear algebra. He won a top prize at the Greater Vancouver Regionals Science Fair for an algorithm he wrote that could read a person’s Google search history to assess their risk of suicide to aid in suicide prevention. He also built a robot that could detect litter in real-time and retrieve it with the purpose of protecting the environment. One of Jerry’s favourite courses at Collingwood was Entrepreneurship 12 where he got to work on a case study on how to revitalize Vancouver’s Chinatown. One would think his academic workload would keep him too busy for co-curriculars, but Jerry found the time.
Inspired by his interest in business, Jerry co-founded the Collingwood Business Organization, a club that helps students gain experience in business fundamentals. He was also captain of the Debate Team and Math Club, Leader in the Economics Club, member of the Science Club, played the alto saxophone in Senior Jazz Band, and swam competitively for Collingwood.
What fewer people know about Jerry is his commitment to service. When he and his family immigrated from China, Jerry helped his dad navigate the western business world by translating emails and going to bank meetings for him. He now volunteers as a Director for an organization that helps immigrants bridge the gap between Chinese and Canadian culture.
These were just a few of the achievements that made Jerry a catch to many universities. He was lured by the potential tech opportunities in the US and decided early on that we wanted to study down south. He applied to over 20 schools and was admitted into a large handful in addition to USC including NYU’s Stern School of Business, Georgia Tech, and Carnegie Mellon. To no surprise based on his resume, Jerry was looking for a program where he could study business and computer science concurrently, and USC looked like the top choice.
“USC has a specialized program that combines both worlds of computer science and business. Plus, it’s near Silicon Valley, has an awesome location in Los Angeles, and has excellent values,” Jerry told us.
He was still weighing all his options when he got an email from USC inviting him to interview for its Trustee Scholarship. All incoming freshmen are automatically considered for this full-ride scholarship, but it’s only awarded to approximately 100 students per year. The scholarship covers USC’s total tuition for up to four years, plus a grant of $5,000 per year for educational or personal expenses, and priority course registration. Jerry did the interview but expected nothing more than a “thank you”. In the Spring, he got an email very few people ever get: he could come to USC – for free.
As an international student, Jerry’s Trustee Scholarship is valued at around half a million dollars. These kinds of scholarships are extremely rare. Jerry had won the lottery.
“I was so excited,” Jerry says. “The scholarship is so important for me and my family, and it was so validating for myself that I could win something like this. I felt so accomplished because I could help my family out and relieve this huge financial burden. It felt like my first paycheck.”
Jerry’s counsellors describe him as ambitious, motivated, and obviously smart, but with a great personality too. He’s a perfect match for the kind of student a school like USC looks for.
While scholarships in this vein may be hard to come by, what’s plentiful for the graduates of Collingwood are the opportunities. The School’s commitment to personalizing learning means that students are academically supported to pursue opportunities across a wide range of course and co-curricular offerings. Students at Collingwood have incredible agency and are able to customize their own experience in pursuit of the post-secondary pathway that they are passionate about.
As for Jerry, he hopes to one day become a social entrepreneur in emerging technologies, and he can credit Collingwood for helping him get there. We can’t wait to see him make an impact on the world.