Discover the inspiring journey of Je Qin at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar: unveiling how a nurturing community and exceptional support system paved the way for his Harvard dream.
“I remember reading about a nine-year-old who coded an app. That moment sparked a thought – if he can do it, why can’t I?” reflects Chooi Je Qin, an alumnus of SJK (C) Foon Yew 5. This simple thought propelled him onto a path of self-taught coding, using free online resources, embodying the very essence of a self-starter.
Fast forward a few years, this young man who then studied in SMK Sultan Ismail, Johor Bahru, subsequently Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar (KTJ), received a life-changing email – an acceptance letter from Harvard University. It was a major achievement considering Harvard’s acceptance rate of only 3%, yet Je Qin had managed to secure the highly exclusive place to study Applied Mathematics in Computer Science & Economics, Astrophysics.
Je Qin’s journey to Harvard was unconventional. Initially, he didn’t receive a full scholarship to study abroad. His first big break was a scholarship to KTJ, a stepping stone that would eventually lead him to Harvard under financial aid from the Ivy League institution itself.
I am community-made
Je Qin’s remarkable journey to Harvard began with an insightful essay about the Olympiad community, a crucial part of his application through the Common App. In his essay, he explored the profound impact of the Olympiad world, a pivotal element of his character development. He underscored the importance of conveying one’s authentic experiences and stories, demonstrating how genuine self-expression can resonate in such applications.
Je Qin was first introduced to the Olympiads at the age of 15. “My first exposure to an Olympiad opened my eyes to a whole new world,” he recalls. This experience was more than just about competition; it was about being part of a community. He vividly describes this in his essay: “How different people face different circumstances, and it’s important to acknowledge that and to be kind as a community to help each other fulfil their potential.”
The Earth Science Olympiad was a turning point for Je Qin. “It gives you a community and a structured way to build upon your passion,” he notes. His involvement in Olympiads did not stop there; he joined the Astronomy and Informatics Olympiads over the span of five years, exhibiting the immense commitment towards it.
A star is born at KTJ
Je Qin highlights the school’s commitment to nurturing talent through merit-based opportunities. “KTJ provided me with a generous scholarship,” Je Qin shares. “They offer scholarships based on merit to students who show potential.”
“I feel inspired here, especially by my friends who also aspire to study abroad in the UK and US,” Je Qin says. The school’s environment fosters a culture of mutual encouragement and ambition.
This atmosphere was instrumental in his decision to apply to Harvard, a choice influenced by his peers. “One of my friends encouraged me to apply to Harvard, a decision I hadn’t considered before. Their encouragement was a key factor in my application,” he reveals.
Building upon that desire, KTJ’s higher education pathway team was a key support system that made getting into Harvard possible. “They are truly amazing, offering invaluable guidance on applying to Harvard,” he adds.
Je Qin’s experience at KTJ emphasises the importance of a supportive community in achieving individual potential. “It’s about the community,” he states. “Building a healthy community that encourages each other is vital. Together, we can achieve our individual goals.” His time at KTJ exemplifies how a nurturing educational environment can significantly impact a student’s aspirations and achievements.
Harvard: A dream realised
With KTJ as the launchpad, Je Qin got into Harvard. His hard work and resilience paid off, earning him a place and financial aid to study there.
Harvard financial ethos centres on cultivating exceptional talent for global leadership, ensuring that education is accessible to all, regardless of one’s socio-economic background. “Their objective is to identify and nurture outstanding individuals, providing them with the necessary resources for their education,” says Je Qin. “This strategy extends beyond mere financial aid; it’s about empowering the leaders of tomorrow.”
This model enables students to pursue a world-class education free from the constraints of debt, allowing them to realise their full potential. “Harvard graduates are under no obligation to donate back to Harvard,” he continues, “but many choose to do so out of appreciation. They recognise the immense value of their education and opt to support future students in achieving similar opportunities.”
In essence, Harvard’s approach fosters a cycle of generosity, where alumni contributions become part of their educational legacy, benefitting subsequent generations and reinforcing the university’s dedication to providing accessible and exceptional education.
From Johor Bahru to Harvard: A journey of inspiration
Now, as Je Qin sits in a Harvard classroom, he often reminisces about his journey – from the familiar streets of Johor Bahru to the prestigious corridors of Harvard. Each step was a lesson, each challenge a story of growth and perseverance. The voices of his mentors and friends echo in his memories, a constant reminder of the community that shaped his path.
“I really believe Malaysia is my home. I aspire to make a difference in my country, to create something that not only I, but also my community, can be proud of,” he shares passionately.
Je Qin’s story stands as a powerful testament to how determination and a supportive community can empower an individual to realise extraordinary dreams.