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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Rejected by 16 colleges, 18-year-old takes Google job: Yes, he's Asian


Stanley Zhong earned nearly perfect grades (3.97 unweighted, 4.42 weighted) and SAT scores (1590 out of 1600). He founded his own e-signing startup RabbitSign in his sophomore year at Palo Alto's Gunn High School, and competed in national coding competitions.


But he was rejected by MIT, Cal Tech, Stanford and Cornell -- and 12 others. No state university in California, his home state, accepted Zhong, including Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara (not all that selective) and Cal Poly. Can California afford to send high-tech talent away?


Zhong also was turned down by the universities of Illinois, Michigan, Washington and Wisconsin, but he got into the University of Texas and the University of Maryland. He planned to go to UT -- until he got a job offer from Google. He started work this week as a software engineer.


ABC7's Kristen Sze interviewed Stanley and his father after a witness brought up his story at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on affirmative action in college admissions.


If you watch the video, you'll see a pleasant, articulate young man. He wonders why he was not good enough for so many universities -- and not just Stanford and MIT. (Sze says she read his essay and saw no "red flags.") Was it just bad luck?


Zhong plans to work for a year, then decide whether to enroll at UT or skip college.

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Guest
Oct 13, 2023

There are tons of kids with grades as good as or better than his, and equally good SATs, applying for overall top schools and top CS programs in other schools. Stanley Zhong holds up his “startup” as his differentiator that “should have” gotten him in. The article fails to mention that Stanley Zhong’s father Nan Zhong is a software engineering manager at Google (I’m sure that helped Stanley get his job). Nan Zhong previously co-founded two startups, created the #1 ranked communication app on Android (featured by Fortune and Amazing Android Apps for Dummies), and raised $10 million in venture capital. Before that, he led the team that built AWS’s Elastic Load Balancing service.

Wanna place bets on how involved…

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Guest
Oct 14, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for doing this "investigative journalism" piece for J. Jacobs. Journalists nowadays are lazy so they take the "opinion column " route because opinions are like that "thing" below buttocks -- everyone has one. No need to investigate, no need to work very hard. That is why I ready comments. Some readers are better informed than those trying to inform them. But ok, nice try Joanne!

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Guest
Oct 13, 2023

"No state university in California, his home state, accepted Zhong, including Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara (not all that selective) and Cal Poly"


You are brutal today, Joanne!


Berkeley is tied for #15 nationally by the USNWR rankings (far from perfect, but not a terrible first approximation). UCSD is tied for #28, UC Davis is also tied for #28 and UCSB is tied for #35.


The US has approximately 3,000 4-year colleges/universities and #35 -- tied with Urbana-Champaign and beating out Tufts, Purdue, Northeastern, University of Minnesota and Pepperdine -- is "not all that selective."


According to UCSB the incoming freshmen 25%/75% for:

GPA: 4.04 - 4.28

SAT Reading: 630 - 730

SAT Math: 650…


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Guest
Oct 13, 2023
Replying to

The SAT scores do not mean anything since the university no longer looks at that score. Look up the stories about UCSD using class rank for admission as an informal implementation of a top 10% rule such as Texas has.


And the biggest issue with the UC admissions is that California experienced massive population growth but the UC system only added one campus and stopped adding seats at their other campuses.

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Oct 12, 2023

America deserves a more transparent university admission system. I can't think of another nation with an equally opaque, arbitrary process, and I study these issues very regularly; we'd be better off by internationalizing the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, and only targeting diversity as a tie-breaker.

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Guest
Oct 12, 2023

I wonder how long before high-achieving families try moving their kids to lower-performing school districts to increase their kid's class rankings... (In hindsight I probably only got into my selective college because I was a promising student from a pretty bad high school)

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Robert Diethrich
Robert Diethrich
Oct 12, 2023
Replying to

My ex and I discussed this. We lived in a B- district while I taught in the best high school in an A ranked district (using broad terms). We actually knew our children would have a better shot going to one of our home district's better high schools than where I taught, where, out of a class or 760, 170 seniors had over a 4.0 GPA.

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Guest
Oct 11, 2023

So the claim of a 1590 on the math\verbal SAT score is probably not correct. And he probably has a "C" on his resume in high school. In addition, it may be a function of class rank where he attends a tiger mom school where he does great but is far enough down the pecking order that if the highly selective universities wanted someone from that school, there were better students.


There has been media reports that UCSD like Cal Poly has started making their admissions contingent on one's major.


He will eventually go back to school. When the top ten colleges for getting jobs in Silicon valley are reviewed, San Jose State is the sleeper.

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Guest
Oct 13, 2023
Replying to

"Because he will end up in meetings where half the people at the table have PhDs and more skills than he. He will become a joke then and will go back to school. "


That is NOT how things work in the tech industry.


If he "knows his sh*t" then no one will care whether he has a PhD or any other degree.


And a PhD vs 5 year of the right industry experience is pretty close to a wash -- except that Google will pay him a lot of money and a PhD program will give him a very small stipend.


I have the *wrong* bachelors degree (and nothing else) and an often in meetings with people who have…


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