EXCLUSIVE: Expert explains possible reasons why Bay Area HS grad Google hire was denied by colleges

Zhong was rejected by 16 of the 18 colleges he applied to, even with his 4.42 GPA and SAT score of 1590.

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Thursday, October 12, 2023
EXCLUSIVE: Expert on why HS grad Google hire was denied by colleges
Education expert breaks down possible reasons why the Bay Area high school grad hired by Google was denied by 16 top colleges in the U.S.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An outstanding Bay Area high school graduate was rejected by 16 of the 18 colleges he applied to. Despite all those rejections, he impressed Google so much so that he got a full-time job offer as a software engineer.

Stanley Zhong told ABC7 News anchor Kristen Sze he just landed a job at Google as a software engineer -- without ever going to college. His path has raised a lot of eyebrows and some criticism of the college admissions program.

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"My GPA was 4.42 weighted and SAT score was 1590," said Zhong.

Zhong was rejected by 16 of the 18 colleges he applied to.

VIDEO: High school grad rejected by 16 colleges reveals how he got Google job

Stanley Zhong, a standup high school grad rejected from 16 schools, explains to ABC7 News anchor Kristen Sze how he landed a job at Google.

"I really thought I had a good chance. It turns out whatever good chance I had, I didn't get in," said Zhong.

Allen Koh is CEO of Cardinal Education. Families pay his educational consultants to help students compete against other very well qualified college applicants out there.

Koh is not surprised colleges rejected Zhong's application.

VIDEO: Bay Area high school grad rejected by 16 colleges hired by Google

Stanley Zhong is a graduate of Gunn High School in Palo Alto who was hired by Google as a software engineer after 16 colleges rejected him.

"An Asian male, computer science, the probabilities are Darwinian - much worse than for any other demographic," said Koh.

Koh says there's another possible factor.

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"Maybe he had to invest so much of his time into learning computer science as a high school student, he came across as too unidirectional for most universities," said Koh.

Koh says all sciences, including engineering, are extremely competitive.

"All the sciences are much harder to get into. In particular, engineering is much harder to get into than the other majors. This is a general trend for decades. Asians are quite sensitive to this for quite some time. Now, for many reasons, it's getting much much more challenging for Asians to be accepted into competitive STEM programs.," said Koh.

Because the admissions process for STEM is so competitive, Koh said students need to work even harder.

"It's not enough to be excellent in STEM in the course of STEM you want to study. They want to see that you are well-rounded and that you have other pursuits that you also want to take to a high level," said Koh.

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Bay Area teen Kairan Quazi is only 14 years old, but he will become the youngest to graduate from Santa Clara University and start working for SpaceX.

Koh says the admissions system needs to change.

"There absolutely needs to be reform," said Koh. "The playing field can be leveled by universities being much more transparent by what the standards are and advertising it publicly to everyone. If they were to do that, you wouldn't need private college consultants, let alone schools counselors to help students navigate."

"We really want to push for transparency," said Zhong. "We should be able to if we get rejected, these are the reasons why and we shouldn't have to guess in the dark about a black box process."

Zhong's case is an unusual one. Education experts say there are options for students to get ahead.

Community colleges are a big help.

MORE: Some Bay Area community colleges see 20% enrollment drop, data shows

"The community college path is great for a lot of disciplines especially if you can spend a fifth year at a UC. Even engineering, you can be a very competitive engineer by going to a community college and then transferring to a UC," said Koh.

"Students should definitely consider California community college, especially if they're a STEM major. Why? Many universities are impacted. Meaning they are getting a lot more applicants than they have spots to serve," said William Garcia, VP of Student Affairs at San Jose City College. "This is a great way to start. Students have a better probability to get to their university of choice by coming through the community college straight out of high school."

Counselors remind students that community colleges offer a great deal. They have the lowest tuition in the country.

"We also have free tuition and lots of financial assistance of our students," said Garcia.

According to Koh, one-third of the undergrads at flagship UC's transfer from community colleges.

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