Coming from different backgrounds did not stop 20-year-olds Muhammad Hamdi Ahmad Hakimi and Jarell Cheong Tze Wen from beating 57,435 other Harvard applicants. Earlier this week the two Malaysians succeeded into making Malaysia proud by being accepted to the prestigious college, the undergraduate school of Harvard University.
According to the Wan Nadiah, one of the two alumni interviewers for Harvard Club of Malaysia, “There are many pathways to Harvard College. Jarell and Hamdi exemplify that, being two very different candidates. Jarell, besides his academic prowess has represented Malaysia in dance, mathematics and chess. On the other hand, Hamdi, a debater who also gives tuition to secondary school students, was more philosophical, discussing his world views and opinions on current affairs. However, they both did share something in common, a drive to do something and achieve it despite the circumstances they find themselves in.”
The two Malaysians’ individuality helped them to be part of the 3.43% of applicants of the class of 2025 that were accepted. This is Harvard College’s lowest admission rate in their 385-year history.
While Jarell plans on majoring in Mathematics, and Hamdi in Economics, both of these students have quite a handful of experiences from their academic journey thus far with Jarell representing Malaysia in SEA Games Dancesport events and competing under the Malaysian flag in the Asian Pacific Mathematical Olympiad alongside multiple international chess tournaments during his educational years at SMK Seri Bintang Utara, Kuala Lumpur and Sunway College, Petaling Jaya.
“What is interesting about Jarell is that despite the restrictions we have lived with under Covid-19, he has found ways to continue his passions. In the past year, he started teaching dance classes to youths aged 7 to 14 years over Zoom. He also pursued his interest in Mathematics independently, exploring beyond the A-levels curriculum to explore proof-based math. This indicates a dedication and intellectual curiosity that goes beyond the typical school-based curriculum,” said Wan Nadiah.
Hamdi’s background is a little different with him moving from Kuantan to complete his SPM at SM Sains Alam Shah, Kuala Lumpur before pursuing A-levels at Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar as a Bank Negara Kijang Scholar. Having to shuffle between multiple jobs in order to help support his family, Hamdi finally opted to attend boarding school to lessen his family’s burden where he chose to spend his free time brushing up his English and participating in debate competitions as well as tutoring students from rural schools.
“With the advantages and opportunities that Harvard College has to offer, we are excited to see how someone like Hamdi can truly blossom and live up to his full potential,” said Nick Khaw, Head of Research at Khazanah Nasional Berhad and alumni interviewer.
Coming from national schools, many Malaysians were able to relate to the two applicants. Hopefully, they will be able to pave the way for future students to follow in their footsteps.
“We are happy that both Jarell and Hamdi have chosen to pursue their studies at Harvard College. We truly believe that Harvard, with all the resources it has to offer, is a life-changing opportunity for Malaysian students to gain experiences from a wider world and to showcase Malaysia as a country abroad. Both Jarell and Hamdi, like many Malaysian Harvard College alumni before them, went through the public education system and they have demonstrated that it is indeed possible to gain entrance into an Ivy League school like Harvard if you have the talent and the drive to achieve it. We want to see more and more Malaysian undergraduate students represented at Harvard,” Khaw proudly stated.