The 17-year-old has offers from Harvard, Princeton and Yale
17-year-old Malaysian born Cassandra Hsaio has received offers from all eight Ivy League colleges including Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
As reported by the BBC, Hsiao has not decided which college she will attend but intends to visit the schools in the next few weeks.
Born in Malaysia but now living in California, Hsiao wrote about her experiences learning English whilst growing up in an immigrant household in an essay that attracted the attention of universities around the world.
“In our house, there is beauty in the way we speak to each other … language is not broken but rather, bursting with emotion. It is a little messy. But this is where we have made our home,” Hsiao wrote.
Speaking about the essay, Hsiao told the BBC, “Identity and the desire to belong are two of the most relatable struggles that people face. I wanted to share a slice of our home life, my relationship with my mother and both of our stories.”
Hsiao was born to a Taiwanese father and Malaysian mother in the southern Malaysian state of Johor. She and her family moved the US when she was five years old.
“I miss Malaysia and think about my home country quite often. Growing up, I loved flying kites, going to markets and setting off firecrackers. I spent my childhood babbling in a mixture of Chinese, Malay and English,” she added.
In her essay, Hsiao recounted a humiliating experience of her mother’s, who was criticised and laughed at by peers after her teacher criticised an English paper she had written.
A kind classmate tried to defend her. “She took her under her wing and patiently mended my mother’s strands of language. She stood up for the weak and used her words to fight back,” Hsiao wrote.
As a result, Hsiao’s mother asked her for help. “My mother asked me to teach her proper English so old white ladies at Target wouldn’t laugh at her pronunciation. It has not been easy.”
“There is a measure of guilt when I sew her letters together. Long vowels, double consonants – I am still learning myself. Sometimes I let the brokenness slide to spare her pride but perhaps I have hurt her more to spare mine.”
Speaking of the incident, Cassandra said, “I believe this essay really embodies values I hold close to my heart: standing up for those without a voice, even when you think you haven’t quite found your own yet.”
Hsiao’s mother reflected on the moment she found out her daughter had been accepted in multiple Ivy League colleges. “I cried with Cassandra when we opened her college acceptance letters. She has demonstrated maturity and wisdom not only in academics but also in her relationship with others,” she said.
Speaking of her mother, Hsiao said, “My mother is my role model. She keeps me grounded and inspires me not only to dream big but to take action to make those dreams come true. I love her passion for life, her boldness, her compassion and her honesty.”
Hsiao’s incredible success has been well received on social media, with many congratulating the young teenager on her achievement. “Getting accepted into all eight Ivy League schools is amazing and after reading your essay, I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more than you do,” wrote Leon Burke on Facebook.
“What a beautiful and authentic essay. I loved how she embraced her experiences and who she is,” tweeted Arden Cho.
Cynthia Low from Singapore praised Hsiao for “achieving so much at such a young age”.
“We hear of people her age who are getting famous in superficial ways. In the age of Kardashian fame, it’s great to hear of someone else making the news for something she has worked hard for. Well done.”