Vietnamese student in Singapore gains admission to top universities in four countries

By Thanh Hang   April 10, 2024 | 03:11 pm PT
A Vietnamese schoolboy in Singapore has been admitted to the top universities in the U.K., Canada, and Singapore, as well as several in the U.S., thanks to a portfolio full of Mathematics and Computer Science awards.

From the beginning of the year to date, Le Duc Minh, a student at Hwa Chong Institution in Singapore, has successively received university admission notices.

Among the institutions that accepted him are many prestigious schools such as the University of Toronto, Cambridge in the U.K., the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and Georgia Institute of Technology.

Minh said that Hwa Chong Institution allows students to apply to a maximum of eight U.S. universities and therefore, to increase his chances of being admitted to top Computer Science programs, the 20-year-old man decided to broaden his application list to multiple countries.

Le Duc Minh speaks at a study abroad conference in Hanoi, March 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hang

Le Duc Minh speaks at an education conference in Hanoi, March 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hang

Minh found the U.S. college application process to be the most complex and demanding, especially the essay writing part. Universities in other countries prioritize academic results and require brief essays highlighting achievements and extracurricular activities.

In his main essay to U.S. universities, Minh writes about his journey of stepping out of his comfort zone beyond school and textbooks.

In 2020, while a 10th-grade student specializing in Computer Science at Hanoi - Amsterdam High School for Gifted Students, Minh went to study in Singapore on an ASEAN scholarship. Adjusting to a new life while keeping up with the A-Level curriculum was stressful for him.

"After two years, I realized I couldn't just bury myself in books. I started to find it overwhelming and ineffective. Therefore, I sought change, got involved in more extracurricular activities, and explored new experiences with friends," he said.

Registering to tutor Mathematics and Computer Science to Singaporean middle-school students, the Hanoi boy felt a positive change in himself, as it solidified his knowledge and also improved his communication skills.

"The main message of the essay is the journey I took to find ways to spread positivity to those around me, aiming for all of us to move forward together," Minh said.

Besides the main essay, another strength of Minh's application was his scientific research projects.

In his second year in Singapore, Minh and a friend undertook a research project on artificial intelligence with the goal of reducing antibiotic resistance in medical treatment.

Minh said the research developed a machine learning model to predict substances that could effectively kill viruses. The outcome of the research significantly contributed to shortening the real-life testing time for each drug.

He was responsible for coding and inputting data into the machine learning model.

Minh’s motivation for pursuing research was his desire to apply Computer Science to real life.

He said that since high school, his experience with Computer Science was limited to solving programming exercises. However, he sees utility in Computer Science when applied to specific problems.

After more than a year, Minh completed the research, received a certification from his school, and had his results published.

He believes this demonstrates his desire and ability to conduct research, reflecting his capabilities and meticulousness when approaching a new field.

Minh's academic achievements include winning first prize in a city-level student competition in Mathematics in 9th grade, and a gold medal in Mathematics at the International Mathematics and Science Olympiad.

During his high school years in Singapore, Minh also won two national gold medals in Mathematics and Informatics, scored 1,590/1,600 on the SAT, and 8.5/9 in his IELTS test.

Minh was awarded a certificate and gold medal of the 2023 Singapore National Informatics Olympiad. Photo by courtesy of Minh

Le Duc Minh is awarded a certificate and gold medal of the 2023 Singapore National Informatics Olympiad. Photo by courtesy of Minh

Each country has a different application deadline, but the peak period falls around November and December. This was also the time Minh had to take the A-Level exams in Singapore.

"Fortunately, everything went well. I was very surprised with the results I received," Minh said.

As Minh's advisor during the application process, Tran Phuong Hoa, Director of Summit Professional Education, an overseas study consultancy based in Hanoi, says that in 15 years of consulting, she has known many students who got accepted into universities in several countries, but Minh is the first to be admitted to top institutions in the U.K., the U.S., Canada, and Singapore.

Computer Science is a competitive field, making Minh’s achievement even more remarkable, Hoa said.

"I am impressed by Minh’s calmness, persistence, and meticulousness."

Minh has not yet decided which university he will choose but is certain his major will be Computer Science.

For now, he is taking time to conduct further scientific research on Mathematics and Informatics, supplementing his knowledge on machine learning to have the best foundation before officially entering the field.

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