Most people would be lucky to get into one university of choice, let alone 10.
Well, meet Yugendran Rajaendran, who achieved the unthinkable.
Hailing from Klang, the 20-year-old recently captured the attention of Malaysians after receiving acceptance offers from 10 top tier universities in the US
He had his pick of Yale, Columbia, and New York University, among other prestigious universities. However, the prodigy student has chosen to head to Stanford University in California come late August.
There, Yugendran will be pursuing a degree in Bioengineering and Mathematical and Computational Science.
Yugendran is no stranger to academic success as he had achieved 11A+ for his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations and is predicted to received five A* for his A-levels
The young adult has always had an aptitude for learning. This is evident from the time he spent as an inquisitive child sitting alongside his siblings as they completed their homework, or when he mastered the art of percentages by the age of four.
As he approached Form 5, Yugendran remembers trying to figure out what it was he actually wanted to do in life.
The fresh graduate of Epsom College, where he attended on a full scholarship, told SAYS he was always fairly certain that he would dedicate his time to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
Living with four older sisters, three of whom are in the medical field, one might have expected Yugendran to follow a similar path.
However, the soon-to-be Stanford student told us that while contributing to Malaysia's healthcare and economic sectors will always be a goal of his, he is also fascinated by the versatility of bioengineering and data science.
He hopes that an education at Stanford will not only grow his knowledge in these areas of interests, but eventually allow him to give back to Malaysia
When we asked why Stanford was his number one choice, Yugendran said, "I always knew I wanted to do something related to technology, entrepreneurship, medicine, and mathematics. Stanford is the only university that is leading is all the fields."
"The state-of-the-art bioengineering facilities, partnership with many leading tech companies in Silicon Valley, [and] research and developments in the field of medicine and pharmaceutics are the main reasons I chose Stanford over other top universities," he explained.
Having interned with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Pantai Hospital in the past, Yugendran has witnessed our public healthcare sector firsthand, and foresees himself devoting his life to policymaking alongside cancer and stem cell research in Malaysia
Speaking about his experiences working with local health professionals, the math whiz expressed, "In my opinion, the Malaysian public healthcare sector is one of the best in the world. The dedication and proactiveness (of medical professionals) is something I admire."
We were astonished with how clearly Yugendran envisioned his future.
During the interview with us, Yugendran relayed that he was determined to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide affordable and accessible healthcare to all, then with Khazanah Nasional to aid in healthcare investment, and finally with the MOH to shape public policies.
Coming from a humble family background, with his father working year-round as a motorcycle mechanic in Kapar and his mother being a housewife, the determined student told this writer, "I have seen people who do menial jobs and work hard to provide for their families yet they still have poor quality of life."
"As a proud Malaysian, I benefited from the facilities and opportunities, I am forever indebted to Malaysia. If my country needs my expertise and skills and if I have the capability to give back, I think giving back is the right thing to do."
Outside of his studies, the Klang native is also a movie buff, an avid volunteer within his community, and a fierce karate competitor
In the past, Yugendran has written articles on human rights, mental health, and healthcare accessibility in developing countries.
He is not all books though, as he has earned a black belt in karate. At the end of the day, he thoroughly enjoys kicking back to a good ol' sci-fi film, like The Matrix.
With all these experiences, Yugendran has developed a tenacity like no other.
But, what is his secret to success? He says, "learn for the sake of knowledge and not merely for exams."
Driven by the desire to improve his family's situation, Yugendran conveyed that "No special talent or power is required to be successful, pure hard work and determination are enough to bring you to greater heights."
At the same time, Yugendran was quick to note that his successes were not his alone. If not for his family, mentors, and friends, the star student said he might have never developed the grit to chase after his dreams or end up in the position he is in today.
Our country is not short on star students. Out of 40,248 applicants, these two Malaysians were accepted into Harvard earlier this year:
20-year-olds around the country have really been stepping up their game. Yong Xun has proven so with his new app: