He was rejected by 14 colleges. Then Google hired him.

A high school graduate with a stellar grade point average, near-perfect test scores, and a tech startup he founded during his sophomore year, he was rejected by dozens of colleges, including public schools. Then he joined Google.

When Stanley Zhang, a 2023 graduate of Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California, was rejected by 14 of the 18 colleges and universities he applied to, he and his counselors were stunned.

Zhang was an excellent student: He had an unweighted 3.96 grade point average and a score of 1590 on his SATs. He was a finalist in several global computer coding competitions and founded RabbitSign, a free electronic signature startup.

Zhang was rejected by his first-choice school, Stanford, which he said was not too surprising. But he didn’t expect the rejection letters he received from some of the state schools he applied to, including the University of California, Davis; University of California, Santa Barbara; and California Polytechnic State University.

“Nobody can expect to get into Stanford, Berkeley or MIT, but I applied to a few state schools where I thought I had the best chance,” Zhang told CBS MoneyWatch.

Stanley Zhang, 18, is pushing for more transparency in college admissions.

I am Zhang


No reasons given, “You are rejected”

With no explanation given of the colleges and universities’ decision-making, one could only speculate as to why he received so many rejections.

“I didn’t get any feedback from any admissions offices. You don’t get reasons, you’re rejected,” Zhang said. “For some of them it was expected. For many of them, ‘What do you want from me?’ I feel that we as students deserve to know what it takes to get into these colleges.”

Zhong and her family reached out to the Association for Asian American Education (AACE), a nonprofit organization that advocates for the educational rights of Asian-American children, “trying to push for transparency in college admissions decisions,” she said.

AACE founding president Yukong Mike raised Zhao Zhang’s case Hearing Last month the House Committee on Education and Labor on race-based college admissions decisions.

“He’s good at programming — everyone says computer science is the future of the 21st century,” Zhao said.

“It’s appalling that colleges are ignoring such talent,” he added.


Harvard professor discusses admissions to elite colleges

Google app

A total of four schools offered Zhang, including the University of Texas at Austin.

Not one to be disillusioned, Zhang decided to matriculate at UT Austin. He also applied to “moonshot” for a software engineer opening at Google.

“I decided to go back to work full-time to see what happened. I saw the worst, I’d get interview experience and see what the process was like, maybe I’d get lucky,” Zhang said.

He did.

Earlier this month, 18-year-old Zhong started working as a software development engineer at Google, which doesn’t require a college degree.

Google has many job roles where “equivalent practical experience” counts instead of a college degree. Zhong did not disclose how much the job pays.

Are you planning to attend college?

College is still on the table for Zhang, but not until 2024 at the earliest.

“I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity, and now, I’m going to stick with it for at least a year. From there, I’m going to say, ‘Am I making good contributions, am I doing a good job?’ “If that’s the case, I’ll stay until I don’t feel like I’m in or I’m really missing out because I’m not going to college,” Zhang said.

He is a self-taught programmer, but still sees value in higher education.

“In computer science, from a purely academic standpoint, a lot of what colleges teach, you can find online if you want to learn. Most of my computer science was about looking things up, reading articles,” Zhang said. “But college also has a social and networking aspect.”

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