Stellar Student A look into one studentâ€™s school life
by Kyle Evans As I drove up to the well endowed Los Altos Hills home of Andre Jia, I was awestruck by the amazing view that oversaw a lake as well as a small town. Though such things are not unheard of for Los Altos Hills residents, this view was something that beat nobody else I knew. The eighth of a mile long driveway allowed me to get a good glimpse of the small golf green in the backyard, as well as the infinity pool that lay just behind the house. I could tell that this would be an interesting interview. However, I had already known that I was going to have an interesting interview even before my arrival. The person I would soon be interviewing, Andre Jia, has been one of my good friends for as long as I can remember. Andre, a seventeen year old high school senior at the prestigious Harker School, is in currently in the midst of his college applications. Andre's life fits well into what one would initially stereotype it to be simply by hearing about his background. The only child of the CEO of a technology company and his wife in Silicon Valley, the expectations for Andre are set quite high for him, in a way that is rather interesting. While we've all heard of the"2400 SAT Asian kid", the ability to look at Andre through this stereotype is slightly skewed.
There is certainly a great deal of pressure on Andre and his life as a high school student who is currently applying to colleges. During the summer I would play video games late into the night with Andre while we voice chatted over the internet, and it was not uncommon to hear his mother come in at 2 AM and ask why he wasn't studying for the SATs. After hearing this scenario and many other similar situations described to me by Andre, I decided that I wanted to understand just what his life was like. Great things are expected of Andre, but the way Andre sees those things are slightly different from those around him. Andre Jia is a perfect example of somebody tasked with a wide variety of pressures that seem normal to him, but exotic to the outside world. As I was let into Andre's house, two things struck me as odd. One, despite having known Andre for over ten years and having been to his house many times, the person who answered his front door was of no relation to Andre. The second peculiar factoid was the half dozen desktop computers set up in the living room, visible from the front door. I would later learn that this was the headquarters for Andre's dad's new tech startup.
I was instructed to head up the stairs to Andre's room, and having made this passage many times before, I obliged. I greeted Andre as I walked into his room, who was sitting at his computer. On one monitor, he had open his Common App essay - on the other, a YouTube video for a video game commentary. I laughed and pointed out the humor in such a situation, which he also chuckled at. I asked Andre what he'd been up to that day so far, and he explained that what I saw before me was exactly that. A combination of procrastination and work on college applications. Not being one to judge, I asked if he wouldn't mind getting straight into the interview, which he agreed to. The first thing I asked him was simple basic information about his school life, and what classes he was taking that year. He responded by stating that he was currently enrolled in Multivariable Calculus, Advanced Topics in Computer Science, AP Psychology, AP Government, AP Macroeconomics, and AP English. "The nice thing about taking certain advanced classes like MVC or ATCS [Multivariable Calculus and Advanced Topics in Computer Science] is that you don't have to worry about AP tests," he joked. I continued to interview Andre for a while, and many topics came and went. We discussed the upcoming college application season, and I asked him what colleges he was applying to, which he
declined to answer. While I wanted to get a grasp and how dedicated to school life Andre was, I didn't want to pry too deeply into personal details, such as the specifics of his GPA, SAT scores, etc. In order to circumvent this, I asked him what extracurricular activities he was involved with, and he told me he was the vice president of the school's DECA team, short for Distributive Education Clubs of America. Curious, I began to ask more. "DECA is an organization that teaches marketing and entrepreneurship, essentially it's just a business plan. What we do is teach high school students, like you and I, how to interact, and the skills of how to communicate with people in the business world properly. It's just a really useful skill to have, and it's a really valuable skill everyone should know." He also told me that DECA was probably the extracurricular that he was most involved in. After Andre told me more about DECA, I asked if I could watch him work for a bit to see what his work habits were like. He agreed, and went back to his Common App essay open on his computer. Watching Andre work was quite impressive. His way of writing an essay was very methodical, in a way that you wouldn't normally expect from writing an essay. After a while, Andre's mother came in and began asking about his progress on college applications.
" During the summer I would play video games late into the night with Andre while we voice chatted over the internet, and it was not uncommon to hear his mother come in at 2 AM and ask why he wasn't studying for the SATs."
Andre snapped, and the two began arguing, as I've seen him and his mother do so often. This wasn't too surprising, however. Having known Andre since as long as I could remember, I was used to hearing him and his mother argue about often pointless things. Even since he was an elementary school student, there was always some various sort of pressure on him. Taking after school Chinese lessons or being in a million different after school camps was normal to elementary aged Andre, while the rest of us simply went home. During middle school a similar process occurred, with Andre being in any extra learning programs. Andre took the SAT for the first time in 8th grade in order to qualify for a particular accelerated program. As he approached high school, Andre began applying to several private high schools in the area, and was accepted into the Harker School, a prestigious private school that costs almost as much annually as a private four year university. However, Andre's parents were more than willing to foot the bill for his education. In high school, Andre truly began seeing the pressures of academics, at a school where such pressures were normal. "At Harker, AP classes are more of an obligation than an optional course," he told me. By the end of his junior year, Andre had taken nine AP courses, while nationally, only 30% of students take even one AP course (Program Facts). In fact, Harker is no stranger to AP classes. Students at the school have helped Harker earn College Board's recognition as the #1 school in the world for AP Chemistry, AP Computer Science, Calculus, and AP Psychology (The Harker School). After Andre and his mother had spent the past five minutes arguing, his mom finally noticed
that I was in the same room, as she said hello to me. She promptly left, which led Andre to letting out a slight chuckle. He told me this was normally the time when he started playing video games because he felt as if he was done for the day. I told him that he should, and thus, we left for the living room, where I watched him turn in his Xbox 360 and begin playing Call of Duty. For somebody who spends the majority of their waking hours studying or doing homework, Andre was surprisingly good at this game. For every time he died, he was getting at least three other kills. I asked him how he was so good at this game. "Eh, I'm not that good. These guys just suck," Andre smirked. I asked him how often he spent playing videogames or surfing the web per week, and he told me around twenty. Certainly not too shabby compared to the national average of 31 hours per week (Teenagers). As I sat there watching Andre playing video games, I began to wonder what life would be like for Andre past all this. In only a year, he'll be often on his own studying at a university. Would the lack of bickering from his mother cause Andre to work even harder, or would it cause him to jump out of the nest and fall straight to the ground? Though Andre was certainly a smart kid, it seemed like he often wouldn't do things without being pushed by his parents. When Andre goes on to his college life, he will certainly enjoy being out of the house where he is constantly being nagged by his parents. But what he will choose to study and where he will go are still to be determined. "There's always Foothill," he laughed, as he headshot someone in game. "Boom!"