We’re on the hunt for excellence: the annual Student of the Year Awards are now open for applications. The SOTY awards celebrate Hong Kong’s most outstanding secondary school students. Now in their 37th year, SOTY is organised by South China Morning Post and Young Post, and sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club, supported by the Education Bureau.
Young Post chatted to two previous grand prize winners, Belinda Ng Tian-wing and Eunice Yiu, to find out how the SOTY award changed their lives, and to get some insider tips for this year’s candidates.
“A few years ago, I found myself losing motivation,” Belinda, last year’s winner, said. “But the process of winning the Grand Prize gave me chance to meet like-minded people and learn how they dealt with their own challenges,” she added.
Belinda is a high-achieving student in her final year at South Island School, currently finishing her IB. She’s also a writer, community contributor, badminton player, dancer, scout, flute player, and a Young Post Junior Reporter.
“The final year has definitely been very challenging as the workload has risen,” Belinda told YP.
But she finds that having so much to do has forced her to learn how to better manage her time, and how to achieve a work-life balance. In fact, taking part in a range of extracurricular activities is Belinda’s secret weapon when it comes to dealing with stress.
“I still play badminton and dance; I’m actively involved in school clubs and events, I’m a head prefect, and work for local NGO Kids4Kids,” the 17-year-old said. “I need to make sure that I can enjoy my last year of school,” she added.
Preparing for the IB is top of her list, but her attitude to the course helps her focus.
“When dealing with academic challenges, I have learned how to prioritise, giving up what is less important and going for the more important ones,” she said.
Through all the challenges, Belinda’s friends and family have cheered her on.
“Simply spending time and chatting with other people, especially family and friends, who always encourage and support me,” she added.
Belinda hopes to study global business if she stays in Hong Kong, or geography if she moves to Britain.
“I haven’t decided which path I want to take yet because both of them are cool to me,” Belinda said.
Meanwhile, the 2014 Grand Prize winner Eunice Yiu has already found her path.
Eunice was named the champion largely in recognition of her passion for science. She is now studying biology and psychology at Cornell University in the US, where she won a scholarship.
“The grand prize definitely played a part in my application for scholarship,” Eunice said. “Studying biology and psychology at university is like turning my passion into my career.”
Eunice is specialising in neurobiology, and loves that her work can make a difference to people.
She is working on two research projects: one is a study of the hippocampus (part of the brain) to learn how rats’ brains react to different social contexts. The other is developing new games for children which can enhance the spatial skills linked to Stem subjects.
Eunice hopes this year’s SOTY candidates aren’t afraid to be themselves.
“It may sound very clichéd but you need to stand up for what you think and what you love,” Eunice said.
Belinda, meanwhile, believes being well-prepared for the interview, which is part of the application process, is key.
“Discuss various topics with different people so that you will learn how to engage different people,” she said.
“And it is important to practise public speaking as you will need to present yourself in front of judges,” she added.
Visit the SOTY website for more details on the successive stages of the event and to submit your nominations now.