For students on the cusp of entering the adult world, winning the Grand Prize at the Student of the Year (SOTY) awards can open many doors. But ask past recipients of this award what makes it so special, and you’ll get a far more personal answer.
Eunice Yiu won the award in 2014, but says winning wasn’t on her agenda when she entered the competition. “I really did not expect to win, because all the contestants had very special achievements. I was participating simply to learn from other people – the competitors, the judges and alumni,” says Yiu, a former student of St Paul’s Convent School.
Yiu now studies biology and psychology at Cornell University in the US. She believes the Grand Prize helped her stand out on her university application to the prestigious school. It also helped earn her a Hong Kong Scholarship for Excellence.
Still, success isn't always guaranteed. What you can count on, however, is gaining experience and learning valuable lessons – as 2015 winner Dorothy Cheng Wai-chung can attest.
“The prize mostly served as a reminder about how there are many talented individuals out there and that I should work hard in future,” she says. “It also served to keep me humble, because I saw how good everybody was.”
A student at Diocesan Girls’ School at the time, Cheng is now in her third year of studying biochemistry at Reed College in the US. She conducts research with professors during the academic year, and in the summer completed an internship at a research institute in Germany.
Belinda Ng Tian-wing, who won the prize two years ago, says that like Yiu, she also joined the contest to learn.
She wanted to gain interview experience, meet other secondary school students and reflect on the work she had done, as well as the goals she was working towards. “Winning the Grand Prize really gave me a lot of confidence to keep pursuing my passions,” she says. “I joined the competition hoping it would give me the motivation to use my voice to highlight issues I care about.
“I also hoped it would allow me to help others take initiative and discover new experiences; I’ve really enjoyed keeping in touch with younger students at my secondary school and encouraging them as well.” Ng now studies geography at the University of Cambridge in Britain, and has been involved in a range of social and environmental initiatives – something she wants to do even more of in the future.
“The transition to university has meant I am now in a new environment where I am able to take on new challenges, both academically and in terms of extracurricular activities,” she says. “It is all about making the most of any opportunity and trying to learn from every experience, and that is what I have gained from SOTY.”
The most recent winner of the award, German Swiss International School student Misha Fischer Hui-yan, is currently busy applying to universities and preparing for exams. But the memory of her achievement last year helps keep her focused on her goals.
“I was already happy with what I achieved, but I was excited to meet similarly motivated people with a similar mindset. I also wanted to see what inspires others. It was a great experience, meeting incredible people, peers, and people of my age interested in all kinds of different things. The exchange of ideas was extremely positive for me.”
The Student of the Year Awards competition is organised by South China Morning Post and Young Post and sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club