At first, he did not believe it.
When senior Yulou Zhou found out online on March 25 that Stanford University had accepted him, he only told his guardians for that first day, just in case Stanford had made a mistake.
Out of the 43,997 applicants to Stanford, only 2,063 received admission – an acceptance rate under 4.7%, one of the lowest in the country.
So how did he get in?
“I was surprised… because I applied for financial aid and that will, for international students applying to Stanford, lower the possibilities of admissions,” Zhou said.
Not only did he get in, but Stanford gave him a scholarship of $60,000 per year.
“It [the application process] is not a process of telling what you have done,” Zhou said. “It’s telling other people what you’re worth in that process, what’s your value.”
But, his is SAT score was 2120, below Stanford’s average of 2210.
What made the difference for Zhou was his passion for linguistics.
“I simply love languages. They are a tool for us to know the world,” Zhou said.
At Stanford, he plans to study computer science and linguistics.
Zhou was born in China, and then came to the U.S. for high school, coming to STE in 9th grade.
The Chinese government imposes policy limitations and social pressure to speak Mandarin instead of local dialects.
Schools in China sometimes forbid students from speaking in dialect, and this has resulted in a dramatic decrease in native dialect speakers.
Zhou believes that it is a basic right for everyone to speak their own language. It’s a civil rights issue for him.
In the summer of 2014 before his junior year, Zhou went back to his hometown Yueyang in the Hunan province and organized a linguistics conference. He invited two local cultural scholars as guest speakers to speak at the conference about the linguistics of Hunanese and why to preserve it.
“Chinese culture is composed of different small local cultures. If we discard our own local culture, we damage our culture as a whole,” Zhou said.
Zhou is working on a 60-page paper (and counting) attempting to deduce ancient Hunanese from the modern forms of Hunanese. He hopes to publish his findings.
Zhou has amassed more than five gigabytes of articles and books about Chinese dialects on his computer.
He is also fluent in English, Mandarin, and Hunanese and is learning Cantonese, Shanghainese, and Japanese.