Joseph Ng Kwok-chung, 14, the youngest student ever admitted to the University of Hong Kong, has one worry as he embarks on his higher education at an age most youngsters are still struggling through secondary: making friends.
'I am really happy and excited to be accepted, but perhaps like a lot of people I'm most worried about making friends,' said Joseph, who will join a three-year degree programme in the faculty of science.
But he denied his concerns were due to the age gap. 'When I studied for the A-Levels, I got along well with older classmates,' he said.
He learned of his success yesterday through the Joint University Programmes Admissions System. He plans to read chemistry and go on an overseas exchange programme.
As for his worries about friends, his father, Ng Sai-keung, advised him to be 'up to date with entertainment news ... and play some video games - but not too much'.
'We hope it will help him have more conversation topics when meeting people,' said the elder Ng, a government statistical officer, said.
Joseph, who graduated from the International Christian Quality Music Secondary and Primary School, will receive a HK$40,000 lump-sum scholarship from the faculty of science for scoring three As in his A-levels, in physics, chemistry and pure mathematics. In language, he scored a C in English and a D in Chinese.
The faculty's associate dean, Chan Wai-kin, said that after meeting him and observing his work in HKU's Junior Science Institute, they had deemed him well prepared.
Chan, a chemistry professor, said the school had already made adjustments to welcome younger freshmen. Due to the double cohort of students entering university, with half being Form Six leavers who sat the new Diploma of Secondary Education exam, many students will be under 18.
The university is providing an array of support measures to help ease Joseph into university life, and will assign him an academic adviser to meet him at least twice a year.
Director of counselling Dr Eugenie Leung said an orientation induction programme would be offered to younger students to help them cope.
Joseph appeared shy and reserved as he met the media yesterday accompanied by his parents and 11-year-old sister. But his reticence belied his talent, which helped him win the Hong Kong Mental Arithmetic & Mathematics Competition in 2007and earn first-class honours in the International Junior Science Olympiad.
The young prodigy also qualified for a performance diploma in piano and passed grade eight in violin.
He will stay with his family in Diamond Hill instead of moving into a dormitory, as his mother said he was not ready for that yet.
March Tian Boedihardjo's age when he was admitted to Baptist University, becoming the city's youngest-ever university student