There was nothing deceptive or disappointing about what one smart and talented Hong Kong student discovered on April Fools Day this year. It was the day 19-year-old squash player Chiu Ho-ming would learn he had earned a US$32,000 per year sport scholarship to attend the prestigious Yale University in the north-eastern United States.
'All universities in the US publish offers on their web sites on April 1, and that's how I discovered I'd been accepted by Yale,' says Ho-ming, who sat his sixth and final International Baccalaureate (IB) exam at Li Po Chun United World College (UWC) two weeks ago.
Ho-ming's sparkling academic record featured a near maximum score in his predicted grades for the IB exams (40 out of 42), and high marks in both the American SAT and English TOEFL language tests. This, along with his commitment to the racquet and ball game, made Ho-ming Yale calibre.
Four years ago at age 15, Ho-ming played in the World Junior Championships in Milan, Italy.
A year later he competed at the Asian Junior Championships in Pakistan, and in 2002 he played at his second World Junior Championships in Madras, India. He reached the top 64 in Pakistan and the
top 96 at the Worlds.
Hong Kong coach Dick Leung says his protege's talent may have been spotted at one of these tournaments. 'The standard is high at Yale and he will improve a lot,' says Leung. 'We will always welcome him back to the Hong Kong team though.'
His economics teacher at UWC, Esther Chau Yee-har, says Ho-ming is a very balanced student. 'He always asked forceful questions in class, was attentive to details and serious about his work,' says Ms Chau. 'He also did a lot of community service with underprivileged children. He had a very positive attitude.'
Ms Chau expects Ho-ming will excel as an engineering or physics major.
Last September Ho-ming began sending e-mails to the head squash coaches at top American universities. 'I just wrote and told them what I had achieved,' he says. Princeton and Cornell were among the schools which showed an interest.
But Ho-ming, the son of a civil servant and a secretary, knew Yale was the school for him. 'It's so famous, and their squash team is renowned,' he says.
The Ivy-League school arranged for him to have an interview in Hong Kong in March. 'I met a Chinese American Yale alumnus at a coffee shop. He asked about school and extra-curricular activities. He told me about life at Yale, the campus and costs,' says Ho-ming.
The teenager from Lantau will have more than 75 per cent of his annual fees paid for by the Connecticut institution. For an overseas student, that means US$32,000 per year.
'My family will contribute US$10,000 a year, but it really depends on family income,' says Ho-ming, who is going to the US for the first time in August. 'I like to explore, learn, and see things from a new viewpoint. It's a new challenge, a different country and a different culture. I'm looking forward to it.'
Li Po Chun United World College